Gary and I went to a garden show Friday, and attended a landscape design class. It was a “beginner’s class” and the instructor talked about things like preparing the soil, drawing designs, selecting suitable plants, creating focal points, adding paths, etc. I learned a few things and came away with a couple of ideas for future projects. However, I realized as I sat there, that as a “garden designer” I’m a failure!! My garden wanders and meanders all over the place. It has odd plants in odd places. It lacks unity. It lacks a focal point. It lacks order. My garden has a mind of its own and it often shows me who is the boss.
When we first moved here I drew elaborate plans of what I was going to do. I spent hours pouring over catalogs and books. I selected plants that I thought would be beautiful in the spring, plants that would tolerate the summer sun, plants that would turn lovely shades of red and gold in the fall. One of the first things I wanted to plant was a lilac bush because my grandmother had one by her backyard gate and I just loved it. So, out I went to dig a hole in the “perfect” spot. Uh-oh. Big rocks. Moved over about five feet to a “suitable” spot. Ugh. More rocks. Okay, five more feet over to an “okay spot”. There it still sits.
That’s been the story of my life as a gardener on this rocky, windy, wild hill. I plan and the hill shows me the error of my ways. There are three distinct areas here. One is almost solid rock. One is good soil that used to be an old vegetable garden. The other is a maze of tree roots. Of course the solid rock area is where I’d love to have more shade. The good soil area is where I can’t plant any trees because of a combination of septic and propane lines. And the maze of tree roots is where I’d love to have more flowers. Add to this the problem of unwanted visitors. Right now I have at least 200 baby trees and wild vines that need to be cut out of my flower beds. Virginia creeper, poison ivy, mimosa trees, hackberry trees, briar vines, ivy, wild roses, and wild grape vines abound on this hill. They would literally take over everything in sight if I didn’t spend the entire summer cutting, cutting, cutting.
I may be a failure for having a garden that lacks planning, but I’ve still managed to carve out a little beauty and enjoyment by simply doing what I can and overlooking what I can’t. I bring home plants and try to put them in the most agreeable spot I can find. I water them and tend them and then wait to see if they are survivors. If not, I try something else. My garden is a wild, wonderful experiment in possibilities. Its taught me some marvelous lessons about gardening and about life.
The most important lesson I’ve learned from my garden is patience. I’m always waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting for rain. Waiting for buds to open. Waiting for the peaches to ripen. Waiting for time to spend some time in the garden. In the beginning the waiting was stressful. Now I’ve learned to treasure the waiting time as just part of the process. The waiting makes the reward that much sweeter.
The next lesson is tolerance. I’ll never keep the armadillos out of my garden. I’ll never control all the fire ants. I’ll never remove all of the weeds and trees and vines. But if I tolerate a few holes and weeds and extra sprouts, I’ll have a garden that gives me joy and draws me outside to enjoy nature.
My garden has taught me about perseverance, prudence, and pleasure. I could go on and on. There isn’t an end to the list. There isn’t a last lesson. Each day I learn something.
I was sitting on the front step yesterday, enjoying a cool glass of tea and scrutinizing the Carolina jasmine. I’ve never been happy with where it is or how it has grown. The blossoms aren’t as large as I thought they would be and the whole plant needs constant trimming to keep it under control. But I noticed today that it is covered with tiny blossoms and activity. There are bees, humming birds, wasps, butterflies, and several unidentifiable insects whirling and buzzing and clinging to it. It is providing food and shelter for a whole community of critters! It has a purpose and it is fulfilling it beautifully!
There is a lesson here for us all. I may not be the best garden designer. I may not even be a good garden designer. But I’m trying to fulfill my purpose by being an observant gardener, a considerate gardener, a joyful gardener. I’m tending my little corner of the world to the best of my ability. Sometimes that’s all we can really do. How is your corner today?