I’ve never hidden the fact that my garden lacks adequate maintenance. It all started innocently enough with a strip of land between the house and the driveway, dubbed the birthday garden because everything in it was a gift for my birthday. I seemed to have no trouble keeping that up, so I started another bed, and since that was going okay, I started another one. Then I got to the point where I promised myself I would catch up on whatever I was falling behind on, but at the moment I needed to do something else. And for a long time I persuaded myself that I would be able to get things back in shape, in no time at all–next week, next month, next season. Finally, I realized I was in way over my head, and however many years it took me to get into this mess, that’s how many it would take to get me out. (This parallels my experience in other areas of my life, coincidentally.)
Sometimes I regard the mess that is my garden with cheerful acceptance, other times with resignation, and sometimes with dark self-loathing. It depends on how much sleep I’ve been getting, whether or not the sun is shining, and how many other aspects of my life are making me feel incompetent at the moment.
Looking back, this is exactly what made me hesitate starting my very first bed. I could see, in various neighborhoods that I happened to pass through, landscaping projects of an ambitious nature that were not maintained. Mailbox planters filled with weeds. Creeping juniper with grass growing through it. Projects that were better not started if they couldn’t be maintained. I don’t want to be like that. Well, look at me now.
But Failure is lurking around every turn in the road, and if we let our fear of him paralyze us, we don’t get anywhere. The truth of the matter is, an encounter with Failure is rarely fatal. We may fall flat on our face, and we may be directed down a path we weren’t planning to trod, but for crying out loud, it’s not going to kill us! And if I’m really honest, it’s not failure I fear so much as imperfection. Yes, I want to be in control of every detail, and get every detail right. How many times have I meticulously weeded a yard-square patch, when it would have done me more good to lop off the flowering stalks of the weeds throughout the whole garden?
Ah, well, that’s so much water over the dam. This gardening year I’ve just been trying to do a couple of hours of work every day I can manage, and what I can get done, gets done. Gardening is but one aspect of my life, which already has more aspects in it than I can manage perfectly. To help myself prioritize, since disaster is on every side, I decided to work first on what was most visible to the public. So the birthday garden was tidied first, since it’s right by the main going-in-and-out door of the household. Next was the peony bed bordering the driveway. Then, abandoning the white lilac bed to its fate, since it is to become a shrub bed, I moved onto the Juneberry bed, pictured above.
I’ve been working on the end located closest to the road. This end has the bright scarlet Oriental poppies interplanted with Campanula glomerata ‘Joan Elliot.’ I’ve always told myself that I’d weed this area after the poppies went dormant, but when they went dormant I was always putting out other fires. In other places I have tried to remove Oriental poppies, and they come back from pieces of root. Not too surprising, because propagation by root cuttings is a very common way to get more Oriental poppies. So I dig them up, and then there they are, propagating right in place. So, I decided, this is stupid. I’m not going to worry about killing off these poppies when in other places I had to work hard to kill them. And it’s not like they’re rare or anything. So no more pussyfooting around.
Which is a good thing, because with all that grass in there, it would have been difficult to give anything the delicate treatment. Poor Joan Elliot was in danger of suffocation. I soaked the chunks of sod I found her in overnight, before attempting rescue. And who knows if she’ll survive? But I originally got her from Bluestone Perennials, so I’m assuming I’ll be able to find her again. If not, then another clustered bellflower, or something completely different. I do love that scarlet with deep purple, I know that.
So, I’ve been quite aware that I’ve been paying for my sins–specifically sins of omission. If I had kept up on the weeding of this bed, I wouldn’t have to be removing sod now. What’s done, is done, Kathy; move on.
Which brings me to another sin of omission. I’ve got a muscle spasm in back. No, that’s not the sin, that’s the penance. I had been congratulating myself, a tad prematurely, as it turned out, on my first back-pain-free gardening season since–well, five years, at least. And I credit this turn of events to the program of stretching and strength training I’ve been adhering to for several months. Actually I’ve been doing the stretching part for quite a bit longer. But in the last two weeks I haven’t been sticking to the program quite so diligently. Sometimes it was to make more time for gardening, ironically enough, and other times I had to get out of the house early and devoted my time to that.
This past Monday, I had to take four children to the dentist. First appointment at 9:30am. Dentist 45 minutes away. Other people in this family might be able to shoehorn their exercise regimen in before departing, but my brain is too focused on getting every out of the house on time, looking presentable, teeth brushed. So no stretching. Tuesday I was determined to repent of my slothful ways. I rode my new stationary bike for the first time, did my strength training, and then dressed for gardening and went out. I made further inroads into the grass pictured above, and went back in the house. Once inside, I noticed a twinge in my back, which, just to be safe, I decided to put ice on for twenty minutes. As the day progressed, the twinge became a pain that has been plaguing me ever since. Thanks be to God, this spasm has been relatively mild compared to past ones. I’m not incapacitated, though I am uncomfortable. I haven’t been able to garden, but I can still cook, sit, stand, and perform acts of personal hygiene. And type.
And I hope I learned my lesson.