I imagine an order-of-things when I plant—and by plant, I mean “invest”. Make no mistake, a garden is not a cheap thrill, as I used to think. As Phil and I were standing at the cash of the tree nursery the other day, waiting to zip the debit card through the machine for an ungodly (to me) sum, I joked that over the years the garden has surely racked up as many costs as our children. The cashier—seemingly unaware that all that money she was counting was coming out of our personal coffers—looked at me askance and asked if the children were very young. No!!! This is a serious long term financial commitment! At least for my own green (brown?) thumb it is.
I plant with precision, with purpose, with high and mighty hopes. I do all the research. I ask many questions. I rely on horticultural advice. Every plant that has gone into the garden has been thoroughly vetted. And still, year after year, plants curl up and wither, they don’t thrive, they die in great spires of browning needle…
…or in slow spindly inversions…
…gradually diminishing and disappearing until one day I no longer remember I even planted them.
I spent all of Sunday and holiday Monday digging out trenches between my stone pavers after a heavy investment several years ago for the pavers to be laid and inter-planted with various “hardy” greens. By this year, all I have left of those expensive greens are dense and ugly weeds (some weeds, yes, I know, are lovely). After digging in I realized the poor plants had maybe an inch or so of good soil over a bed of 6 inches of pure sand—a sand bed is critical for paver stability, but not so nice for lush growth. So I (or we, my daughters both helped!) dug down, peeling the weed rug off the top, scraping any good soil off their roots, and scooping trenches out of the sand bed that I could then fill with topsoil and embellish with good plants. It was backbreaking (but also holistically heeling and therapeutic) work.
|During. This is Mother of thyme, which is supposed to fill in over the years...|
In my Zen meditations I couldn’t help wondering why I kept at it, was I fighting a losing battle, was all this work and money for naught. And then it all began to make a kind of organic sense. All life is like this, isn’t it? You never know which of your investments of time, effort and/or money are going to really pay off. So you either never commit, never bother, just give up, or you roll up your sleeves (and pull out your wallet) year after year and try, try again.
And you know what? In the end, for all of the many garden investments that never ended up paying off for me, there are many square yards of them that truly have. As tired as I am today, as sore as my muscles are, I can honestly say that for me all the weeding, all the sowing, all the dreaming, all the hoping, all the expense, all the time, has surely surely been worth it. And today, today, I get to smell the roses.