Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Confessions of a Lazy Gardener

by Jennie Marsland

I come from a long line of gardeners. For over fifty years, my mother’s family ran a florist business in the Annapolis Valley. My father would have become a farmer if he’d had land or the money to buy any, and he’s grown flowers and vegetables for as long as I can remember. His mother was also a gardener. So, it’s not surprising that as soon as I had what Mary Lennox called “a bit of earth”, I had to have a garden of my own.

When we moved to our house, I set to work with the best of intentions, preparing and planting beds of perennials. I had my summers off in those days, so while Everett was at work I spent my time in the garden. I have the same approach to flowers as I do to food – you can’t have too much of a good thing. I picked up whatever looked pretty at the nurseries – delphiniums, shastas, lilies, lady’s mantle, Jacob’s ladder, hostas and astilbe for the shady parts of the yard – and I was rewarded with a riot of colour spaced out over the growing season.

But a garden – at least the clipped, tidy, well-weeded type of garden – takes more work than I’m willing to do, now that I’m fourteen years older and no longer have summers off. So, our garden has evolved – or devolved – into a bit of a jungle that blends into the woods surrounding our property. Fitting, perhaps, for an unashamed romantic like me.

We have crocuses, because spring isn’t spring without them. One year we had lovely tulips, but marauding deer nixed that the next spring. We’ve stopped planting things the deer will eat, except for hostas – we cover those early in the season. There’s no arguing with the natives. They were here first.

In June, there are irises, the crab-apple and the lilac, followed by pink and white peonies and wild daisies. I love to sit on my front deck on a June evening, breathe in the scents and watch the magic that twilight works on white flowers. Never mind the wild ginger that’s popping up everywhere and the wild strawberries insinuating themselves into the tomato bed. The ginger will get pulled out eventually, and the strawberries are delicious.

And there are the roses. Our property is flanked on one side by a bush rose that has the sweetest, most fragrant, perfectly shaped pale pink blooms – and a very obstreperous disposition. Cut it off and it sends shoots underground to poke up just where you don’t want them. But I forgive it every year when it blossoms. Then there’s my Graham Thomas rose that bloomed one year in November – a single, perfect golden rose in November. It’s the only rose in the yard with a name I remember.

Next come the day-lilies, evening primroses, brown-eyed Susans and Echinacea. We had a riot of brown-eyed Susans for a few years, but they seem to have petered out. Never mind, we’ll get more from Dad in the spring – he always has them sprouting in vegetable beds. And if the primroses are getting too invasive, we can pull them out in the fall. Besides, the purple vetch that entwines with them makes a pleasing colour combination – says the lazy gardener.

The brown-eyed Susans, sedum and dahlias carry us into the fall. Come October or early November, we put things to bed in a haphazard way – everything that has survived over the years is hardy and doesn’t need much coddling. And we look forward to spring, with good intentions. Next year, we’ll keep up with the clipping weeding and fertilize on schedule. But if I’m honest, I know we’ll have a tangled, jungly “secret garden” again.  Because that’s the kind of gardener I am.

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  1. I'm not much of a gardener at all Linda, so I'm envious!!! Someday I think I'll get there ... but not yet ... :)

  2. I love gardening, Linda. Flowers and veggies and fruits - the whole shebang. I've managed to marry gardening with writing this summer except for the past week and a half, when the bounty of ripe produce has demanded extra hours. But, it's worth it. All those fresh flavours now and during the winter...