July 27, 2007

How To Have A Beautiful Garden Without Really Trying

If you believe that... then I've got a bridge to sell you for a buck and, don't look now, but pigs are flying!

Oh, sure, there's so-called "low maintenance" gardens: succulents, shrubs, wildflower meadow-gardens. But even they require some attention. Some time and care and usually results in some aches and pains to the gardener in charge.

Once upon a time in a garden galaxy center actually not all that far away, I foolishly deluded myself into thinking that when I became more involved with perennials, my garden would pretty much take care of itself as opposed to the constant demands of more needy annual plants. Even my neighbor who maintains a vegetable garden and only dabbles in flowers, seemed to think so, too. Uh...wrong!

I've come to several conclusions in this regard after 25+ years of gardening.

The first is that my neighbor doesn't grow enough perennials. If he did, he'd quickly learn they are just as demanding - if not more so - than other flora. When you care for perennials, you're not just caring for them for that season. Your concern is not just the amount or health of that season's bloom but for their safe return and abundance next season and seasons thereafter. With perennials, your eye is constantly on the future for both their well being and the prospect of your own well being enhanced by their continued beauty. Then, again, any gardener will always have at least one eye on the future. Whether it involve the care of perennial flowers and ornamentals or perennial vegetables like rhubarb or asparagus or projecting which annual veggie, flower or herb seeds to save or buy or learn more about or decidedly never plant again! Gardeners alike garden with their feet planted in today's garden and their eyes constantly peering over the fence to next season.

The second conclusion is that no matter what I grow - vegetables, herbs, annuals or, yes, perennials - I will still push the envelope of my body's limitations in order to care for my garden.

Oh, and the third conclusion? It's the lack of basic dissimilarities between anyone who works the soil for their own pleasure. Even the person who grows a single tomato plant in a container along with a few window boxes of herbs and flowers can somehow figure out some way to tire themselves, hurt themselves and spend as much time in the pursuit of their passion, as the person who gardens a backyard vegetable garden or an acre flower garden. Admittedly, the container gardeners won't have to bend quite so much and need knee replacements as will those who garden directly in the earth. But, hey, there's always carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitive trowel digging. And...we all have the same dirty fingernails. Big or small (uh, "gardens", not people); vegetable or flower; water or orchards....We are all gardeners, "hear us roar, in numbers too big to ignore". (With apologies to Helen Reddy)). And if you can't hear our roars, then you may know our legions by our faint aroma of fish emulsion and manure and our International Salute to all passers-by: BUTTS IN THE AIR.

So, as to having a beautiful garden without really trying? Aside from the reality that it can't be done, heck, even if it could, that'd take all the fun out of it!

***Note to self: Remember how much fun I'm having after three or more hours of bending, lifting, digging, kneeling, weeding, deadheading and remulching in sauna-like weather, blazing sun or constant drizzle.***

Hey, just where were those garden fairies when I needed them? Seems to me I was pretty much on my own when I was putting some of this together, and I've got the heating pad and ice pack burns to prove it! And then there's those fingernails........

July 19, 2007

The Road Back

After the loss of a loved one, there seems little or no desire to pursue any pleasurable endeavors. Maybe it's sheer lack of enthusiasm. Maybe it's guilt. But, inexplicably - yet ironically predictably - I found myself on the road back to the peace and solace of my garden.

Perhaps it's Nature's simple continuity of life - in spite of our human tragedies - that first diverts and, ultimately, centers those of us who garden with our hearts. And it's impossible to escape our hearts.

Even those times when the pain follows me into the garden on mornings before the sun hits the front beds and gloomy fog still hovers in the tall oaks and pines, it dissipates like the fog when I see the first butterfly or the diamond dew drops in lady's mantle leaves. Chipmunks dart past my feet playing tag; a bluejay frenetically splashes in the birdbath; a gentle breeze rhythmically sways the feathery plumes of ornamental grasses; a red tailed hawk casts a sudden shadow in the rising sun as he swoops over the house. And I realize I'm not crying anymore. My eyes are too busy taking it all in. My frown alternates between smile and awe as rapidly as the arrival of the early shift of bumble bees collecting first-morning's pollen.

"Without having experienced pain, how can you recognize and truly appreciate life's simple pleasures?", my mother used to say. So I guess the pain is a necessary evil if it means continuing to savor the beauty right outside my front door by ensuring that habitat of hope and healing remains and thrives. Although there'll always be days when I'll struggle with that logic, I will also try to remember that in addition to Nature's wonders guiding me back on a more peaceful road, there are always angels in my garden and in my gardener's heart to help me find my way back.