Thursday, July 26, 2007

Learning to Garden

About a week before my birthday earlier this summer, I decided to plant a garden and host a BBQ. For most normal 30-something adults, this might seem like a no-big-deal kind of task. Turn some dirt and plant a few flowers. Well, I knew nothing about planting anything. The only thing I've ever successfully grown was weeds and that was only because they thrive on laziness (mine, not theirs).

I had no idea the amount of back-breaking work that went into weeding a garden and turning the dirt hardened by a lack of attention over multiple summers of Chicago sun. I had also never trimmed hedges, a badge I'd worn rather proudly. I'm not really an "earthy" kind of girl. I really only go outside to sit on the beach and even then I insist that my towel be entirely sand-free. Despite my last name ("Gardner"), sweat and dirt have never really had a prominent place in my life (or any place at all) and I never had any interest in finding out just how much dirt I could collect under my fingernails. So this gardening thing was really a gigantic leap for me.

The Gardening Gods, in their infinite wisdom and knowledge that if this wasn't easy I wouldn't do it again, were keeping a watchful eye out for me. They caused me to drive by a lovely little old lady's home in my neighborhood who happens to be a master gardener. She was having a sale of all the beautiful plants she had lovingly grown from seedlings and then divided - and they were dirt cheap (pun intended). She guided me through the basics of plants that need full sun and off I went with 3 varieties of tomato plants, 2 primrose, 3 geraniums, the biggest Hasta I've ever seen, 2 lambs ear, and a few other plants for $27. A few days later, a woman on Freecycle was giving away a dozen iris plants for free. Some lavender, orchids, and a few other plants on sale at Home Depot and I was set. Already in my garden were 2 gigantic purple sage bushes, random day lillies, and an orchid plant that had not produced a flower in at least 4 years.

That was 7 weeks ago. Today, I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with (they're not ripe yet though) and gorgeous hot pink orchids each the size of two fists. The purple sage has taken over a third of the garden and the lavender calms me each time I walk by it. The irises, however, won't bloom until next year. I think there was a little trauma while being moved. And if it weren't for those damn rabbits, my hastas would look great too. My garden is full with all the colors of the rainbow and lots of bumble bees. I even have the occasional butterflies and birds.

If I'd only known how much peace I'd get every morning when I head out to water and how happy I am each time I look out the living room window, I would have tackled this gardening thing years ago.

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