Saturday, May 21, 2011

Zen and the art of garden maintenance

Gardening is the pursuit of the patient.  You plant but must wait for it to fill in.  You might plant something that doesn't thrive in your space or not live at all.  You have to take the long view and be willing to sacrifice hours and days and weeks and months.  I have never been a patient person.  Ask Brendan.  I have the utmost regard for people who garden because honestly, it takes a heroic effort that, when we moved in, I wasn't sure I could ever put forth.  Our house, and the couple who built it, are local legends.  Mary was a tiny woman but she was a gardening powerhouse.  She created extensive planting beds around the property and they're the kind of beds where there is always something in bloom.  Since mid March, we have not once been without some type of blooming tree, flower or bush.  It's beautiful.  And, it's deceiving.

I was talking with a neighbor down the street about our house and the gorgeous surroundings.  She said, "it's such a natural place."  She's right, it IS a very natural looking place.  When you come up to the house, it feels a bit like you have entered a wood that might be inhabited by fairies.  The children even made fairy houses as Mother's Day presents so we now have a housing project for any magical inhabitants.  But, it was very carefully designed to LOOK natural and that's a very different thing.

Mary passed away several years ago and keeping up the gardens was maybe too much physically for Ed  and maybe also too painful emotionally for him.  Interestingly enough, I didn't notice the weeds when we bought the place.  It's funny how that works, isn't it?  I look back now at the pictures we took and there they are - everywhere - but I couldn't see them then.  And, this Spring, when things began to grow, I was unable to tell what was planted and what was weed.  I had to wait for everything to grow in order to see what things were.  And, thank goodness I waited because the result has been extraordinary and it is rewarding to go outside every day.

I've always suspected that I might have a slight case of Attention Deficit Disorder.  I believe this is why my favorite room to clean in the house is the bathroom.  It gets so gross, with the kids spitting toothpaste everywhere - except in the sink.  And we have a four year old boy, so I don't think I have to tell you how disgusting the area around the toilet can be.  Plus, my children seem to get dirtier than everyone else's children.  Catie likes to war paint herself with juice from berries, for example, so the tub can get rings that are the stuff of legends.  You'd think I'd hate cleaning it but no.  I love that it's such a small room.  Even if it's completely trashed, I can have it spotless and gleaming in less than half an hour.  I adore instant gratification.

And so, I am astonished at how much I enjoy weeding the garden.  Flower beds, vegetable garden, around the fruit trees, you name it.  I am a completely schizophrenic gardener - working one day on the grapevine and the next on the front flower bed.  I have yet to actually completely finish working on any one area.  But, I think that's how gardening works.  I don't think you can ever be done.  I can weed around a fig tree and the next day, literally, the weeds will be back.  Not just peeking out of the soil, but 2 inches tall!  So, I don't worry that things are in a constant state of half doneness.  I just keep going, imagining that one day - far, far into the future - I might "catch up" to the gardens.

Before weeding

After weeding
For me, weeding the garden is a very zen thing.  Ripping out weeds is cathartic.  And, when a particularly large root comes out with my pull I am disproportionately proud.  I lie in bed at night, sore from bending over the beds, and I'm happy.  It's been said that successful gardening depends upon your enthusiasm keeping up until your back gets used to it.  My back is clearly not yet used to it but my enthusiasm is going strong, so I've got that going for me!


  1. Maybe buy yourself a knee pad for when you kneel. This is a helpful tool when weeding. Success is shown in the before and after pics. Bravo! I completely empathize with your cathartic feeling after pulling a weed. Love your blog!

  2. Its nice thought to do some experiment in your garden grow different types of plants, flowers and many more things like pool landscaping grow beautiful grass in your garden etc. all these type of activities we can do to make our garden beautiful.
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  3. Its good idea to grow different types of flowers in the garden but most important that the garden should be clean and for that you have to use house cleaning services.
    Cleaning services Toronto