Conversations in the Garden-On Perseverance


“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

~Winston Churchill



If my gardens have taught me anything in the last 20+ years, it is the lesson found in this wonderful quote.  And oh how I have stumbled and bumbled around in my garden.  Planting mint or anything in the mint family in a moist sunny spot….a nightmare as it takes over.  Letting teasel go to seed in the meadow… get a meadow of teasel, not native wildflowers.  Or trying to grow tomatoes in a spot with barely a few hours sunlight….you might get one tomato if you are lucky.




And through all these experiences, I have continued forward.  With a dogged determination to not give in or give up, but to persevere.  To keep going and fighting and learning from these mistakes…..I like to call them experiences.  Yes I could give up.  I have thought about it.  But a voice replays a very wise saying in my ear each time I do want to just throw up my hands….’It is, what it is.



It took me a long time to figure out what that meant and not fight against it too hard, because it is like beating your head against a wall.  So what to do when you plant mint?  Continue to rip it out.  You will still have enough to use, but it will not take over.  With teasel (pictured here), which is a beautiful and somewhat dangerous plant, you have to keep pulling it out too.  Eventually you get ahead of it and begin to see progress.  The plant cannot get a foothold and you can see your wildflowers flourish instead.



There are times shear willpower will not win out, and during those times I study, plan and put in the effort.  Take growing tomatoes.  We knew we needed more sun so we waited until we had a sunny spot to grow them.  But then wilt and blight killed the plants.  And year after year with no tomatoes we again contemplated throwing in the trowel.  Instead I looked for hybrid tomatoes that were grown to resist these fungal diseases.  I tested different ones until we found those we liked, and now we have tomatoes growing and ripening.



IMG_7513As it is with my garden, so it is with life.  Things have not always turned out as I had envisioned.  My story has changed many times through many lessons and hardships.  The paths I followed led to new paths…some good and some not so good.  And sometimes I let setbacks get to me, but not for long.



Through it all, there has been one constant…..I never stopped trying to reach a dream. Those dreams may have been delayed until the timing was right.  Each struggle helping me grow, to make me ready.  To learn the lessons hidden inside the wait and the struggle. And many times I let the dream go…not giving up, but releasing my tight hold on it.  Inevitably the dream came back around, many times changed and morphed into something better.



And it was because of this steadfastness I cultivate inside of me, that I have grown.  I have a rich, purposeful life.  Maybe not the life I envisioned or dreamed about many years ago, but a wonderful life.  Full of rich experiences with persistence and determination…a life of happiness and joy.  And now on this new path since retirement, I am learning many things still.  Not content to sit and let my memories wash over me.  No I am flexing those ‘moxie muscles’ again as I pursue new dreams…new hopes with the same perseverance I have always shown.  I whisper these new dreams on the wind, let them go and continue to move forward one step at a time.  I am excited to see what comes back to me in time.



teasel collage







Special Note:  The pictures here are of wild teasel or Dipsacus fullonum.  It is considered an invasive plant and weed here in the US that was introduced in the 1800s for use in the textile industry.  In The Language of Flowers, it has come to represent Misanthropy.  The plant is not to be trusted as it is covered in sharp barbs from tip to root, and will cause injury if you get tangled in it.




I leave you with a few additional words about Perseverance.  I welcome you to download the photo and share it.

on perserverance

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

23 Replies to “Conversations in the Garden-On Perseverance”

    1. I have been dreading the work here with so much to do and not being able to get to it….so these words came to me as I was dealing with similar issues Loredana. I am glad that they helped you too!

  1. Another provocative post. Thank you!

    Gardens are great teachers. So patient, so consistent in their insistence on a particular form of expression. I believe the spaces we cultivate outside our homes might be the greatest classrooms available for lifelong learning. In fact, it could be said that it is more accurate to describe gardening as “cultivating” me rather than the other way ’round.

  2. My great-grandfather’s family worked picking teasels in the summer–I think they were used to felt wool. My great-great aunt remembered being three years old and being carried in a sling across her oldest brother’s back while he bent over and picked all day. The story made my jaw drop when I heard it (can you imagine being 15 and doing manual labor all day while carrying a child???), and now teasels are symbols to me of hard work and perseverance, too. Beautiful photos, Donna, and I love the Churchill quote and your moxie muscles!

    1. Wow Stacy that is an amazing story….such a harsh life for so many and so young. Yes teasel was brought here just for that. And how amazing your family’s story conjures up perseverance for you too with this plant. Oh and yes, my ancestors have given me those moxie muscles I think because of their hard lives.

  3. I loved reading this, and can connect on so many levels…

    My garden kicked my butt the first few years…there was nothing that described it better than that. It’s a challenge, it requires thinking through under, and around the box to grow stuff up here.

    But when we succeed…we do it magnificently.

    Life and our dreams seem to follow the same path.


  4. Ha! I LOL’d with your story of mint. I guess all of us have been fighting with mint for years. Perseverance is a big deal isn’t it? Jeez, I’ve had to come back to that over and over in the book production. And finally finishing the trailer last week. It’s a thrill when things turn out, but there is so much “picking ourselves up and starting all over again.” I laughed at your “moxie.” One of my favorite words! thanks as always for wonderful quotes and photos-:)

  5. This post is a great reminder about the subtle force of nature. Mint, teasels or tomatoes, likewise I have a garden bed which I am trying to change from cottage to coastal, it is a real battle. As quickly as I pull out these gorgeous flowers, they grow back & look stunning but not what I’m after… my gardener friend and I have different approaches as she loves to see things grow and I like to see things done in the garden. She lives the happier life in her garden, I can tell you. Your post is spot on, if you were closer I’d bring you round a bunch of these flowers, because you know what I think you’ve just made me realise they are here to stay!
    Have a happy week
    Wren x

    1. Sometimes we can win those battles, and sometimes we have to live with choices and make room for a few new ones…I hope you can find room for some new choices as you remake your garden….if we keep persevering we can get there.

  6. Thank you, Donna, for this fascinating post … and for your comment on my blog. I am quite a fan of the teasel for the insects and arachnids they attract. You often find a teasel on a chair here in stately homes to indicate that you should not sit on that seat!

    1. I love its look and let it grow here too, but as it is not a native and it is too aggressive, it actually took over most of my meadow natives so I had to keep pulling it out. Apparently we do not have the right insects here that do keep it controlled in its native habitat there. The insects do like it here too. A fascinating tidbit about the teasel on the chair Caroline.

  7. I kind of think these situations arise (and I know only too well what it feels like to fail when it comes to gardening) because we are often so isolated and kind of making things up as we go along. Constantly re-inventing the wheel or believing what marketers tell us we need to do and buy. The internet helps break that isolation of course but local knowledge is really key. Not just knowledge of the region but intimate knowledge of the bit of land — where and when does the sun touch, what is the soil pH, what varieties work and which ones can’t, how does the water flow on the property, etc. There are so many aspects to consider. I see your pictures and know that the lessons weren’t wasted on you. Your photos are always so lovely.

    1. Indeed there are so many aspects….I think the internet and blogging have helped me Debra. I may be stubborn and sometimes slow to pick up the lesson, but perseverance helps me get to the lesson eventually! 🙂

  8. I agree, Donna, perseverance makes wonders. I especially like the Longfellow’s words saying that if you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody. The thing is that the “somebody” may not be the one we intended to get to but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, on the contrary. Sometimes the best gifts come from quite unexpected directions, don’t they? 🙂

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