Wednesday, June 01, 2011

the reluctant gardener

I'm a big fan of finality. I like to finish things, and it's not just for the satisfaction of crossing items off a list. I have a need to complete something before moving on to the next thing.

That's why I am psychologically unfit to be a gardener. That's why something like writing suits me far better. You sit down, you research and write your article, and it's complete. Once it's published, there is no going back and changing anything. You are free to move onto the next thing.

Gardening, I have come to realize, is the exact opposite of writing.

When I look back at old pictures of my yard, like this one from 07, I'm shocked at how decrepit my once lovely yard has become. I put a lot of work into the yard for the first few years after we moved here. I hauled soil and gravel and laid slate slabs and patio stones. I built retaining walls and established perennial beds. I planted and planted and planted.

Finally everything looked close to perfect and I was done. Or so I thought.

I knew that winter kill would take a few plants each year, but when the low-bush cranberry hedge that I so painstakingly planted was wiped out, leaving a scraggly ghost hedge lining the front of the garage, I started to get discouraged. The downward slide continued, with insects decimating the honeysuckle vines one year, the newly replaced hostas perishing year after year, and the surviving perennials taking it upon themselves to move from their designated spots in the flower beds out into the pathways, pushing over the retaining walls as they left. Who knew those plants were so forceful?

The past couple of summers, I have given up on the yard entirely, not even planting any annuals in pots. But I am starting to get tired of having my yard look like something out of Grimms' fairy tales. It would be different if the house was at least made from candy, something to distract from the half-dead shrubbery and the weird objects that I try to pass off as yard art.

I think I'll plant some cherry tomatoes in all those bare patches in the perennial beds, and call it done.

11 comments:

27thstreet said...

Hmmm...I've been working on a novel for ages, picking away at it, rewriting, rethinking, ignoring it for a while, rewriting parts again. I think that's sort of like writing. Not the same as an article, but still. I paint that way too.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

We have quite different approaches to writing, Mr Anchovy. Obviously I do edit, but I don't like to over-think what I have written, as I usually end up mucking it up. Painting, though, by its very nature, sort of forces that approach, doesn't it? I don't have the patience to pull it off. Or that talent, but that's another matter.

leazwell said...

Sounds like a plan.

Allison said...

Gardening never ends, which is why I don't have a green thumb.

I love to look at gardens, and I am a fan of vegetable gardens, but I just don't have the patience to maintain one.

L said...

I spend a lot, LOT more time writing than gardening, which I think should change. I never want to punch my fist through a $1500 piece of technology when I'm gardening.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I went ahead and planted a big cherry tomato plant right where the lilies used to exist, Leazwell.

I don't even mind the regular maintenance all that much, Al, but this near total devastation from year to year is too much.

I do, Lesley! More so while gardening than while writing, to tell you the truth.

umbrellalady said...

Rhubarb, Barb, fills in all those spots, doesn't care where it is planted, looks marvelous and requires no care other than feeding every couple years...the perfect prairie plant. (And you don't have to harvest it!)

Tomatoes are an excellent choice as well because they require so little maintenance and don't mind if it is a bit dry- see if you can find some Principe Borghese - they are small and divine.

John Mutford said...

I'd just chuck out a few lupin seeds and see what happens. That's right folks, gardener for hire!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I ended up buying a good-sized grape tomato, Kathy. The strain is called Juliet, are you familiar with it? I don't think I want another rhubarb plant though, mine is already massive. And I feel compelled to harvest it.

No purple loosestrife, John? I'm shocked.

Westcoast Walker said...

My job is about being perpetually "incomplete", as working in the social services sector has taught me to live with the ongoing sense of flux inherent to dealing with people who are in crisis - rarely a clean tidy resolution to be found.

When I was a brand new social worker an instructor once advised that if I was looking for a sense of completion at the end of the day I should mow my lawn.

verification word = "blychi" - which is certainly how the ongoing incomplete work can make me feel at times!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It takes a special sort of patience and restraint to do what you do, Matthew. I would have the best mowed lawn in the city, if I had your job, and I would probably still feel blychi.