I used to be a much younger, incredibly enthusiastic gardener. Today I would say I am an appreciative gardener. As in I very much appreciate strolling about in all kinds of gardens, admiring the views and smelling the flowers. I am not quite as enthusiastic about rolling in the mud as I once was, or sweating buckets, or maintaining a sharp demarcation between the dirt and the grass, or even weeding. And I’m much older.
This morning as I made my way along, yanking out weeds in what had once been a 56 foot bed packed with perennials and roses, and is now a mere 45 foot bed with a lilacs and hydrangeas – a bed that is not supposed to need any weeding, by the way, but somehow does – I mused on what life advice this appreciative gardener might want to give to the enthusiastic one.
Dear Young, Enthusiastic Gardener: Your enthusiasm is wonderful. Your energy is fantastic. Your ability to realize a vision on a very limited budge is marvelous. But Girl – you need to slow down! Your Vision Is Killing Me.
I know you are not fond of grass – you think it’s boring and unimaginative and itchy. You were scarred by a childhood that included a lawn-obsessed father who had no use for flower beds; one who wouldn’t allow a spec of clover to mar the green. You thought he was mean; in fact, he was afraid that you would step on a bee and get stung.
You want cottage gardens and herb gardens and stately borders and meadows. You want it all – and you want it now. You want a proper setting for a heroine. Well, don’t we all.
You are so generous. You bring mom peonies and lilies and plant them for her. You promise to weed her beds; sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. Things like work and children have a way of interfering. All Mom wants is grass that doesn’t need weeding. That and a pot of geraniums on the front porch and one of tomatoes on the back. Do you listen to her? No, of course not. You can’t believe she really means it, so you bring her phlox.
Let me tell you, she really means it. Something you’ll finally believe when you’re my age. You will find out that grass doesn’t require a lot of supervision and that you can pay someone to cut it. More grass and less weeding will leave you oodles more time to sit on the porch and sip tea and wear clean, white, crisp clothes like that romantic heroine. You may even find time for something stronger than tea. Heroines generally do, I believe.
This is why, dear younger gardener, I have spent a small fortune this month turning the huge, overgrown and out of control border in front of the woods and the stonewall, the border you designed and dug yourself when you had a ton of energy, back into the lawn it once was. I also had the straggly and weedy patch of raspberries ripped out, along with cartloads of bittersweet. This project kept three grown men busy for two days. I’m surprised it didn’t reduce them to tears. I’m not sure even you could have handled it. Don’t think of the lost gardens as wasted effort on your part; think of it as prolonging my life.
And furthermore, the pots for the tomatoes are ready and waiting on the back porch, just as the planter Mom once used for geraniums is already on the front steps. When you’re my age, I know you’ll understand.