I don’t like being dirty or doing physical labor, so you might ask how I got into gardening? The first thing I remember growing was yellow marigolds. I had this tiny space that used to be a footpath until my dad put up a fence between our yard and the neighbors. He got tired of the constant stream of kids and dogs that cut through our yard.
At 9, I had never heard of amendments, turning over the soil or mulch. I just scratched a bit at the surface, carefully patted my seeds into place and ran out every day to see how my 4 plants were doing. They got to be about 3” tall and sent out one sad little flower each.
You would think such a miserable experience would have put me off gardening forever, but no such thing. Our first apartment had a little space outside the fence where they let me grow tomatoes. The giant snake was a bonus courtesy of the construction on both sides of our complex. I was lucky. Our neighbor found hers inside the apartment.
Our first house had a fabulously flat back yard with no trees. The previous owners raised vegetables on the back half and every year they dumped a truck load of manure on it. Everything I put in the ground grew like Jack’s beanstalk. I sold bushels of tomatoes to a local market. That was right before a storm knocked over the whole row of plants. I learned the hard way not to tie all the stakes together!
In 1978, we moved to the house we live in now. No one had ever done anything, except plant trees. I think the first owner must have stood on the front porch and thrown a handful of marbles out in the yard – and then told her husband to put a tree everyplace there was a marble. There were 38 of them on our lot.
The back yard is sloped down to the house at about a 45 degree angle. The 2008 picture above shows the view from the house, looking up the hill at an angle.
Over the years, we have changed the yard many times. There was a swing set when my kids were young. I got big boxes built like terraces so there would be a flat place to grow plants. Gradually, I took over all the edges of the yard, creeping out from the fences and the house and leaving just the swath of grass you can see.
I explained – over and over – to my husband that I was doing him a favor. He would have less grass to mow. He’s learned that letting me garden is cheaper than therapy.
The close up below is my ornamental grass garden in 2008. There is a fig tree at the rear. It looked spectacular that year, didn’t it? Sadly, the big evergreens across the back property line kept sticking their branches out and blocking the sun. A lot of the grass died and the fig started growing over to my neighbor’s yard. He didn’t like it.
The inner parts of the evergreen boughs were bare and I finally convinced Roger we should have them removed. Massive changes are happening in the back gardens this year. I’ll show you more in a future post.
Back to my original question – why gardening? What else carries such uncertainty, hope, promise, disappointment and even exercise, all wrapped up in one package? You learn botany, etymology (bugs), chemistry (composting and fertilizing) and a little animal husbandry (birds, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits and voles). Maintaining a garden is endlessly fascinating and challenging, beautiful in all the seasons if you learn to appreciate subtlety. What else lets you start over every year?