May 28, 2009

Gardening Lies We Tell Ourselves

Suppose we start at the Lie Of Downsizing our gardens? You know the one where we tell ourselves at the end of each season - or sometime during the winter when our muscles and sore backs have just begun to comfortably atrophy? When painful memories of even minor daily gardening chores in sweltering heat make us want to reach for the ice pack despite the frigid temperatures outside at that moment? The one we share - in all earnestness and honesty - with our other gardening friends who totally concur? The same lie we tell our non-gardening friends or family who quietly roll their eyes in disbelief since they've heard this all before? Yeah, right.

It usually starts in our brain's garden planner by rearranging, redesigning and re-evaluating. What needed too much watering. Too much attention. Never thrived in that spot - or any other for that matter since you've already moved the thing four times over the past four years. (Which could be one of the reasons it never thrived..never having spent enough time in one spot to literally "set down roots".) But I figure that my plants should know by now if they don't show signs of major flourishing by the end of their first season or at least their second, then those wheels get slapped on their bottoms and they're relocated. Of course the most evaluation is of ourselves: Just what and how much can we physically still accomplish? Is it time for us to rely on some wheels to help us around the garden? Do we need more than just a few months of seasonal down-time and more every-other-day-down-time in order to keep on doing what we love?

The actual first "step" in this "Way-More-Than-12-Step-Program" begins with severely limiting initial purchases. Planning on only one visit to each favorite nursery per season. This one for the best perennials. Another for the most well grown annuals and a third for specialty plants that I'll use to make hanging baskets. (One $3.00 Proven Winner can produce a brimmingly beautiful basket by mid season and cost less than any $12-$20 pre-made hanging basket. Plus I love to make up my own baskets.)

But then reality hits. Oh, sure I make those cursory (alleged) one-time visits to the aforementioned nurseries. Only, let's face it, there will be times when I'll have to leave the house and drive the roads for other reasons than going to a nursery! Therein lies the danger of constant temptation and swaying from Step One since no matter where I'm driving, I almost can't avoid passing a nursery, farm, big box store's outdoor plant display or someone selling a few pots of pathetic petunias along side the road. Addiction can have no boundaries and is a hard beastie to beat.

Even the supermarket isn't safe. They, too, now sell luxurious perennials right out front and for really, really good prices, too. I'm hooked even before I enter the door. That's exactly what happened a few weeks ago when I saw a row of gigantic, gray-fern leafed bleeding hearts billowing in the breeze outside ShopRite. There was this especially lush beauty still in bud and not the least leggy or pot bound beckoning my heart with its dangling pink hearts. No second thoughts. No pausing. It was picked up, paid for and positioned carefully in my car so as not to tip over whereupon I returned to the store for a shopping cart and at least managed to get the groceries I'd set out to get.

Last Memorial Weekend, however, I pulled into my driveway after another supermarket challenge to pick up some last minute holiday dinner items. My husband, who was cleaning the mower after just finishing the lawn, got up and walked toward the car to help carry the groceries in the house. As he approached, I shot him the most sheepish stare through the front window and shook my head in dismay. Like an alcoholic up on that podium admitting to their addiction and finally having the courage to ask for help, I hung my head and confessed, "I've got to be stopped. I can't be let out of the house alone anymore." He looked kind of puzzled. But only momentarily until he scanned to the back windows of our station wagon only to see no grocery-filled cloth bags...but rather some tall green or gold leaves, some ferny, some straight, pots of colorful flowers and one or two unidentifiable plants so tall their heads pressed against the roof of the car. He shook his head too, but with an understanding and knowing smile.

"You never made it to the supermarket, right?" He smiled some more. "Well, he said reassuringly, "it IS food for the soul as they say and we can always call for a pizza tonight".

I DO love this man. Plus he rarely rolls his eyes. At least not that I can see.