Motivated by requests from my dear friend, R, let me share with you, if you have a moment, a few things I’ve learned from my gardening experiences.
Caution: my observations are not those of a master gardener, only a happy one. In the words of Ogden Nash,
My garden will never make me famous,/ I’m a horticultural ignoramus.
1. Gardening is like eating or exercise: I never finish, and I never figure it all out. I’ve given up making a plan for getting my garden “in order.” That’s never going to happen. By the time I finish weeding one flowerbed and turn to the next, behind me, in the freshly turned soil, weeds are pushing their way into the sunlight. “Relax,” I tell myself. “You’ll get to that weed eventually - or not.” And guess what! Sometimes, that weed turns out to be a lovely, mystery flower – fragrant and luxuriously colorful, the star of the garden for one, brief summer.
2. [a corollary to #1] The axiom for my garden, if I wish to remain sane, is, ”How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” I never, and I do mean never look at the big picture when it comes to gardening chores. I’m an inspirational gardener. (Doesn’t that sound great?) I might look up from reading and think, “The pond really does look a bit murky; let me get some of the leaves out of the bottom.” I do not wait. I grab an old bucket from among my gardening tools, roll up my pant legs, and kneel over my little pond, scooping out handfuls of dead leaves here and there ’til the urge passes. There is still muck in the bottom of my pond, but never mind. It is a bit cleaner than it was 30 minutes before. And, my pond, my goldfish and I have enjoyed a happy, though brief encounter.
3. If you love it, it’s perfect! Need I say more?
4. Nothing is permanent; enjoy the surprises. I’ve learned to see gardening as a negotiated truce. The weather, the plants, the earth and I will all try to get along and compose ourselves with some beauty and grace. The outcome may not be what I’d dreamed of or hoped for, but such is life.
5. A few tricks to ease the way: These may not be new to you, but then again…
¤ Keep a trowel and gardening gloves handy. (See Tip #2) When you see a languishing mum, move it – don’t wait; if a volunteer petunia appears, replant it now to a comfy flowerbed.
¤ Pesky pets peeing on your flowers and pooping in your grass? Try mothballs. Generously sprinkle mothballs among the flowers and in the grass. Your garden will lose a bit of its olfactory charm for you, and more importantly, for Boots or Rover too.
¤ Set mid-size, empty flower-pots here-and-there around the garden. When you see a weed as you’re walking by, reach down and pluck it out. (See Tip #1) Drop the weed into the handy clay pot, and occasionally empty your weed pots into your compost or recycle container.
¤ Don’t worry about that spot in your garden where nothing seems to grow properly. Give up sacrificing snapdragons or begonias to “the wasteland.” Instead, fill that spot with a few large pots of posies – inexpensive and cheery annuals! Settle a pretty pot of blossoms into that bare spot and turn it into a highlight of your flowerbed. A large pot is also a great nursery for small shrubs or saplings that need looking after. Or, if you find some odd, little plant that may be either weed or wunderkind, pluck it from obscurity and pot it! You’ll be able to keep an eye on the fragile or mystery plant as it grows.
Finally, my garden is a gift – to me and others. Its beauty is shared with my family, neighbors and friends. Birds, insects, squirrels,bunnies, frogs, dogs and cats enjoy the garden’s shady glades in the summer and find shelter among the branches and dead leaves in the winter.
Over time, I have found that I know the plants and trees in my garden as old friends. I remember that Aunt Edna gave me the purple iris, and that my toddler and I planted the now-grand maple, and both child and tree have grown tall and lovely.
Occasionally, I dig out a hosta or oxalis, replant it in a pretty pot, and carry the small token of affection to a friend’s garden… and the cycle continues, of growth and remembrance.
When I can hold a stone within my hand
And feel time make it sand and soil, and see
the roots of living things grow in this land,
Pushing between my fingers flower and tree,
Then I shall be as wise as death,
For death has done this, and he will
do this to me, and blow his breath
To fire my clay, when I am still.
– Richard Eberhart