Every month I read Better Homes & Gardens and Backyard Gardener and every month I feel like a gardening failure. I don’t have a pond, a rock garden, or lavish knotted wood trellises hand made by Tibetan monks that host climbing vines native to Honduras but somehow thrive in zone 5. What I have are a few flower beds and a wild imagination. And as of this weekend, I have a new deck and a 3- by 24-foot raised garden bed. What the hell to do with them is the adventure. (Click on the photos for a larger view.)
I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants gardener. I’m a sucker for colorful and unusual plants and I usually fail to read the little plastic inserts in the starter pots at the nursery telling me how and where to plant my little plant discoveries. That’s how I learn.
On my porch are a few tuberous begonias and a bean plant that, along with cock roaches and Cher, would survive a nuclear holocaust. I got it 12 years ago from a kinda-sorta boyfriend who I didn’t know was married and who I later learned took the plant from his wife’s porch and gave it to me. He was a jerk, but the plant is big and unstoppable and that’s why I love it.
I’m growing six types of grape tomatoes this year, all in pots and all are now situated on my new deck. I love tomato plants. They are wild and unyielding and very sexy. Yes, sexy. But because this is a PG blog, I can’t go into it here. Just think heavy fruit, bending limbs, etc., and you get what I’m saying.
A neighbor gave me oregano, wild garlic, and chives to plant in my new garden bed. Sharing plants is a sure sign of friendship. It’s the outdoor version of Amish friendship bread.
Wild morning glories vine along the back of the garage, and the catmint I planted for our cat Bungee last year came back and is growing well beneath the rose of Sharon. I’m really glad Bungee is around another year to enjoy his plant. I have a feeling diabetes will take him before the year’s end. He’s frail, but still manages to leave us gifts of decapitated finches in our kitchen every once in awhile.
The day lilies, clematis, roses and burning bushes all came back bigger and happier this year and so I need to sit back and realize that great gardens take a few years, not a few hours, to develop and mature. The pictures in my magazines of grand, filled-in gardens don’t represent what most people, including me, have in their back yards. They are the extremes, like the wafer-thin models in Vogue. What I’ve got in my backyard and growing on my porch are representative of me and my time and what I love – colorful, unusual, and experimental.
Larry and I are tired tonight. Very tired. We lifted 50 40-pound bags of top soil and garden soil today three times each: from the nursery into our cars, from our cars to our yard, and from our yard to the garden beds. We hauled, opened and leveled 18 bags of hardwood mulch, too. It was a good manual labor kind of day, even if I didn’t think to put on sunscreen until I felt my face burning, and when we were done, I took a shower and washed dishes and got rid of the dirt under my fingernails. There’s a slight stinging in my thigh muscles and I think my hair is two shades blonder, but today was one of those days you think about when you wake up tomorrow and think, “Damn. I worked hard yesterday” and then go about smiling the rest of the day.
I’m pretty sure Larry has fallen asleep in a chair on the porch. I need to go wake him before he starts snoring. I might need to light the tiki torches out back for a few minutes first, though, and read a few more pages of the new Backyard Gardener, especially since I don’t feel like a complete gardening failure after today.