Thursday, April 12, 2007

Confessions of a Lapsed Gardener



I am coming out of the closet to admit it.

I used to be a gardener. And I haven't touched my garden for over four years.

I used to be a gardener. I knew the latin and common names of a huge number of Pacific Northwest Perennials. Thirteen years ago, we moved into our first house, and within the first three days, before many of the boxes were unpacked, I had begun to dig up a large section of the backyard lawn to plant a vegetable patch. It was April, and I wanted to get my peas in before it was too late. My son Colin was only eighteen months old at the time, but the neighbour girl was three. She loved to come over to my yard to eat snow peas right out of the garden. Sometimes I passed them to her through the fence. A woman who lived over the fence on the other side loved to dig around in her yard too. We joked that we worked each season moving plants from one part of the yard to another. We used to stand at the fence in dirt mode, chatting and laughing and trading chunks of plants back and forth. We joked that one day the garden would be "perfect" and we would simply sit back in a lawn chair and enjoy.

"Have you gotten to enjoy yet?" She would call over.

"Not yet, what about you?" I'd reply.

"Nope. Not yet."

When we moved to our current house eight years ago, the woman who sold us the house had been unable to work in the yard for several years on account of a bad back injury. The yard, front and back, needed a lot of work. I transformed front beds full of weeds into beautiful flower and shrub beds. Around back, I put in climbing plants, apple trees, pots and containers of all kinds full of summer annuals, and an herb garden. I climbed up and down the built up slope of our back yard, making it beautiful, and of course, never quite making it to "enjoy." When you love to garden, you never really get to the point of sitting back to enjoy. The process is all the enjoy you need.

I can't remember the last time I worked out in any part of our yard. I know it was over four years ago, and probably closer to five. When I hit burnout in my life, the garden had already been neglected for a season, and I have not touched it since. An avid-gardener friend of mine felt sorry for my poor dilapidated garden that was rapidly going to seed and weed. She knew I wasn't well and came over one Saturday afternoon to weed and prune and fix up the front beds. She probably hoped I would maintain that bit, but I did not. As my life became as weedy as my garden, her friendship withered and fell away too, into the compost of life and the way things go.

I am allergic to people who can only relate to me (and others) as a garden to be weeded. But I get rid of them easily enough. It only takes a season or two for them to get fed up and find someone else to work on.

Around this time of year I usually start to think about maybe doing a bit of puttering out there. Sometimes I feel a pang or two, of guilt possibly, or longing -- to lose myself in digging, in crawling around on the ground, in planting seeds and herbs and flowers. It usually doesn't last for too long, and then hotter weather sets in, and I am relieved that I didn't begin something I would have to maintain.

This morning I looked out the window and saw Doronicum. Leopard's Bane. A very hardy and popular perennial flower in this part of the world, and one of the earliest spring bloomers. A cheerful flower that has hung on despite me. I had to go out and capture it for Project Spectrum.

9 comments:

CatBookMom said...

Your experience with gardening then and now is quite similar to mine. We have no lawn, just a yarden front and back. We moved in 16 years ago and spent much time roto-tilling and digging up Bermuda grass, aka Devil Weed. It was the closest LA has been to a watering restriction regime in the 20 years I've been here, and we planted accordingly, beginning that late fall. Trees, shrubs, bougainvillea, roses and on and on. I spent the first spring on my knees planting 20 flats of gazanias; I am convinced it saved the life of my new boss.

Time has passed, our ideas and the microclimates have changed as things have grown or died out. The first year or so after I burnt out, I spent a lot of time in the garden in fits and spurts. We dug and laid a big brick patio, put up a huge arbor and a ramada over the back patio doors and stairs.

But since Mom got sick in 2004 and I found knitting, the garden has fallen to poor DH to maintain. Several times we've started a hunt for some professional help in updating the nearly-nonexistent watering system, laying out proper beds and so on. Oddly, they've all failed to get back to us before we lost interest. ???

All that just to say, you're not alone in being a lapsed gardener. If I get involved in a project with DH, I'll stick with it, but on a regular basis I'd sooner knit, TYVM.

Neither Flora nor St Fiacre, goddess and saint of gardeners respectively, will hold it against you. That's what I believe, anyway; I'm doing more than trying to grow a big plot of a high-water plant (grass) in a semi-desert. There's good karma in doing that. And for you, too.

CatBookMom said...

I forgot to mention that we've set up a garden area for Frank, also called St Francis, represented by a little statue. Frank's Garden has lavenders, a deep pink salvia and a big lemon verbena, plus a yearling Japanese maple. I think he likes it here.

smariek said...

Beautiful photos! I'll admit I am not a very good gardener myself, and am surprised that what little plant life lives here has survived at all.

Anonymous said...

What a stunning yellow. I love it. kelly

claflamme said...

I almost forgot to post.... I received my yarn from you literally as I was leaving town the other day, so couldn't thank you then. I had time for a quick peek and was more than impressed! I wanted to cast on the astrolomeria (yeah, however you spell that!) right away. It's beautiful, Jayne! I'm going to go take another peek to refresh my memory. I've also got my eye on some of the sockyarns listed now. Must. Behave. At least until payday. =)

jayne said...

I feel very understood, CBM, thanks!

My avid gardener former-friend has quite a large St. Frankie in her garden. I think he is a nice addition to any garden.

Yay, Corey, glad you got your yarn!

Life's a Stitch said...

We have some of that in our garden, a cutting given to us by a neighbour before he went into assisted living. It's a good thing it's hardy as I have a purple thumb,
Li

CatBookMom said...

Thank you for a birthday inspiration! DH's birthday is next Tuesday, and although I've come up with tickets to a great jazz event at Disney Hall, that's not till May. I googled my way to info on St Fiacre as a garden statue, and one is on its way here. Apparently he has a special intention for male gardeners who grow veggies - DH has a dozen tomatoes growing every year, lol!!

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