I was a late bloomer to the gardening phenomenon, so to speak. I didn’t get it. Not only did I not understand it, I was completely bored by the subject. When I would get in the middle of two gardeners at a dinner party rattling on and on about compost and garden gloves, my eyes would glaze over and I'd repeatedly top off my glass of wine until my glazed eyes became had too much to drink eyes.
My friend pestered me for years to garden and I ignored her time after time. When another spring was approaching, she firmly said, “You need to garden.” I just as firmly replied no thanks but then she said, “You have to do this because you're creative, " It was too hard to argue with that so I gave in, dipped my hands into the soil and was thus baptized into the Kingdom of Gardening.
I was such a rookie at every aspect of gardening that I tested the limits of our friendship with every trip to the nursery. It is not an exaggeration to say that I struggled for years trying to understand the difference between an annual and a perennial. At an estate sale, I thought I was buying a spade when in fact I was buying a trowel. It was only when I paid for it and the cashier asked me if I was laying a ceramic floor did I realize I had absolutely no business pursuing this endeavor.
I persisted, however, and my first garden was modest and sweet. I looked after it as if it were a newborn and like raising a child, made many mistakes before it took hold. A few years and a lot more confidence later, we redid the landscaping around the house and moved my garden so it was steps from the front door and much larger. Putting a garden in your front yard is either stupid or brilliant, but I took that leap of faith and and flowers became my drug of choice. When my mom, who is not a gardener, went to a mega-garden center with my brother, I asked her to give me the scoop. She said it was filled with everything you could possibly imagine but that, “some of those damn fool people were spending three and four hundred dollars on flowers.” “Damn fools,” I repeated, but inside I envied those shoppers who could pile their plant wagons with all those flowers.
I wouldn’t know where to begin to explain what has happened to me since that initial introduction many years ago. I study gardening books and growing zones and peer into strangers carts to see what they’re buying. I long for delphiniums but they never do well in my garden so every year I pass them by and sigh deeply. Very deeply. I battle rabbits and when they chewed two flats of petunias, I thought about getting a hunting license. I have bent over a weak, sickly plant and whispered, “come to Mama,” as if that would cure all its ills and make it bloom. There is nothing I enjoy more than tending my garden.
This spring has been cold, overcast and often dismal, and my garden, which was knee-deep in leaves, seemed as sad as I was. When the sun made an appearance, I spent the day cleaning up the remains from winter. When all was finished, the heads of those dormant flowers were beginning to push their way upward and I was charmed once again. My old friends had come back and I didn’t feel the weight of the world on my shoulders any more.
Now I am the one at the cocktail party rattling on about flowers and if someone asked me to explain my passion, I would say that this little garden of mine calms my restless mind and awakens my senses. It is the place I go to dream and plan and offers a winding path of surprises every year. It knows my prayers and my problems and only answers with color and life.
Eventually, spring will come to stay so I will dig and plant and mulch, and at the end of those long, sunny days, it's that garden of mine that will have tended me.