Part one of two

Gardening season has begun in earnest around chez moi. Between the upswing in temperatures and my liberation in landscaping, the time was right. I have spent many hours outside these past ten days.

My parents always joked that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who call it gardening, and those who call it yard work. I’m definitely a gardening type of person. Even at that, things were really rocky at the beginning this year.

While I didn’t recognize what was happening at the time, grief for my late father was turning me into a walking train wreck. All I knew then was that I was grumpy, unsettled, wildly moody, and lashing out at people I love very much.

I have a post started about my train wreck weekend, which I will post soon. This week and next, I want to tell you some of the secrets my garden shared with me once I was able to get in there and listen to it speak.

Nothing is so far gone that it is not worth recovering.

Nothing is so far gone that it is not worth recovering.

When we moved here, twelve years ago, the garden bed between the sunroom and the driveway contained a neatly tended row of variegated hostas. As I’ve mentioned before, a crazy jumble of events led to years of neglect in my yard.

This spring, the melting of the snow revealed an embarrassing mess — dead leaves, volunteer plants growing almost in the driveway, snow-on-the-mountain running riot through the bed and even under the deck, and untended hostas struggling to break through the leaf cover.

Because I am unable to work in straight lines, this project took almost an entire gardening day for me. Yet, in the end, the leaves were raked and unwanted plants were very nearly eliminated. The hostas were divided and neatly replanted. Thai basil was interplanted in the hopes of steering mosquitos away from the deck.

There is still a bit of work to be done there, but the plants are healthy and happy once again, and I’m pleased with how this little strip of the yard looks. If you want to recover something, start recovering it. It will probably look different than it once did, but life changes, you change, and different is okay.

Make room for what you want in your life

Many years ago, we had a Goldilocks garden in our back yard: just the right size, just the right amount of sun, and just the right distance from the kitchen. When my mother built on to our house, her granny-flat extended into that area.

Vegetable gardening had sort of slipped out of the equation anyway, but this year we wanted more than the stray tomato plant. There is an excellent spot in the front yard, but it was nearly entirely populated by day lily.

Happily, I recently learned this variety of day lily is invasive here (hence it’s domination of this corner of the yard). I was already planning to eliminate it when I found the time. Even more happily, my husband was ready and willing to dig them all up.

If you’re looking for a life metaphor, look no further. We now have what we really want growing in a place that was being taken over by something unwanted and unruly.

When you make room for what you want, you often get happy surprises

The top priority for planting my vegetable seedlings was a place with lots of sunshine. One such spot was a perennial bed my sons had when they were in elementary school. Since then, it reverted back to me and has grown steadily larger.

Random herbs and other perennials were tucked here and there through the years. Like the rest of the yard, it has been growing along with minimal tending.

As I raked up last year’s leaves I discovered not one, but two lavender plants I thought had probably died. I adore lavender, but it’s not easy to grow this far north. Add last winter’s brutality to that, and the odds against their survival were low.

On the way to clearing a space for a seedling or two, I was delighted by this exciting discovery. Had I not been doing the work for the vegetables, the lavender could easily have been killed off by last year’s debris.

Taking that leap of faith can be so rewarding

Okay, this was more a tiny tiptoe of faith happening over the last few years, but this is the first year I have been all-in. Allowing and encouraging non-turf plants to take the place of a traditional lawn has resulted in:

  • A beautiful spread of blue and white violets
  • A yard that requires significantly less, and ultimately no, mowing
  • Freedom from fighting to keep grass alive under pretty heavy shade
  • More room to put in native plantings

This neatly leads me into the next lesson I re-learned in my garden.

We are stewards of the earth

Regardless of your desire to interact with nature, human life is intimately interconnected with the rest of our planet’s flora and fauna. Many people don’t have the opportunity to create a habitat for other animals. Many others choose not to do so, viewing them only as pests. For the rest of us, that increases our responsibility to provide a safe, healthy environment for the creatures around us.

Our yard is home to rabbits, bees, chipmunks, squirrels and a number of birds. I get a kick out of seeing them frolic around in a not-quite-Disney-esque way. As a bonus, our dogs are absolutely delighted when they get the opportunity to chase critters in the back yard!

As a long-standing gardening practice, we don’t treat the yards with chemical fertilizers, nor do we use poisons. Because of this, I feel good when I see the bunnies munching down on a patch of greenery here. The soil is rich with a variety of insects, so the birds have plenty to eat. Our yard is both habitat and buffet to the local animals. Eat up, you adorable little babies!

Sometimes you are going to mess up — see what you can learn from it

The rabbits are not invited to eat everything in our yard. Behind chicken wire fencing, we planted sunflowers with bush cucumbers and beans. I had almost completely misremembered the three sisters planting used by many Native American tribes. The actual “three sisters” are corn, squash, and beans.

It would be so easy for me to get angry with myself for misremembering and not double checking before we bought the plants. That’s a perfectionist thought pattern that is difficult to break. Fortunately, I was able to laugh and decide to see what happens. Since they are bush cucumbers, I think the sunflowers will provide adequate support. They also have the light fencing around them.

Maybe it will be a great companion planting. While I was writing this, I discovered there is a little known “fourth sister,” and she is the sunflower! And if the whole thing collapses, well, I’m no worse off than if I hadn’t planted anything.

I had originally intended to put all twelve of these life lessons in one post, but we all have busy lives. You have things to do, and I — well, my garden is calling me.

I hope beautiful things are growing in your lives right now. Brightest blessings, Sunny

Let’s keep in touch!