The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Hell That is Gardening

By which title it may become apparent that Ms. K and gardening are not really such very close friends....
Mother Nature and I have had an agreement for some time. Specifically, I will generally leave her alone except for the necessary lawn mowing, and she will wait until my back is turned and throw trees at my car. Now, this may not sound like a particularly good deal, but Mother Nature is a skilled negotiator, who has been making these sorts of deals since the beginning of time. Indeed, her usual deal is something like "you do whatever the hell you want because it won't matter and I'll still freeze your tomatoes/place poison ivy near your campground/hurl your trailer six miles from your midwest trailer park, just because I feel like it." Compared to the alternatives, I figured the leave me alone/trash your car thing wasn't absolutely the worst thing that could happen. I mean, at least she waited until my back was turned.

And yet.....and yet there are times when Ms. K inexplicably becomes delusional, fancying herself some sort of domestic goddess who can coax leafy things into life while birds sing joyously to her. The reality usually has a lot more swearing, lots of terrified greenery, and the birds are laughing at me. This is why I try to avoid this activity whenever possible. Unfortunately, Mother Nature is also not known to actually play fair and, having advised me in the strongest possible language to leave her alone, she spent the last three years making the gardens at my house into tangled messes of weeds and sticks and general nastiness. I hoped that the garden fairy would come during the night and it would be lovely and I wouldn't get in trouble with Ma Nature, but it never did happen. (Just goes to show you--never trust a garden fairy.)
I did try reasoning with both the gardens and Mother Nature. I pointed out that I have the touch of death and I don't have an eye for this stuff AT ALL and would it really make any of us any happier to have me turn the entire place into a crispy brown affair, the whole thing held together with dandelions and moss? No go, and it finally got so bad that I couldn't ignore it any longer. I went out, and I bought plants and soil and fertilizer, trading my common sense for them so it would stop screaming at me. And, since everyone loves a before and after thing, here' are the before pictures of one of the gardens, this one at the end of our walkway:

Disasterous, I know. And yes, I AM quite ashamed. In my defense, though, you can't say I'm not a woman of my word. I said I wouldn't mess with her, and I bloody well didn't. At all.

Now, the potted plants on the rock are ones I purchased last night to replace the crap I knew I'd be throwing away. Even so, I did not imagine just how much work this would take. Apparently I should have driven a harder bargain and kept a little bit of the sense, because I was still clinging to that picture of me happily pulling out a few weeds, all of them leaping eagerly into my hands as the garden became perfectly lovely with nary a drop of sweat on my brow to show for it. Yeah, I think I went right past zero sense and went into negative integers.

What really happened was four hours of shovelling and raking and ripping stuff out of the ground that was apparently rooted in concrete and hanging on for dear life. I had no idea that dandelions could grow taproots right through the earth, where they are then secured on the other side with that stuff they use to put price labels on clear glass vases. That crap NEVER lets go...and neither do the damned dandelions. Ultimately, I ended up clearing everything out but the rock (it was behaving itself, at least while I was looking) and the two largish green bushes simply because they had the tenacity to stay alive and I felt that should be rewarded. As for the rest--dead plant walking.

Once finished, I drank so much lemonade that it would have been more efficient to drink it from a fire hose and then returned to plant some lavender (the bees fought me determinedly for this; then, once I got it in the ground and was quite happy to have them, they left for parts unknown. Damned bees.), a "nearly wild rose" (that's what the tag on it said and it's never lied to me before so it must be true) which I'm certain the deer will eat but it was so pretty I couldn't resist, and some plant with odd looking purple flowers that charmed me but not, apparently, enough to make me remember what it's called. I left the rest empty to allow what I put in there to grow and spread out. It looks kind of empty, I suppose, but after the tangled mess I started with, I was okay with the minimalist look.
It needs water, but it's 80 degrees and the sun is right on it so I'm waiting until this evening so I don't burn the plants. I also still need to put bricks all around the edge to separate it from the lawn. And really, the charming puple thing is supposed to spread up to 10 feet, so I have hope that this will look good. If not, I want my sweat back.
The hell of it is, I still have the bed at the end of the driveway, and one of the beds in front of the porch to do. I did the other one, but didn't get a before shot so the after was kind of anticlimactic. It involved some hens and chicks plants, and some rhododendrons that I'm assured will bloom red, and it also involved me being a smorgasbord for about a million mosquitoes because I did it last night at dusk. You may apply the word nitwit here, if you'd like.
I am a bit concerned about what Mother Nature will do to me, now that I have reneged on my end of the deal. Maybe the rhubarb will organize and come strangle me in my sleep or something. More likely, she'll just send reinforcements for the weeds and I'll step out tomorrow morning to hear the dandelions burp as they finish eating my lavender and take over the rock in the center of the garden. Then again, I think I should also keep an eye on the trees.
I know there are people out there who love gardening, and I have only admiration for you. Well, admiration, and two questions. 1) WHY??? and 2) What time can you be here? I have lemonade. Oh, and I know how to make cookies, too.
Knit on, friends. I am about to reward myself for all my hard work by...ironing. It's just plain wrong.


  • At 3:05 PM, Blogger Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns said…

    But you went out there and DID it, didn't you? You felt the urge, admit it!

    Gardening kind of grows on you. It's not good for those of us with the patience level of minus one or lower, since most things take years to happen. But honestly, grubbing away at impossibly deep rooted weeds or tucking a new plant in and giving it a drink, can relax you amazingly. Really! (Of course we don't have the heat or the mosquitoes, but the vegetation does tend to leap up three feet when we turn our backs, so I know where you're at on that score.)

    Keep us posted on your gardening. It's enormous fun!

  • At 4:36 PM, Blogger Marianne said…

    Hah, I put whirligigs in my gardens too!

    You know I'd be there to do whatever your heart desired, including warning 'Ma' to go put her feet up and relax...

    But your laughing birds brought to mind these lines..."Sweet bird of time and change, you must be laughing, up on your feathers laughing" (Joni Mitchell)
    Get those cookies baking and more lemonade made, I'm on my way...

  • At 7:10 PM, Anonymous said…

    I thought I would be beating the gardening thing by moving from Ontario to Arizona...

    Imagine my shock, horror, dismay, anguish and wailing at the gods when last spring I SAW DANDELIONS!!!

    I can't believe we have the same variety of weeds here, it just doesn't seem fair.

    I was soooo happy when someone bought our house, gardens completely overtaken with bindweed. That stuff was my nemesis. I ripped it out for YEARS. I even pondered chemical intervention. I am just waiting for the stuff to follow me here.

    Chris in AZ

  • At 10:45 PM, Anonymous MonicaPDX said…

    Y'know, Flo, more and more, I think we're related somehow. If I'd ever been tempted to try gardening, that could've been me. (Another black thumb person here, guaranteed to kill all but weeds.) But y'know, re those dandelions - if WD40 gets labels off glass vases... Although I guess that wouldn't be too good for the ground after you got the dandelions out. Maybe you should let the rest of 'em grow and find your inner dandelion green eater and winemaker?? At least you could be somewhat snockered while dealing with the rest of the greenery, as well as healthily vegetated in your free-range salads. It's a thought. ;)

    As to Angie's comment last post about touring - oh lordy, I can see it now. Especially if we add Marianne; I mean, I'd need both you guys to drag me out on stage. [g] (Hint: prime me with about 3 stiff drinks first, that should help.) The Northwest Meets Midwest: Chaos On Tour!

    (Oh, too good to resist - verification: "feipynk"! Now they're using gay Yiddish??)

  • At 11:22 PM, Anonymous angie Cox said…

    The dandelions in England have roots in Australia you know .Jeff hates gardening so I do some but as it has been raining a lot of late everything had gone mad. I like a lot of greenery but it needs tackling before I find a princess asleep out there !

  • At 8:18 AM, Blogger Marianne said…

    Yes, well, Monica, although it would only take 2 stiff drinks (possibly even 1, I am such a cheap date) to get me 'on stage' but hey, wtf..will I be playing the 'straight' person? You know, the poker faced one?
    Seriously, ya'll know how much I love you? and Angie? I know it'd be just as tough to get you 'on stage' but we DEFINITELY need you out there with us!

  • At 10:46 AM, Blogger Kim said…

    I hate it, too. Hate it. The only reason I do it is because I'm shamed into it by the neighbors, who all have beautifully manicured, pristine flowerbeds and not a weed in sight.

  • At 5:44 AM, Blogger Jo said…

    I hate gardening, although I' quite good with Cacti...well apart from the one that got to big and had to go outside and then died, that was quite upsetting, too, yeah leave plants well alone, thats my plan and I'm sticking to it!

  • At 6:52 AM, Blogger Dana said…

    Like Monica, I'm now convinced that we were separated at birth, Ms. K. I'm damned proud to keep the few flowers in the window box alive. My cats routinely catch and kill birds (if I can't rescue them first) and four weeks ago, I put a dying Hosta outside my office door in the hopes that someone would steal it. At this very moment, it's flourishing (no one stole it and once it got away from me, it thrived).

    (I have to admit, though, I do like the window boxes). Perhaps if we non-gardeners limit ourselves to one thing, keep it going for months and then expand from there, we will conquer Mother Nature. That or we all move into Marianne's or Robin's backyards. ;)

  • At 1:09 PM, Blogger Karen said…

    I used to love to garden, but I was younger, thinner, and didn't mind sweating so much. Now that I'm middle-aged, fat and going through "the change" I'd much rather sit in my air-conditioned house and knit. But the cookies and lemonade sound really good.

  • At 11:39 AM, Blogger Kitty Mommy said…

    You do know that it is just one REALLY big dandelion that sends up shoots all over the world right?


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