Gardening was forced on me as a kid, weeding in particular. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to spend hour upon excruciating hour beautifying the outdoors when there were so many other exciting ways to spend a Saturday.
It seemed mom was always very interested in the state of our yard. She seemed obsessed about weeds, edging grass, spreading bark and planting more and more and more plants. It was not uncommon to catch her pulling into the driveway after work bending and bobbing her way to the front door pulling weeds and deadheading plants. Most often with a load of stuff in her arms. From Spring to fall her constant plea consisted of five words: “Help me in the yard!”
Needless to say I was quite content as a young adult and newly married woman to avoid yards altogether. I simply had zero interest and no one to force me! Except that Mom still managed to wrangle me into an afternoon or two working in her yard.
When I moved into my first house I recognized a shift taking place–an interest in gardening began to awaken in me. Everywhere I went I started to notice flowers and plants and pretty yards. Later on, as a young mother of three my efforts were modest–and manageable: a mowed and neatly edged lawn–preferably green, a few shrubs and a pot of flowers on the front porch.
But little by little my interest grew and so did my investment. I graduated to spring bulbs and discovered the ease of tulips, daffodils and hyacinth. Then in spring I started adding annuals to my grocery cart: marigold, petunia, alyssum, snapdragons and impatiens. I loved the beautiful colors and textures scattered upon my canvas of green. Much to my surprise, I was becoming irrevocably smitten with gardening.
Little by little I increased my knowledge and my repertoire and moved on to the world of perennials: daisies, delphinium, climates and ferns. I planted roses and then added hydrangea, salvia and lavender. The inevitable day came when I splurged for my first flowering tree–a Pink Dogwood!
Before I knew it, I had turned into my mother. I was now pulling into the driveway, unloading groceries from the car and bending to pluck weeds and spent blooms on my way to the front door. In keeping with tradition, my children became my Saturday work force as well, only some of them were smart enough to bank on my perfectionistic tendencies, do a crummy job, and hope to be fired. Which they were!
I’m much older and now my grown children are developing their own landscaping interests too–or not–as I had done and as my mother before me. Some of them ask for my advice and pointers. Sometimes we even trade starts with one another.
“What is your secret to such a gorgeous yard?” people will ask. “How do you do it?” I suppose I am always a little flattered by their impressions. I just say, “Oh, I just have fun putzing around!” My humility is genuine when I say I don’t know that much. I’m not one of those gals who bothers to remember the latin names for things, and these days even remembering their common names is hit and miss!
But after giving it a little more thought, I came up with a few things I can offer. Before I share my typical answer, let me just say that my observations about gardening apply to life and faith as well. I’ll let you make the correlations for yourself!
Here’s what I know to be solid about gardening (or life and faith):
• Good soil. Remember the parable of the sewer?
• Find the right spot. Know what thrives in sunshine and what needs shade. Think temperament, love language and personality!
• Provide room. Dig a big enough hole–don’t be impatient or lazy. Preparation is key! The right atmosphere is essential for good root growth.
• Water, water, water. All things considered, without water, nothing else matters. Living Water is essential!
• Pruning. To cut away seems counter intuitive when you want growth but pruning actually encourages growth, it doesn’t hinder it. Pruning creates a desirable form. Pruning prevents disease. Pruning makes room for fruit to grow. The Master gardener knows this well!
• Pay attention. You have to keep a daily eye on things and notice when aphids infest or cut worms gnaw or mildew attacks. Daily application is much advised!
The rewards of a well cultivated garden are dual: not only do I enjoy the beauty and fragrance that results from my efforts, others are blessed and encouraged as well.
I live on a quiet street, a popular route for avid walkers and casual strollers. It’s fun to catch people slow down and crane their neck to survey my yard. Like Mrs. Rachel Lynde in Anne of Green Gables, I notice this! When I’m out front it’s not uncommon to be showered with compliments from strangers, “I just love your yard…I love walking by your house…it’s so beautiful!”
It’s important to remember that things take time. We learn. We grow. We make mistakes. We keep going. I say to the discouraged young moms who approach me for my gardening advice:
Be patient! This is your season for growing children, not flowers. There will be plenty of time for flowers when you’re not building your nest!
Just keep at it–don’t take on more than you can effectively manage! Stay with what you know until you learn more.
And finally, if you don’t enjoy it, it’s okay not to have a “gorgeous” yard! It’s better to have a beautiful spirit and contented family instead!