The Rise and Fall of a Spectacular Garden
Until we moved to Spo¬kane, I did not know there was a gardener in me dying to get out. Twelve years up in the frozen north, the sense of colors was dulled by the permanent frost. All the nurturing went into wheel¬barrow-sized cabbages and collard greens. And noth¬ing else grew under my pale thumb. I remember once see¬ing some roses a co-worker grew in her pot and thought her as a demigod.
So imagine my zeal once the possibility pre¬sented itself here! Having sunshine and land, I went mad the first year. Madder still after discovering that roses could be had for as little as $2.99 in late spring! (Yes, this was a few years ago.)The flower child inside was unleashed with a fearful force; fearful, in particular, to the check book. The truth is I did not know what I was doing. The only thing going for me was a zeal that only a new convert could possess, a husband that indulges with “how nice” but never “how much” to all the things I was carting home, an exagger¬ated sense of self vs. nature, and a vision that many sensi-ble people would call “mas¬ochism”. I was possessed for the first three years af¬ter we moved into this new house that sat amid a pile of sand. We did everything backwards. We put down a lawn before we put down a sprinkler system. I planted everything before amend¬ing the soil. I was so pleased driving around town with a Jeep, the trunk of which was littered with soil from top¬pled pots. The children often had to share their rides with pots of roses I just acquired, craning their necks to make space. I moved every plant around at least three times to find just the right spot for it, like a mother cat moving her kittens around to find a safe haven. And when the deer came, like everyone had told me they would, I went out every night to cov¬er them with a sheet. The yard looked like Halloween on summer evenings. I was the laughing stock of the neighborhood. There was no return down the path of this beautiful madness. And the true reason for my husband's indulgence? “It might all be cheaper than a psychiatrist's couch,” he said.
Unbeknownst to me, through 200 roses and hun¬dreds of perennials, the gar¬den did become my psychi-atrist's couch. I have grown and morphed along with it, one bloom at a time. It was through the soil, through my blackened and cracked thumbs, through those ape-like howls at the merciless deer, that many lessons of life become me. It is in the garden that I seek the an¬swers to the puzzles of re-lationships. Why do some people pay back kindness with venom? Well, how do you explain a Zone 8 plant dying in Zone 5? How can you insist that alkaline lov¬ing plants thrive in an acidic soil? Why do we seize the moment? Well, if I don't someone else will. There are many hungry mouths lurk¬ing in the woods waiting for your head to turn. Beauty is indeed transient.
When my friend Helen visited from Alaska the first year, she made her first ob¬servation: “Ha! How is it you are so quick to disci¬pline your children but re¬fuse to discipline your gar¬den?” After 12 years in a cold, dark place, I insisted all things green and bloom¬ing have a place in my gar¬den, including weeds. Soon enough, the garden was overrun by weeds. Since then, the garden has served as a parallel of my child rearing. Do I want my chil¬dren to thrive? Then I must weed. Do I want them to grow up right? Then I must prune. A garden, like a child, takes time. And a child, like a thriving garden, demands attention. Sometimes, when I am pruning a rose bush, I am not sure I am not braid¬ing the hair of a little girl. In the end, the garden becomes my child and the child be¬comes my garden.
In July 2006, the 4-year old garden won the Garden of the Month award from Inland Empire Garden Club. I had an inkling it would be downhill all the way from there. The frenzy and the foes are catching up to me. The deer, the turkey, the rattlesnakes, the gophers are wearing me out, not to mention the children's soc¬cer practices. I spent the first three years putting things in and the next three years tak¬ing things out. I have been downsizing, giving away roses and tub after tub of plants. Funny, it was the flocks of turkey that leave trails of doom in their wake that finally persuade me where others have failed. Plus, I need to downsize in order to upside in other fron¬tiers, such as the expansion of the vegetable garden.
Do I regret about hav¬ing given away so many roses? Not at all. They all have gone to good homes leaving behind their beauti¬ful legacy.
Am I sad to part with them? Not a bit. For even though I am not sure it was cheaper than the psychia-trist's couch, it certainly has been more fun and fruitful. It may not be the size it used to be, but it is inside me.