Okay, I admit I’m a reluctant gardener. I only take up mulch, shovel, spade, gloves and wheelbarrow a few times a year. And do a half-assed job of digging, weeding, and mulching. It’s enough for me, though.
I feel practically righteous when I’m done, because I got my hands dirty, handled soil, turned over worms, exposed and sheltered roots, plucked out wild plants, maybe even cut back domestic ones.
Other people extol the joys of gardening. The therapeutic qualities of yanking weeds and dead-heading blooming plants.
I get it. It’s actually Biblical. Or universally spiritual as a wholesome and metaphorical activity.
But me? I used to assign my indoor plants at work to friends, gals whom we called “Plant Aunts,” because they would care for the flowers that green-dysfunctional co-workers like me received and failed to tend. They withered at a financial office in downtown Boston, 28 floors off the ground, where there was no natural access to the elements that make plants happy.
Until I handed them over to the foster care system of “Plant Aunts.” My friend Johanne used to water them. Give them light. Tend them. Nurture them. Talk to the. Love them
When I stopped work in Boston, I bequeathed my plants to Johanne and other colleagues who could really help them flourish. I knew my limits, and I liked those spiky lush plants, healthy and glossy under the gentle ministrations of my friends. I preferred them green and growing to brown and dead.
Today was my annual start at gardening. I went to Gordon’s Florists in Ipswich and selected, with much advice from the Gordons’ staff and the considered input of my friend Miri, some drought-resistant flowering plants to plunk down, in their pots, on the Summer Street side of our house.
Mind you, we have a tiny yard, but it is lush with greenery. Ferns. Vines. Towering maples. Shaggy old apple tree. Clover
The front of our house is verdant with Hostas and various kinds of ivy, which is my umbrella term for leafy vin-ish plants of all kinds, because they actually have a proper name that doesn’t involve ivy, but I forget what it is.
But that one Southern-exposed side? It has a few shallow inches of sandy soil. No easy access to water. And direct burning exposure to sunlight all day long. It’s like leaving a forest and entering a desert, when you turn the corner from North Main to Summer Street
Some of the drought-resistant species added last year, recommended and planted under the supervision of Denise King, have survived. Even some of those burned to nothing in last summer’s record-setting waves of heat.
Yet many have come back. Silver. Green. Optimistic. Some have sent out shoots and spread across the dry, nutrient-lacking strip of yard that borders Summer Street and our antique house. As I said, it’s arid and barren, much like a desert.
Today I laid down a new layer of dark mulch. Yanked weeds. Left behind other leggy plants that might be wild, or might be ones that I planted. (I don’t know which.)
I added some potted flowers for color. (I thought they were Begonias, but maybe geraniums? I can’t remember.) Then I edged the area with stones.
During the afternoon, people walked or drove past, and admired the wheelbarrow full of refuse and the garden full of colorful blooms. I asked for opinions. Weeds? Not-weeds? We were uniformly uncertain.
At the end of the day, my back ached. But the yard looked nice. And my first day … maybe my only day … of gardening for this year was done.
Sure, I cleared away old stalks. Clipped dead blooms off plants. Uprooted invasive species. Made room for new growth. Healthy beginnings. So many metaphorical activities.
But for once? Maybe I was just gardening.
Make of it what you will. It was satisfying. Healing. It resulted in beauty and order, when so much around me is chaos and demolition.
I showered. Scrubbed away the dirt. Went back outside to admire the imperfectly-landscaped patch of earth I’d fussed over all afternoon. And sighed, fulfilled by what I accomplished.
I’m pretty sure there are a lot of delighted weeds in my patch of earth. Wild seeds growing contentedly among domestic plants. To me, it’s all green and happy. Or as Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne) once said, “Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.”