It’s Not All Mary Poppins

My garden blooms

I love gardens. I have happy childhood memories of mucking about in our large country garden under the direction of my grandfather. I weeded, I watered, I watched little plants come up. I was paid to pick peas, beans and strawberries. (The strawberries were wild. Why plant when the Real Thing was available everywhere — and so much tastier?)

Those memories are early, though. Even the little plot of my own I was given, which I blithely filled entirely with marigolds, because I loved them (still do!), was done under the direction of grandad, and I was very young. Six? Seven? By the time I would have been old enough to take the gardening helm in any meaningful way, he was too ill to garden, even from the director’s chair.

So, though I love gardens, though small and surprising bits of gardening trivia and lore occasionally burst from my lips, giving the (FALSE) impression that I know what the heck I’m doing, I do not know how to manage a garden. I don’t know how to put things together, how to plan the blooms, I don’t know how big plants gets, how much they’ll spread, how quickly they grow. I can’t visualize the end product from the tags on the plants or the pictures on the seed packages. Drop me in the middle of a nursery, and I feel a bit at sea.

I also feel like a kid in a candy shop… All that colour! All those pretty, pretty blooms! Do I want pink? Yellow? Blue? Do I want that trailing green stuff? Tall? Short? Round? Flat? Annuals? Perennials? Shrubs???? And then it all starts to close in on me. How do you CHOOSE?

A kid in a candy shop on a very small boat in the middle of Lake Ontario, maybe?

I’ve only had a garden of my own for three summers now, and (thanks be to kindly deities), it’s very small. About a metre across and two, maybe three back. Perfect! It hadn’t been tended much by the previous owners, but it had a few things in it: a yellow rose bush; a tallish bush that has pink blossoms on its whippy, slender stems, right now; something low and rounded with fascinating leaves, yellow, green and red, all on the same plant; some truly unfortunate tall weedy things with mediocre flowers that are SO INVASIVE!!!! ; and, our favourite of all, our beloved droopy tree. (YES, that is too what it’s called.)

Mostly, however, it was two or three square metres of parched earth, bleak and cracked at the front, and filled with weeds and those noxious weedy things at the back. The first year, busy with the other million things that must be done in a new home, I ignored the parched and weed-strewn patch.

The second fall (yes, I let almost TWO FULL SEASONS go by before even STARTING to deal with it), when I was noted PLANTING BULBS, the neighbours were SO EXCITED, they stood around cheering. Oh, they were discreet about it: One would wander by and ask whether those were tulip or daffodil bulbs; another would comment how nice it is to feel that dirt under your nails (and you know? I agree); someone stopped and chatted as I dug, to “keep me company”; another offered to bring me their bulb-planter. Discreet. But they were cheering.

It was when, in their heady enthusiasm, they started bringing me plants, “extras” and “leftovers” from their own gardens, that I realized that for TWO YEARS they had been staring at the blight of my front yard with some mix of annoyance, impatience, and despair. Perhaps concern for property values figured in there, too.

And in all this time, no one had said anything. Isn’t this a such nice neighbourhood? (We shall not dwell on what might have been said privately, under cover of darkness, in dining rooms and bedrooms up and down the street…) But to my face, they were nothing but nice, and when I moved an inch in the direction of Responsible Garden Maintenance, they were RIGHT THERE WITH ME!

Good people, I tell you.

And, knowing they are all in my corner, rooting for my greenery, I am now free to ask them stuff. For advice, for direction. For rides to the nursery. Indeed, they are fighting over the privilege.

“How are you getting there?”
“Neil’s giving me a ride in his truck.”
“We usually have two vehicles. Anytime you need the van, just ask. You can have the keys.”

Good people.

On my return from the nursery, I have:
-one flat of impatiens (pink, red, lilac) for quick colour
-two trailing petunias (lilac). (Who knew petunias ‘trailed’??)
-two pale yellow dahlia-like things, only smaller and with pointier petals
-two largish phlox plants (perennials! yay!), pink
-a whole whack of smallish daisy-plants, which will only grow eight inches tall.

I spent two hours that night dealing with the hideous invasive stuff. Ripping it out by the armful and tossing it into bins for the shrubbery pick-up. Turning over clumps of the revealed dirt with a spade, and hauling out great fistfuls of intertwined roots. Roots, roots, roots. ASTONISHING. No wonder the things are EVERYWHERE. Good lord.

And then I was tired and I needed a shower and the mosquitos had come out. Probably pissed off because I’d removed not only all that lovely tall greenery in which they were hiding, but a small tupperware sandwich box of stagnant water (who knew that was back there?) in which they were undoubtedly breeding like … mosquitoes. (‘tos’? ‘toes’?)

Which drove me inside. I am not allergic to mosquitoes, but I sure am reactive. Whereas most people come up in small bumps a few mm across, I come up in quarter-sized lumps. Not pretty. They recede to normal dimensions in a few hours, but, ugh.

So. Stage one. Garden turned and largely de-rooted. Plants waiting on the porch. Tomorrow: the daisies go in!


May 28, 2008 - Posted by | random and odd | ,


  1. My only advice (other than Enjoy!) is to be cautious with the perennials if you really love those trips to the nursery. When I stated gardening in my first house up in Washington (a gardener’s paradise, by the way) I started filling up with perennials, and soon realized I had to save space for annuals in order to have an excuse to go to the nurseries every year.

    Comment by addofio | May 28, 2008 | Reply

  2. How fun! Good for you for getting out there and tackling the weedy plot. The “hard part” is behind you now – it’s much more fun and colorful moving forward. Yeah!!!

    Comment by Susan W | May 28, 2008 | Reply

  3. Now those are really nice neighbors. Will we get to see some pictures of the garden upon completion? ‘Cuz it sounds like it’ll be pretty!

    Comment by Ms. Huis Herself | May 28, 2008 | Reply

  4. It sounds like you’ve had a good day. And like you have good neighbours, I bet your garden ends up looking great.

    I know what you mean about choosing, I also have a small garden, it didn’t take much to fill it!

    Actually, I think leaving a newly acquired garden for at least a year is a good idea – that way you get to see what’s already there before you start digging!

    Comment by Three-Legged-Cat | May 28, 2008 | Reply

  5. You know, I love gardens and think it will be nice some day to have a real garden instead of the really pathetic so-called lawn we have now, but I’m also relieved to have the excuse of further renovations with bins to come on that lawn, making a garden not worth the effort, because I have a bit of a black thumb, to be honest.

    Comment by kittenpie | May 28, 2008 | Reply

  6. I’m like you – I love the idea of a garden, I love the colors of a garden – but I’m just not a gardener. BB and I plant lots of petunias in containers as well as a very small plot of four tomato plants, and call it good. But OH the petunias are colorful, and the tomatoes are tasty!

    Comment by BookMama | May 28, 2008 | Reply

  7. Consider putting a cherry tomato plant right in there with the flowers. The kiddies will enjoy them as much as you will.

    While I agree about leaving some space for annuals, I usually don’t. Even if my yard is all perennials, things die. Those that don’t make it aren’t invited back. I just pick something new for the spot the next time. I have a tough time restraining myself at the garden center.

    Comment by Jill in Atlanta | May 28, 2008 | Reply

  8. Our front garden was artistically designed by the last owners, with rocks and grassy shrubs. I have let it get incredibly weedy just because I never have time to weed and when I have time it’s raining and I don’t want to do it. As a result, one of the weeds was almost as high as the kitchen window but sometime last week, one of my neighbours obviously took pity on me, chopped the weed down and put weedkiller on the weeds.

    Now if it would only stop raining, I could dig the dead weeds out!

    Comment by Scheherazade | May 29, 2008 | Reply

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