Gardener’s Creative Block

Jun 22, 2022 | On Gardening | 17 comments

 Gardener’s Creative Block – it’s a thing and until recently, I’ve had a pretty mean case of it.

I’ve been in a bit of a panic the last few years. Every time I look out my window, I take in the beauty we’ve created in the last few years and I’m grateful, but creatively… as a creator, I want MORE. And yet the ideas hadn’t come. That’s an incredibly frustrating feeling however if I’ve learned ANYthing over my years of design it’s that usually when there is an idea block it’s a gift that prevents me from being impulsive or implementing ideas that are not tailored enough.

And so, I wait…

As the gardens stand now they are an expanse. But really, I want intimacy.  From above, I enjoy the grandeur of the space. The grid pleases me, the firm contrast from the forest to the expanse is very fine, but when I’m down IN the space, I want the intimacy of rooms, tunnels, passages, and places.  There is often so much involved in taking a garden to the next level by way of budget, labor, and timing and so at this stage of the creation I needed to move forward with the one thing I for sure could do, my signature move…first things first…

Neutralize the ugly.

When you can’t think creatively, think trash heap.  Get rid of the ugly. So often when there is a creative block the best move you can make is to get rid of what is ugly. This frees up mental space and brings relief you probably didn’t know you needed.  For me, this meant getting rid of those horrible cattle panel arches. Cattle panel arches can be a fabulous way to get creative in your space, but in this garden, they’ve been wrong from day one. They arched four paths of what will someday be a proper boxwood parterre and their casualness has never been right. They were also held upright by t-fence posts sunk into cinderblocks filled with concrete as we can not drive a stake far enough into the ground on account of the bedrock. It’s been a whole lot of hideous distracting from a whole lot of beauty. One day last month, I snapped, I ripped them out (which was no mean feat) made a stack of them, tied them to the tractor, and in a rage, drug them to the other side of the property where they could no longer distract me visually. 

Hell hath no fury like a gardener frustrated.

Looking out to the lavender parterre garden and center pond.

Instantly the space was calmer and I could calculate my next move. Instead of expecting some earth-shattering moment, I committed to walking my garden in silence. I KNEW the ideas would come, but I needed to be in the space and just let it talk to me without the frustration of the cattle panels.

The ideas began to tumble in like rolling waves…

Brick paths

Green metal arches

Creating true delineation between the parterre beds and potager beds… 

The carrot bed is highlighted with salvia for color.
This week’s stunners.
A view from the center pond up to the house.

And there’s more to come.  For now, I’m scouring Craigslist for free bricks and I’m reveling in the daily beauty the garden is bringing. Free from the distraction of the cattle panels. I’m on fire with ideas and now must employ the patience of being able to bring them all to fruition. 

What’s holding you back in your garden? Is it a flower you can’t bring yourself to admit you hate? Yank it out. Is it a tree that frustrates you? Cut it down. Is it a lack of ideas? Neutralize the ugly and then just go BE in the space… every day until it speaks to you.

Thank goodness gardening is about the daily experience of it all and not the arrival to some destination. Permission to be ‘in process’ granted.

Carry on:)


  1. Barb

    Wow… such good advice… such a good place to start. Thanks for the inspiration and direction….as always…..

  2. Ashley Fraser

    Thank you for continuing to blog – it really is my favourite and you always give me something to ponder for the rest of the day ❤️

  3. Ashlynn W.

    I love your ideas here, Angela. I often find myself hesitant to make a change (in spaces and life in general), even if it means “neutralizing the ugly” because I’m afraid that by doing so I’ll be admitting failure. But I’ve learned that it’s often by trying and likely failing at something that I build resilience and get inspiration to do better.

    I don’t currently have much of a garden, but I’ll be viewing my home and life with a keen eye to find ways to “neutralize the ugly” in order to facilitate more beauty. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. Debbie

    Angela, thank you for your written word, sharing your creative process and the photos of your beautiful garden.

  5. Rachel H.

    These were great reminders. Something that is perfectly good might not be right for a space because I just do not like it:) Your gardens are beautiful and an inspiration. I’m sure you work very hard on them. Thank you!

  6. Heidi

    So true! As I walk through my 1960’s ugly ranch on 7 acres, that’s exactly what I have been doing! Get rid of the ugly!!! Gone are hideous linoleum floors, crappy 1980’s orangey paneling. Piles of garbage and old wire fencing off to the dump. Ugly white tarps and piles of trash be gone!

    Now I can see the potential, now I can plan the gorgeous revamp to both home and garden…

    Thank you Angela for all the inspiration!

  7. Katie C

    I just found your blog via your podcast via The Elliot Homestead Youtube channel. I love this post so much! I’m going to definitely try to remember to “Neutralize the ugly.” Now off to check out your youtube channel!

  8. Betsy Wright

    I LOVE this idea!!!! Neutralize the ugly…. that is sound advice!

      • Autumn

        Thank you for giving me permission to tear things out. 🙂 I always feel bad pulling things up in my new gardens. But you’re so right. It really DOES help clear your mind for a new vision.

  9. Tanya

    Yes!! It can sometimes be a hard thing to navigate being frugal and keeping something that doesn’t inspire but serves a useful purpose but also wanting to be surrounded by beauty. Sometimes “neutralizing the ugly” really does require a complete removal of the thing that is blocking your creative thoughts. Good for you!

    • Tanja McPheeters

      I have to remind myself of this constantly. Even having a room cleaned is important before beginning to think of creative ways to improve the space.

  10. Jessica

    Beautiful!! Where can I sign up to receive blog posts when you post them?

  11. Bizzy

    This is so lovely and helpful! We live on a small farm that demands lots of fixing up, renovating, time and money. ‘Neutralizing the ugly’ shall get me through till the budget allows for more work to be done! Thank you, Angela!

  12. Tessa

    This summer my husband and Bro in law cut down the most hideous tree that stood just to the right of our carport. Many people love blue spruce. This blue spruce looked like it had gone to seed. It was absolutely out of control, top heavy and had me a nervous wreck when there would be a wind storm! But because it was the only tree to be found on that side of our yard I always hesitated when he suggested getting rid of it. Now I am so glad he did! It has really “neutralized the ugly,” and in its place will go something beautiful!
    I loved this post and I agree, don’t stop blogging! You’re writing is very inspiring.


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