Gift For Gardening: Is The Green Thumb A Myth?

Image by Joanna Poe

By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)

A garden? The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. I had no clue where to start; after all, aren’t you supposed to be born with a green thumb or something? Heck, I considered myself blessed if I could actually keep a houseplant living for more than a week. Of course, little did I know then that a gift for gardening is not something you’re born with like a birthmark or webbed toes. So, is the green thumb a myth? Keep reading to find out.

Myth of the Green Thumb

Green thumb gardening is just that–a myth, at least as I see it. When it comes to growing plants, there are no inherent talents, no divine gift for gardening, and no green thumb. Anyone can stick a plant in the ground and get it to grow with the right conditions. In fact, all alleged green-thumb gardeners, myself included, possess little more than the ability to read and follow instructions, or in the very least, we know how to experiment. Gardening, like many things in life, is merely a developed skill; and nearly everything I know about gardening, I taught myself. Growing plants and becoming successful at it, for me, came forth simply through the experience of trial and error, at times more error than anything else.


As a child, I used to get excited about our trips to visit my grandparents. What I remember most was Grandpa’s patio garden, full of juicy, ready-for-the-picking strawberries during spring. At the time, I didn’t think anyone else could grow the sweet berries quite the way that Grandpa did. He could grow just about anything. After snatching a few of the scrumptious morsels off the vine, I would sit with my precious stash, popping them into my mouth one by one, and imagine myself with a garden one day just like Grandpa’s.

Of course, this didn’t happen the way I had expected it to. I married young and soon became busy with my job as Mom. But the years flew by, and I soon found myself longing for something else; and quite unexpectedly, it came. A friend of mine asked if I would be interested in helping out with his plant nursery. As an extra incentive, I would get to keep some of the plants to put in a garden of my own. A garden? This would be quite an undertaking; I wasn’t sure where to start, but I agreed.

Becoming Green Thumb Gardeners

A gift for gardening doesn’t come easy. Here’s how I debunked the myth of the green thumb gardening notion:

I began to read as many gardening books as I possibly could. I planned my designs and I experimented. But even under the best of circumstances, the greatest gardener can fail, and I seemed to be overcome by disaster. It took awhile before I realized that these garden disasters are just a natural part of the gardening process. The more you learn, the more there is to learn and I learned the hard way that choosing flowers simply because they’re pretty isn’t always worth the trouble. Instead, you should try selecting plants that are suitable for the garden and your particular region. You should also start by using easy-care plants.

The more I worked at the nursery, the more I learned about gardening. The more flowers I got to take home, the more beds I created. Before I knew it, that small bed had transformed itself into nearly twenty, all with different themes. I had found something that I was good at, just like my grandfather. I was developing my skill and I soon became a bone fide garden junkie. I was a child at play with gritty dirt beneath my nails and beads of sweat above my brows as I weeded, watered and harvested during the hot, humid days of summer.

So there you have it. Successful gardening can be achieved by anyone. Gardening is about experimentation. There is really no right or wrong. You learn as you go, and you find what works for you. There’s no green thumb or special gift for gardening required. Success isn’t measured by how grand the garden is or how exotic the plants are. If the garden brings yourself and others joy, or if within it lays a fond memory, then your task has been accomplished.

Years ago I couldn’t keep a houseplant alive, but after only a couple years of experimenting, I took on the challenge of growing my own strawberries. As I waited patiently for spring to arrive, I felt the same excitement as I did when I was a kid. Walking up to my strawberry patch, I snatched a berry and popped it into my mouth. “Mmm, tastes just like Grandpa’s.”

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