I’m having a love hate relationship with gardening. I’ve been gardening, in some form or another, for over 50 years. Yikes! I’ve always enjoyed it. I love being outdoors. I love flowers and vegetables. I even have a fondness for manure. Don’t ask.
Lately some of the joy of gardening has been missing. I thought… maybe… it was because I’ve been making my living writing and talking about gardening for over 10 years. Everyone needs a break, right? But I’m not sure that’s it.
I still swoon over peonies and fresh peas. But then I find myself saying things like “Maybe we should sell the house and buy a condo. It would be less work.” or “I think I’d be happy hiring someone else to maintain the garden for me.” That would have been blasphemy a mere year or two ago! And I know darn well I would not be happy in a condo… I hate living on top of other people. Too many years in tiny, city apartments cured me of that romantic notion. And I still look forward to digging and pinching and pruning… at least at first.
Yet, there’s no denying, the joy is not the same. I want to get back to the place where I lose all sense of time. Where I don’t notice I’m bruised or bleeding from some thorn or mislaid tool. I don’t want to think about brix meters or lawn alternatives. I don’t want to refer to my treasured peonies as plant material. I don’t want to spend weeks mulching only to have to spend the next few weeks staking and deadheading. I’ve reached the point where I’d like to make use of some of those benches and rockers I’ve placed around the yard. Yes.. I admit it… I want to sit and enjoy my garden… weeds, brown leaves, pests, and all.
I want beauty. Simple scent on the breeze, summer’s day beauty. I dream about burning my to do lists: turn compost, deadhead salvia, tie tomatoes, rotate houseplants, … all the things I’ve been telling other people to do, in my writing.
I want to scream that gardening isn’t about all those bleeping rules contained in the hundreds of thousands of gardening books that strain bookshelves across the country. No one will be the wiser if you don’t plant your tomatoes deeper than they were in their pots. No one will lose sleep if you don’t pinch the flowers off your coleus, or thin your poppies, or succession plant your lettuce. Step away from the pruners. Look up. Wow, look at that garden! Doesn’t it quench your soul? Couldn’t you be happy to just sit there forever? Why don’t you?
Well, maybe not forever. But you have to admit, too much… way too much… of garden writing is about what you HAVE to do to have a great garden. Phooey! You don’t even have to have a garden to get pleasure from a garden. Heck, I’ve seen beautiful little, spirit lifting plots in parking lots. Gardens are everywhere, but like great architecture, we‘re too distracted to notice them.
I’m not ready to give up my garden – or gardening – entirely, but I need a new perspective. Has this happened to you, too? I’d love to hear how you handled it. I’d love to hear any thoughts or advice you have to offer.