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Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Reluctant Gardener

I'm not a gardener.  This is one of the many things that make me something of a black sheep in my family.  My mother is blessed with a green thumb.  One of my sisters is a pro with tomatoes and any number of vegetable and herb gardens.  The other sister... I swear, as she walks along, little green shoots spring up from the earth from the path upon which she has passed.  And they aren't weeds.  Those ladies can grow a garden.

I, on the other hand, can kill a cactus.  Or a chia pet.  These two things are proven facts.  Honestly, I think I could kill Astroturf.  When I moved into our house, I was gifted a thriving, beautiful garden in our backyard and an impeccable lawn out front.  It terrified me.  For the past two years, I have watered but done precious little else.  No planting, no weeding, no pruning.  I gave the plants a drink, dollar weed and trumpet vine alike, and hoped for the best.

Bad things have happened.  The front lawn has strange dead patches.  I have no idea how that happened.  The back yard has thriving vines and a beautiful rose bush, but a fair crop of Johnson grass and various other weeds as well.  This fall I decided enough was enough.  I was going to conquer my fear and become a gardener.

Because it was fear, more than laziness, that kept me from donning a pair of nubbly gloves and attacking Mother Nature.  I have always been terrified of making mistakes.  And when you are new to something, it is virtually guaranteed that you are going to screw up.  I was afraid I would pull up the crape myrtles mistaking them for a weed or a "trash tree."  Afraid that in my ignorance I would kill all the good and nurture all the bad.

This fall, however, I decided to be brave.  I looked at my front lawn, wished it was pretty, and realized it wasn't going to get there without me.  Collaborating with my husband, we planted some winter rye and I dug up some weeds.  It improved.  I was inspired.  We went to a nursery where I purchased several flats of winter-friendly bedding plants.  Some shriveled up and died.  But others made it.  And looked pretty.  Nothing like the arboretum-esque gardens I drool over in magazines and that my family can replicate, but nice.  Intentional.  Like somebody loved that little flower bed.

So now that spring is waning and summer quickly approaching, I turned my attention to the wild, overgrown garden that surrounds our pool.  Most of it is the vines that were planted there intentionally and look gorgeous.  But they are intermingled with undesirables: baby trees far too close to the fence line, unsightly knee-high weeds, fantastically healthy dandelions.  With a deep breath, I grabbed the clippers and went for it.  With my limited horticultural knowledge I was fairly sure I would destroy something nice.

And I did.  While my children splashed happily in the pool, I stared with no small amount of dismay at an area of Virgina Creeper that was drooping dangerously.  By this evening, I have had to admit... that part's dead.  In my zeal to clear the debris, I over-pruned and destroyed.

But I'm not going to despair.  I'm going to take the advice I give my own children:  you have to fail sometimes if you are ever going to learn.  It's a tough pill to swallow and, no, my kids do not believe me on this one yet.  It doesn't make it any less right.  My garden still looks intentional, like somebody loves it.  It's just somebody who got a little clipper happy.

The Virginia Creeper is going to be fine, I think.  It is still thick and healthy further down the fence and it should do its job and creep along, covering up my mistake by summer's end.  In the meantime, I moved my husband's gas grill in front of the bald spot so it looks like maybe I meant to do that for fire safety reasons or something.  Maybe I'll hang a bird feeder.  It'll be alright.  And the important thing is, I'm trying.  I'm not letting it fall to the slow decay of neglect out of fear that I might be less than perfect.  I'm failing and I'm learning and remembering that, really, that's what life is all about.

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