Why You Need To Take Super Creative Risks In The Garden…And In Life

– Posted in: Garden Design

Do you plant the same thing in your garden year after year?

In my last garden, each spring when I walked around and envisioned what I wanted to plant that year, I always went through the same process of longing for the familiar. An old fashioned climbing rose, bleeding hearts, or salvia that I had used so successfully in last year’s garden would be the first choices that came to mind.

November 9, 2005 007
View of Middle Level Garden

You want to take some risks and create the garden you dream about but are afraid.

But then a familiar tug reminded me that my garden was a laboratory for my own growth, and that I only grow when I take risks. It’s a tug toward a newer, more unveiled version of myself, and I quickly do an about – face and start thinking about what I can do differently this year.

Creating is taking a leap of  faith.

Whenever we create, we are taking risks. The most inspired creations are born of deep risk – leaps of faith taken by people who dare to venture into new territory, despite their fear, despite the odds, and despite the uncertainty of how it will turn out.

Taking any risk impacts us way down deep, in the tectome plates of our very existence. In order to make something new, we need to relinquish the delicate reality that is now. In all creative endeavors, we risk the fear of failure in a society that is very success-oriented (What will happen to me if I fail?) We risk not being accepted (What will people think?) We risk giving up the familiar, and the comfortable (What if I don’t like the new reality that unfolds?)

But as artists, we need to do it to get to the best of who we are.

Yet, in the face of all this looming threat, we, as artists of life, continue to brave on and take risks, because deep down we know that risks are what pave the path to our healthiest and best selves.

In my last garden, my biggest risk was digging up a huge steep hill in my backyard and building two stone walls that created a three level garden. In hindsight, it was a gutsy move. If it hadn’t worked out, I would have taken a big financial hit. But by the time I decided to move forward, I had no choice. I had been gardening on a steep hill for ten years and was artistically at a dead end.

Tons of Dirt Being Bulldozed  From My Backyard


2nd level garden early spring
Post Construction – Middle Level in Spring (Where Hill Used To Be)


second level shaded-long view- May 2005-LA
Long View of Second Level – Post Construction


In my personal life, I took a significant risk when I moved from Philadelphia to Israel 3 years ago. You can read how moving half way across the world helped me to thrash my fears at Awake Create.

5 Strategies For Taking Risks

1. Imagine. Think about how you want your dream garden to look. Make a list of all of the elements you want in it. Rip out pictures from magazines and keep in a file. The more emotionally you get involved, the likelier it is that you’ll make your dream a reality.

2. Use a technique called Creative Visualization. Rather than thinking in terms of  ‘I hope’ or  ‘If only’, close your eyes and imagine that you have already created your dream garden. You are in it right now, appreciating its splendor. Use your senses…sight, smell, touch, and sound….to place yourself there. Even if you do this exercise for 2 minutes a few times a day until you reach your goal, you’ll be surprised at the results you reap.

3. Go over the worse case scenario.  Our fear usually distorts reality. Think about what is the absolute worse outcome if you take this risk? Can you live with it?

4. Think in terms of ‘bite size changes’. It can be overwhelming when you try to take one big jump from where you are to reaching your goal. The result is that you give up on your dream before even starting. But if you put one foot in front of the other and take small steps, one at a time, you’re more likely to keep moving forward in pursuit of your dream.

5. Solicit support. No one creates in a vacuum. Surrounding yourself by people who support you and what you’re doing can make a significant difference in taking a leap of faith and throughout the process.

Now it’s your turn. What risks have you taken in the garden? Or what risks would you like to take that you haven’t yet? 

Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening can be bought at Barnes and Noble in Paperback and Nook Book and Amazon in Paperback or Kindle and at Barnes and Noble.

Please note: The first five paragraphs are excerpts from DIGGING DEEP by Fran Sorin. Copyright © 2004 by Fran Sorin. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at www.fransorin.com.

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Fran Sorin
6 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Donna August 19, 2012, 10:12 am

VERY well put and the numerical list is very useful to many in gardening and in life. Many cannot think wholistically and breaking it down to “bite sized changes” is good advice. It avoids the overwhelming and the chance the project will stop cold. In fact all are good advice. #2 is attitude, where a change is often needed. Great post Fran, really enjoyed your thoughts.

Lisa August 19, 2012, 7:49 pm

I like to try new vegetable varieties in my garden each year — sure, I could stick to the tried and true, but it’s fun to mix things up.

Ditto with the odd perennials and annuals. A Verbascum violacea has been a remarkably interesting addition to a front bed and I don’t even remember where I found it in the first place.

But these creative additions are NOT on the scale that you write about! We’ve transformed lawn into woodland and meadows and driveways to vegetable beds, but transforming a hillside. Hmm, that DID require a creative leap.

I’ve enjoyed your book by the way, and have a copy. Gardening is a wonderfully creative activity, for sure.

Fran August 20, 2012, 7:37 am


I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It took me years to implement the ‘bite size change’ concept. I never have had problems coming up with ideas but sometimes the implementation was so overwhelming that I found it difficult to follow through.

Creative visualization is an attitude/behavior change. When i close my eyes and see my garden as I want it, with plants, colors, designs, textures, when I open my eyes, I feel closer to making it happen. It sounds like magic perhaps. But in truth, it’s the power of suggestion.

Thanks for your comment and stopping by….Fran

Fran August 20, 2012, 7:42 am


I love verbascum but have never heard of violacea. Am going to look it up. I’m sure it adds a great exclamation point to your front bed…how could it not?

It sounds to me like you’re doing quite a bit of experimenting and making changes. The amount doesn’t matter. It’s the doing of it that does. You know, for some people not planting impatiens in their front yard and trying something new is a huge change.

As far as the hill, I don’t know if I’ll have that opportunity again in the world of gardening. But once I got going, it was a lot of fun…along with several glitches.

Lisa, thanks for your kind words about Digging Deep. Fran

Ambius August 21, 2012, 8:29 am

Absolutely brilliantly put, and I couldn’t agree more. I made the decision to fill in the pool in our garden a few years ago (despite warnings it would decrease the value of the house) – it was only used a couple of times a year, and like any pool was expensive to upkeep. It turned out to be a brilliant move – the plants that are there now have given us far more enjoyment than the pool did!

Samantha @Ambius

David Jones August 31, 2012, 6:23 am

To maintain the garden is a much creative art which everyone doesn’t have it. Maintaining the lawn is the creative art which shows the overall outlook of the home in a better manner.

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