My Garden and I Are Bordering on Brassy, in a Black-Eyed Susan Sort of Way

I have a very distinctive taste in gardening–it is a bit like me–Bordering on Brassy! My garden is loud–in a prayerful sort of way. The colors in my garden clamor for attention and as they call, they challenge each other: “Can you be as bright as I am?”

I like to build structures to frame and support the plants in my garden. In April of 2017, I built a tall arbor for roses and clematis to climb. I am building a deck that attaches this structure.

The 3-sided arbor has created a small altar-like area, and by May, the irises, peonies, and foxgloves had begun to transform the space. Within a year, the climbing plants will alter the appearance of this spot altogether, but garden transformations require time and patience and vision. I am quite sure that many passers-by don’t appreciate my gardening style. My own adult children don’t get it. When I showed one of my sons photos of what I was building in my garden, he remarked: “It’s a bit flamboyant,” and with those words, he was summing up his opinion of me, too.  My kids see me as a type of Auntie Mame, and my garden is an all-too-visual record of all the ways that I elect not to subscribe to the norm. But I am no longer hushed or slowed down by people who simply can’t visualize what I’m trying to accomplish.

A few days ago, I added another series of fences. This time, I am building shorter picket fences, and they will support my irises and other flowers that need staking.

I grow coral honeysuckle on the tall, upright posts.

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My green hummingbird is glad that I thought of him, and the other birds enjoy my bird feeder and my birdhouses.

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A little, fat wren has staked her claim on my new, white birdhouse, and she sits on the tall posts and sings about how much she loves her new home.

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Early one summer, I noted that I was having an effusively pink sort of year, and I wrote about it:

Persnickety pink petunias
Piled in purple planters
Billowing blossoms bulge
From side to side. – ©Jacki Kellum

Petunias can be persnickety.  Sometimes they flourish and sometimes they don’t, I wouldn’t call myself “persnickety,” but like a happy pot of petunias, I do tend to bulge from side to side.


If I am a flower, I am probably a Black-Eyed Susan.

I was at camp, when I first spotted a little stand of golden blossoms that were surrounded by the greenness of the forest. Because there wasn’t much sunlight where the plant was growing, there weren’t many flowers in the clump. They looked spindly and gawky. But I liked the way that, in spite of their imperfections, they elected to live. I associate with Black-Eyed Susans, and I have adopted them as my personal flower. I admire roses. I admire their cool reserve and prickly perfection, but I am not a rose. I don’t even want to be a rose. I am a Black-Eyed Susan, and with that thought, I begin to ask the question: “What is the difference between liking and admiring?”

“Admiration and familiarity are strangers.” – George Sand

Admiration is a slippery thing. It is rather like a mirage. From a distance, we notice the beauty or the wealth or the dignity or the brilliance or the power of something, but as we come closer to the object of our admiration, we begin to see its flaws. Then, we begin to realize that what we had admired was only the outer shell of something or some idea or someone that we had believed to be admirable. Upon closer examination, we tend to discover that within the shell, there was nothing substantial to love.

“Admiration is a very short-lived passion, that immediately decays upon growing familiar with its object.” – Joseph Addison

Even when I was young, I became aware of the differences between showy exteriors and the real thing, and I believe that is why I connected with the Black-Eyed Susans, which are not puffed up and showy in any way.  Black-Eyed Susans are not aloof and pretentious. They do not beg to be idolized and admired in a distinguished way. Rather, they simply sprout and they grow wherever they are.


At times in my life, I probably enjoyed being admired, and I worked hard to appear to be perfect. I wasted years trying to convince others that I was the perfect. But pretense is not a good place to live your life. I have let as much of the pretending go as I possibly can.  I admit it: I am loud, I am colorful, I am flamboyant, I am brassy, and I am bold. I am a Black-Eyed Susan and not a hybrid tea. I have scars, and I even have flaws, but at least, I am truly me, and I’ll be the same me everytime that you see me. I don’t sift according to the company that I am keeping. I am always the same, Black-Eyed Susan Me.

©Jacki Kellum June 2, 2017

6 Comments Add yours

  1. junkytravel says:

    Amazing post! Respecting ourselves is the first step to getting respected by others. It is highly important that we accept ourselves with all the flaws rather than searching for the acceptance of the society. 🙂

    1. jackikellum says:

      Thank you very much. It has taken me a while to truly become myself.

  2. junkytravel says:

    I want to admire the extensive use of geometrical shapes in your garden. Your garden is spectacular and a feast for the eyes. 🙂

    1. jackikellum says:

      My adult children do not agree. Lol

  3. I, too, think this is a great post. I like people who aren’t afraid of being “genuine” and I think you are. Your garden needs to be what you like. If one of your adult kids don’t “get it” or your neighbors don’t “get it”, too bad. I “get it” and I like it. (Some of my neighbors don’t “get” my garden either.) There is no need for you to imitate or satisfy anyone but yourself. I think your garden, from what I’ve seen of it, is beautiful. I also enjoyed your explanation of the difference between “admire” and “like”. I never stopped to think about it.

    1. jackikellum says:

      Thanks again, Hairy

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