A transformation has taken place in the garden beds surrounding my house. I’ve been tackling them with gusto, inspired by a conversation with my gardener extraordinaire neighbour. She told me to go ahead and clean out the beds: “Start raking so you can see what you’ve got.” Since moving into this house two years ago, I’ve done nothing to maintain the gardens. Thankfully, they are full of beautiful perennials that mostly take care of themselves, but two years of neglect have begun to show. So this week I decided to conquer my fear of ruining the gardens. I grabbed a rake and began to pull out the many inches of rotting leaves. I cut down the dead stalks, trimmed bushes, and reset the stones that line the edges of the beds. And now it looks renewed, neat, and attractive. Seeing such great improvement only makes me want to garden more!
This is a good sign because I really should have a green thumb, considering the fine ‘gardening stock’ I come from. My grandma is a flower aficionado and grows vast, beautiful blooms on her farm in Niagara. She’s talented at arranging bouquets and has done the flowers for several of her granddaughters’ weddings. Aunt Jane and Mom are the vegetable growers. They spend countless hours weeding and hoeing and spreading compost all summer long, followed by days of frantic canning and preserving at the end of the season. My cousin Emily is an herb expert. She ran a tea company for several years, selling fine organic teas that she grew, dried, and processed. So you can see how I was beginning to feel rather inadequate as I watched my own garden beds slowly go to seed.
Maybe I’ll blame it on my mom trying to convert me to gardening at too young an age. For my twelfth birthday, I received a book called The New Northern Gardener, a bunch of seed packets, some seedling trays to start them, and a solar box for hardening them. I was less than thrilled, but pretended to be grateful for yet another opportunity to improve myself. Dutifully, I pored over that book, desperately trying to find a magical sentence that would either captivate my interests or else somehow translate the book into comprehensible language. Neither happened, though I did get a bumper crop of zinnias and marigolds that year. Everything else failed and now the book is collecting dust on my parents’ shelf.
This year, there will be no books involved because gardening books intimidate me and actually make me less likely to garden. I’m going to go with instinct and see what happens. If I yank up the wrong plants, so be it, but it’s only by doing that I’ll learn.