Digging Myself into a Hole!

Andrea here, musing today on “green thumbs.” I do not have one. Don’t get me wrong, I love gardens. Being a visual person, I’m endlessly enchanted by the colors and textures of gardens (and the wonderful ancillary winged creatures that they attract.) There is something so organically beautiful about plants and their endlessly changing shapes and hues. I’m constantly stopping to take photos of gardens that catch my eye . . .

So, why aren’t I merrily scrabbling away in the soil, creating some idyllic oasis? After all, I like to think of myself as a creative person and a lover of Nature and the natural world. One would think that it should be a match made in heaven. But no. And I shall endeavor to explain.

Over the years, I’ve had a number of friends who extol the joys of gardening. And as they looked so blissfully happy on their hands and knees rooting around in the soil, pulling weeds, planting seedlings and bulbs for hours on end, I imagined that I, too, would fit right into the role of gardener.

The first house I owned, a rustic little house in the country, provided a lovely opportunity—and gardening appeared deceptively easy. The couple who had owned it for years had been avid gardeners, and the perennial plantings seemed to, er, take care of themselves. There was a large circle of ornamental grasses and day lillies in the middle of the small meadow just below the rise on which the house was set, and vintage stonewall and steps down to the meadow were rimmed by honeysuckle vines and other plants. (I confess, I never learned what they were.)

It was great! Blooms appeared by magic. All I had to do was walk around with a pair of secateurs and trim things, including the bushes around the house. My first real gardening lesson was—who knew you could get black eye while tending plants! (Note to self—be careful on how you turn when maneuvering in tangle of branches so that one doesn’t poke you in the eye.)

My enthusiasm was further dampened when I found a baby garter snake wrapped around one of the lower bush branches, apparently sunning himself. He was perfectly calm about the face-to-face, but I have to admit, I’m not overly fond of close encounters with snakes, so from then on, the bushes were allowed to get a little shaggy.

My next house was closer to town, and had a lovely brick patio with a distinctive Japanese maple . . . looking out over a scruffy expanse of meadow. A blank canvas! said one of my gardener friends, who came over with a sketchpad and drew up a plan to “start small” and expand over the years?

Years?

Okay, I dutifully did some digging (just FYI, New England is known for its rocks—why do you think we have so many stone wall rimming farm fields.)  But  I quickly had an epiphany, which brings me back to my opening statement. I simply do not have a green thumb—or the inclination to cultivate one.

I am too impatient. I don’t want to wait years to see a plan take shape. I do not enjoy weeding and digging and all the mundane things one has to do to prepare a garden. It bores me, and I found that I wanted to spend those hours do something that gave me greater immediate satisfaction, like writing some pages of a story. For me, the progress in that endeavor feels more real and measurable. (And you don’t get bitten by mosquitos or deer ticks.)

I have the greatest admiration and appreciation for people who can envision a garden in their head and commit to creating it. The town where I live has a number of historic homes, especially down near the harbor, and many of them have wonderful old gardens that I enjoy on my daily walks. I have given myself permission to toss away the secateurs and trowels and leather gloves and simply enjoy the labors of those who lovingly craft such patches of peaceful tranquility, plant by plant, color by color.

I do have a footnote. Last week I was looking out at the small mulched circle just outside my writing room, which looked awfully empty. So I roused myself and went to the nursery to buy some perennials—a large tub of Russian sage and and small heather-like purple plants. I collected some rocks from the stonewalls along the road and made spiffy little arrangement of which I was quite proud. Two days later, a really fierce thunderstorm, complete with high wind and torrential rain, hit the neighborhood for about a half hour and then moved on . . . leaving my plants completely flattened! Clearly the cosmos agrees that I should stick to other things! (all photos taken by me.)

So what about you? Are you are gardener? Do you find the physical act of digging and planting brings an elemental satisfaction. Or like me, do you feel that the time required to muck around in the dirt can be better spent in some other endeavor?

27 thoughts on “Digging Myself into a Hole!”

  1. Yes, I’m a lifelong gardener. I find gardening work to be very relaxing and meditative, as well as being great exercise. I have loads of perennials, and a vegetable garden. I love picking flowers that I grew for arrangements. Every time I pick and eat something that I grew, and didn’t have to buy in a store, I feel like I’m getting aways with something! No matter if I may have actually spent more on the soil, plants, fertilizer, etc.

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    • Karin, I totally get the relaxation and meditation part. And I would LOVE to pick flowers and vegetable that I grew. I just seem to find it stressful. Walking is relaxing for me. Weeding is not. Go figure.

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    • I love seeing my flowers bloom. I have flowers beds close to the house front and back. I am slowly planting perennials in each but I still plant annuals because I like them and love lots of color. Several years ago I brought a primrose at a farmer’s market. It was a wildflower variety. Well that one plant exploded. I have them covering the front flower beds. All from one plant, there are dozens now. They are brilliant yellow.

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  2. My parents were avid gardeners, but it didn’t really stick with me. I can keep my houseplants alive and I have a small flower garden outside. It looks nice and tidy at the beginning of summer and a little wild by the end of summer and I’m ok with that. I do love flowers though.

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    • Karin, I totally get the relaxation and meditation part. And I would LOVE to pick flowers and vegetable that I grew. I just seem to find it stressful. Walking is relaxing for me. Weeding is not. Go figure.

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    • Yeah, I do oky with house plants. And I have flower urns on my porch, and nerbs on the deck. But real gardens o are out of my comfort zone. But I truly admire people who have the patience and fortitude to create them!

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  3. Andrea, you might not have a green thumb but your flower photos are gorgeous! I restrict myself to flower boxes and pots on my small deck. I enjoy watering and deadheading and I do grow fresh herbs there, especially basil to go with tomatoes and eggs. But of serious gardening, I do none!

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    • Thanks, Mary Jo. That’s my contribution to gardening. Though like you I have potted flowers and herbs on my deck. Nothing like fresh basil or mint or rosemary!

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  4. I lived in hotels for much of my childhood so did not grow up with gardens or parents who gardened (or cooked, for that matter). It wasn’t until after college and graduate school and a few years of marriage that my husband and I lived in a place with a garden/yard. He was delighted. Like you, Andrea, I enjoy seeing the flowers and fruits (and veggies) of others’ labor (and, in the latter case, eating them), but I am not at all inclined to garden. I would much rather read a book!

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  5. I find gardening very relaxing especially weeding. When we first moved to the house we’re in now, which we built ourselves we had to start with the garden from scratch. I’m not a brilliant gardener. I buy what I like, set it, if it lives great, if it doesn’t on to the next thing. I had a lovely garden for a few years and we grew our own vegetables. But life and being a carer for a large part of the last few years, meant I didn’t have the time. So the veggie patch went and eventually the flowers. But I have time on my hands again now. I’m sticking mostly to shrubs in the garden and flowers in tubs around the yard. Hopefully next year back to the veggies!

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    • Teresa, that’s great that you enjoy the zen of gardening. I do understand how it can be relaxing. It just didn’t have that effect on me. Tubs of flowers sound a perfect way not to feel too overwhelmed with work.

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  6. your photos give me green shoots of envy! I’ve been gardening my entire life. I’m aware of all the creatures, diseases, and weather that create apocalyptic gardening conditions. And I don’t care. I may not have picture-perfect gardens, but I have color and scents and a reason to go outside and putter every day.

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    • Color and scents are fabulous. I would love to have that, but I’m not willing to put in the work. Thus I take daily walks past people who do! And take pictures (If only the frangrance of the fowers could be captured with a camera!)

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  7. Creating a garden from scratch can be a major undertaking requiring considerable knowledge and effort. However, I think that when it has evolved into a thing of beauty, maintaining through pruning, weeding and moving/replacing plants can be a pleasurable way to exercise. Then sitting in a garden chair admiring tall grasses swaying in the breeze, listening to the birds and watching them at the feeders or stripping the pampas grass to line their nests, admiring the climbers …. I was wanting a blue clematis recently, like the second picture, to hide an ugly fence ….. ahh it can be bliss on a warm sunny English day!

    If the work involved becomes prohibitive then it may be time to employ a gardener to help. Also I note that wild flower meadows are becoming very popular!

    Personally I find that working with plants can also be therapeutic and indeed near my home there is a garden which is used as therapy for mental disorders. Being close to living plants and nature somehow slows the pace of living and induces a feeling of empathy and unity into one’s mental space.

    I also love to visit some of the many wonderful gardens which are open to the public here in the UK. Great way to pick up ideas.

    Loved your flower pictures Andrea. I think there are many beautiful plants that are also very poisonous. Could be material for a murder mystery!

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    • Quantum, you make a wonderful case for gardening and I wholeheartedly agree with all the benefits you mention. And then enjoying the fruits of your labors must feel even extra sweet.

      I love visiting gardens, both here and abroad, and get much pleasure from the times spent. And I’m constantly looking around as I do my daily walks and stopping to appreciate the little beauties I see. I just have the drive to do the work myself.

      Yes, there are many deadly plants—I think here is a “poison garden” in England somewhere, but you have to make a special appointment. It definitely would be a good plot twist!

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  8. As a knees in the dirt with big veggie patch, lots of flowers for pollinators and weeds and grass constantly needing to be pulled out……I can’t tell you how grateful I am to sit down with a well written story! I love my garden, planting, weeding, watering, eating, dreaming, filling my nose with scents, all of it, but we all should use our own talents as best we can! Cheers to beautiful gardens and green spaces AND cheers to well researched and written romances!

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    • I heartily agree, Jenni! And much appreciate the talents of gardens to provide such wonderful places in which to relax, rejuvenate—and read!”

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  9. I’ve made many a garden over the years, but since I moved into the new house, I haven’t done much. Partly that’s because the front garden is a well designed “native” garden, with all indigenous native plants, which don’t need much care. Just weeding, which is my least favorite part of gardening.
    Then I was devastated when the new owners of my old house bulldozed the entire garden, and gleefully sent me the scorched earth photos — why? It sapped my desire to plant a new garden. I do have four vegie boxes and I get a real buzz when I go out and harvest vegies and cook them for dinner.
    I also have bulbs in pots, and other flowering plants in pots. I love taking cuttings and growing new plants, and giving some to friends. I also like having flowering plants I can bring inside for a while, especially in winter. Currently I have several zygocactus plants (Christmas cactus) just coming into flower, one that I grew from a small segment that dropped off a bigger plant last year.
    My latest garden excitement is that my Xanthorrhea (grass tree) has three dramatic new spikes — it had one when I bought the house, and the big spike dropped off after a few months. Now it has three, which I didn’t know could happen, and one of them is covered with tiny white star-shaped flowers, which I’ve never seen before. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanthorrhoea#/media/File:Xanthorrhoea_australis.jpg

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    • You always have such lovely plants in the pics of your house! The native garden sounds wonderful. Veggies would be fun, but I don’t have a place to plant them where I am now. (Plus I see LOTs of rabbits running hitheer and yon outside my writing window—and an occasional deer, which in my area are called “rats on hooves” because they eat so many bushes and vegetables. At my old house they ate my basil!

      The grass tree looks amazing!

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    • Heartbreaking about the destruction of your old garden! I am so emotionally attached to some of my plants, especially the ones that came from the gardens of family and friends.

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    • As a fellow Aussie, I’ve never seen those flowers before either and I am very impressed. I wonder if they need certain conditions to flower? We’ve certainly had a bit of everything this year!

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  10. I’ve been gardening since childhood too. But I absolutely love to walk the neighbourhood and see what people with more money, space, skill and time than me have done. And when I am travelling I love to look at what people do with their gardens in conditions that are completely different to mine. And thank you for the gorgeous photos.

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