The Occasional Gardener; I Was So Inept That if There Had Been A Garden Court, My Yard Would have Been Placed in Guardianship
Crocus longiflorus; Wikimedia Commons
by Julia Sneden
I love my yard at this time of year, because things have begun to bloom. Forsythia, camellias, jonquils, crocuses, japonica, that rampant rascal Star of Bethlehem, and even the violets (growing in what we recklessly refer to as lawn) have a salubrious effect on me. I know that I am supposed to hate the violets because they're interlopers, but I can't help just cheering them on. They seem so brave, somehow.
All these harbingers of spring don't ask for much, and they bring me blooms to fill every room in my house, with enough left over to take to friends. This year I cut some japonica and put it in water in my mother's old celadon vase, to force early bloom. Its delicate coral/red blossoms made the cold outside our door seem positively inconsequential, because it was spring in the living room.
The wonderful perennials just do their thing, year after year, with almost no effort on my part. The former owners of this house planted them long ago, and all that they require from me is an occasional dose of fertilizer and a little water in the hot summer. Oh, every few years I take out the shears and whack away, as inexpert a job of pruning as you will find anywhere in the world, but the old plants are quite forgiving. They seem to thrive no matter how I neglect them. It’s not that I mean them any harm. It’s just that I have a short attention span.
Actually, my gardening skills have improved a lot over the years. When we first bought a house, I was so inept that if there had been garden police, I'd have been hauled off to jail. And if there were a Garden Court as well as a Family Court, my entire yard would have been removed from my guardianship and placed in foster care. It's not that I didn't make an effort. Having grown up in a home where both parents were dedicated gardeners, I could hardly wait to grow my own flowers. I carefully dug up and enriched the soil for a cutting bed, sinking it down a couple of inches the way one does in California, to catch and hold every drop of moisture during the long, dry summers. The only problem was that we had moved to hot, humid, eastern North Carolina, where rains are frequent, copious, and of long duration, all summer long. Within a month, every zinnia, daisy, columbine, cosmos, snapdragon, and aster had disappeared into a damp, moldy mass, rotted away from too much water.
When we moved to the western part of the state, we unthinkingly bought a house surrounded by a half acre of lawn. This was in itself a recipe for disaster. I feel about lawns the way I feel about magnolia trees: they belong in the vast grounds of stately mansions. Crammed into suburban yards, magnolias are out of scale. And lawns, it seems to me, require crews of groundskeepers who maintain constant vigilance. I have seen a number of beautiful lawns in places near and far; I admire them and enjoy them. I don't want them. A lawn around a middle class house, someone once said, is nothing more than a boast that the owner can afford a power mower.
To add to my distress, there was one neighbor who was a lawn fanatic. I think she manicured the edges of her lawn with nail scissors. When she called me on October 20th to suggest that she knew a nice man who would rake our leaves (in this part of the world, the leaves begin to fall about Oct. 15th), I told her that we usually let them all fall before taking on the project. “Yes, but they're blowing over onto my lawn!” she snapped. For some reason, we didn’t live in that house very long.
Pages: 1 · 2
- Wild Bees, a Critical Piece of the Pollination Puzzle
- Julia Sneden's Magic Moments at the End of Summer
- Ferida Wolff's Backyard: Coreopsis on the Table; Skipping the Privets for Skip Laurels; Does Talking to Plants Help Them Grow?
- Ferida Wolff's Backyard: It's Still Summer; Hummingbirds Are Particularly Special and Peter Cottontail Rescued
- Ferida Wolff's Backyard: Blogcation and Poor Oak Trees
- Ferida Wolff's Backyard: A Brilliant Goldfinich Growing Up, A Respected Dandelion Herb and The Wandering Lily of the Valley
- Ferida Wolff's Backyard: A Seed Holds All of Its Potential Wrapped Inside That Tiny Package.
- Ferida's Wolff's Back Yard: Do Robins Herald Spring? Squirrel on the Roof; Winter and Baking
- Things My Grandmothers Taught Me; Maxims for Growing Children
- Bouquets: French Still-Life Painting from Chardin to Matisse, Floral Paintings With an Art Historical and Cultural Narrative