QUIT: Gardening

 [Part of my mission to “live deliberately” involves ruthlessly cutting out anything that saps my time, energy or money to no good end.  I’m calling these things my “Quits,” and this is one of the many items that have found themselves on my Quits List.]

 

It’s that time of year again.  The air is milder, the sunlight’s lasting later and later in the day, there’s an air of rebirth and rejuvenation everywhere.  And as I look around at my neighbor’s yards coming to life with cheery tulips and other things I don’t know the names of, I am filled with a sense of overwhelming dread.

Because this means that it’s time for me to start thinking of my own flowerbeds.  And I am a gardener FAIL of epic proportions.

 

Little Yard of Horrors

When we first bought our cute little pre-war, cookie-cutter house, I was moderately excited about tending our small front flowerbeds.  All summer, I watered and pruned and weeded diligently, even lovingly speaking gentle nothings to my geraniums*.  [*Note: they may not actually be geraniums.  The fact that I can’t remember the name of the only flower I’ve ever planted for 3 years tells you something right there.]

But in spite of my lovingest efforts, my little plots of earth refused to grow and flourish.  Instead, the instant I put the flowers into the ground, they very nearly died.  I was able to almost bring them back to the point of life after much watering and stepped-up sweet talk, and I managed to keep up that ruse for the rest of the summer.  But they were never the same.  They may have looked vaguely alive, but inside, I could tell they’d given up.  (And that they possibly resented me.)

Meanwhile, all around my zombie geraniums*, spiky, malevolent-looking weeds of dinosauric proportions began infiltrating.  I could spend two hours going over everything with a fine-tooth hoe, and the next morning, I’d find a patch of nuclear-sized dandelions had strangled one of my bushes in the night, wrapping around it like a giant killer octopus trying to bring down an ocean liner.  Weed killers did nothing.  Pulling out every last cursed little weed-root I could possibly find did nothing.  The takeover was beyond my control. I was doing everything I thought I was supposed to, but none of it seemed to be working.

Repeat scene for the next 3 years.

I don’t know whether I personally have the touch of death, or if my flowerbeds are secret hotbeds of evil.  But either way, after 3 years of failed attempts and lots of cursing, I’ve come to loathe and despise gardening with a loathing that knows no bounds.  The only thing that’s kept me trying is the fear of what the neighbors would think if I didn’t.

 

Keeping Up With Falling Short of Appearances

 My street is not full of Martha Stewarts.  It’s mainly occupied by elderly people I rarely see outside their houses.  I highly doubt that any of them think I’m a bad human being because my shrubbery is always scruffy and my flowers are on suicide watch.  But that doesn’t mean I still don’t feel horribly delinquent about it.

Because I like things neat and tidy.  It makes me happy, and I take great pride in maintaining an orderly little house.  I want my yard to also be a reflection of my standards and hard work (which in my vision would include a garden full of geraniums that sing and bluebirds that alight merrily on my porch railing).  But my abandoned-looking wreck of a yard does nothing except compel me, whenever I see a neighbor outside, to want to blurt out “This isn’t who I really am!” and dart inside to hide behind the curtains.

It isn’t just what the neighbors might think of me.  It’s also what I think of myself.  I don’t like failing at things.  I believe that if you put in enough effort, eventually you’ll succeed.  But my cursed little garden goes against both of those mindsets.  I guess there are some things you just have to admit you can’t conquer, and for me, it seems that horticulture is one of them.

So, I am throwing in the towel early this year and surrendering before the plants are even in the ground.  I know when I’m beat.

 

Admitting Defeat & Going Zen

 This weekend, I am donning my gardening gloves and my pink “Get ‘R Done” baseball hat (a promotional item my husband got somewhere or other that I wear largely for purposes of irony), and I am excavating the hell out of my flowerbeds.  The sturdier bushes that have withstood defeat by dandelion can stay, but everything else is getting pulled.  And instead of gardening this summer, I will be scouring creek beds and construction sites for any rock or small boulder I think my Grover arms can carry to my car.  Because Cordelia is turning her flowerbeds into a rock garden. Even I can’t kill rocks.

It’s either that or put in fake flowers.  There are some people down the street who’ve put in tulips that are very obviously plastic, and I’ve always kind of envied their perfect waterproof constancy.  But I’m not really bold enough to be that house just yet.  A girl’s gotta have a little dignity.

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  • Ha. I LOVE gardening, but only because my mom is good at it and dubs herself my exterior decorator. She gets things started and I pull weeds–perfect for my OCD 😉

    With that said, I actually have a lot of rocks in my yard/garden areas from the people before (I swear Martha Stewart lived there.) One thing that is great and extremely colorful/easy for rocks is flox (sp?) I have it throughout my rocks and it gorgeous and virtually impossible to kill, unlike the three plants I have indoors.

    I am guilty of horticultural homicide and have resorted to two fake trees. I haven’t killed them yet.

    • Eli

      Yes! my mother has flox/phlox? too! We were just trying to figure out what it was called. We were also thinking “mountain pinks”… maybe they are two completely different plants. I am clueless, but they are super pretty in a rock garden, and seem to come back no matter how harsh the winter.

      • Thanks for the recommendations, girls!  I suppose I should put some greenery among my rocks, scared as I am at the possibility of killing yet another plant.  I am liking the sound of this “impossible to kill” variety, though.  😛

  • Eli

    My mom has a bunch of myrtle in her rock gardens. It’s a great evergreen ground cover, but also flowers these really pretty little purple flowers in the springtime. I think its really hardy, little maintenance required, and it can grow from clippings (not that I’ve tried this myself, mind you… I also have a fairly black thumb). Whenever I get a real yard, I think Myrtle is the first thing I will try to have, it just looks pretty, has flowers, but little effort! (hopefully). When I love little I always confused it with violets 🙂

    http://www.daytonnursery.com/encyclopedia/Perennials/Vinca.htm

    • Awesome!  I appreciate the tips–part of my fear of/hatred for gardening is that I never know where to start when I want to change things.  Hence the unsuccessful repetition for years of plants that very clearly did not work.  But I will be brave, and try something new!

  • Cordelia’s Mom

    I love this post. Now you understand why I stopped putting flowers in front of our house after the first couple of years. Keeping the lawn cut and the bushes trimmed is enough work for me. Tending flowers takes way too much time away from my videogames and reading. I do, however, like Eli’s myrtle suggestion. I might try that myself. Although seeing anything other than just grass and bushes in front of my house would probably shock the heck out of my neighbors!

    • Do it!  They’ve shocked you enough in the past.  😛

  • Oh, I’m with you! I’ve found that I love the idea of flowers… but that’s it. If something grows without my intervention once planted, it lives. Otherwise, alas. I’m lucky to keep my darn bushes trimmed once every year or so. (In Alabama, it is much harder to kill things but also harder to keep up with their manic growth.)

    • I’m totally with you–I’ve always had the image in my head of the perfect little garden with neat little rows of flowers…but I have neither the ability nor the persistence needed to bring that image into being.

      I like your “if something grows, it lives” philosophy, although unfortunately the thing that grows best in my flowerbeds are monstrously sized weeds.   😛

  • Christie

    You and I are speaking the same language!  I just love the IDEA of gardening, but I really hate doing it.  I just tried planting some simple veggies (beans, peas, cucumbers) but I hate the process so much that I do a half-a** job.  I am sure the results will mirror my effort and I’ll get frustrated and annoyed.  My husband actually really likes gardening but he is so busy with work that he doesn’t have the time.  A rock garden sounds absolutely lovely.

    • I am so looking forward to it!  We’re actually turning the flowerbed on the left side of our house into a brick patio and the right bed into our rock garden.  All of this totally DIY’d by me, who has only the gardening knowledge I’ve obtained from Google and whose weak little Grover arms mean digging a foundation for a patio will probably take me most of the summer.

      But you know what?  Once all the work is done and everything’s in place, I won’t have to maintain it ever again!  So I say it’s completely worth it.