From the upstairs window in my studio, I can stare out into the garden. This is a great thing in migration season—I snagged a couple of life birds just by glancing out the window—and a marvelous thing in general terms, but it gets a little rough in winter, when everything has died down and I am mostly looking at dead leaves and a chain link fence.
“Evergreens,” I mutter to myself. “Next year, more evergreens.” Then I jot that down on a note. Florida anise tree would probably be good—it’s native and tough and takes shade and seems to like my garden. Then I think for a minute and spend some time dithering over whether some foxglove would really be that bad—sure, it’s non-native, but it’s so painfully gorgeous and I have a spot—probably that’s a spot—and what if I someday find myself in a mystery novel and need to poison someone’s tea? Eventually I write “FOXGLOVE???” on the note.
Then I underline it.
Then I lose the note.
This is why I have a hard time with New Year’s Resolutions. They seem like such a good idea, and then I forget where I wrote them down. I would resolve to stop losing notes, but it’s like resolving to learn to breathe underwater. Mortal flesh has limits.
I should probably water the containers on the deck more religiously and not succumb to every intriguing heirloom tomato plant at the farmer’s market and really get very serious hiding the chain-link fence. And I got into ferns in a big way last fall, so I should take very careful notes about what likes it in my shady side-yard and plant a lot more of those.
And of course I should finish the patio. It’s been like this for two years, and a week of dedicated digging in the mornings would have it dug down and then I should learn about mortar because the outside edge isn’t going to hold together purely on good intentions.
The garden is full of shoulds. I should learn when various annuals are supposed to actually freeze to death, and then I could write that down on a note and take it around and show it to the annuals, who don’t appear to be aware of this number. (It was 23 degrees last night, and the petunias are trying to flower.) I should cut some of the babies off the sweet flag in the pond and transfer it to my mini-wetland, and I should get into the wetland early this year and take down as much honeysuckle as I can reach.
While we’re on the topic, I should also lose ten pounds and clean out the attic.
The really wonderful thing about gardening is that if I fail to do any of these things, the garden will continue. It may be uglier in winter (or rather, the chain link fence may suddenly be in sharp relief) but it won’t up and die instantly. I may lose a few potted plants or tender vegetables, but the vast majority will continue to grow. In fact, some of them, unless sharply curtailed, will sit on their less aggressive neighbors. (Asters, I am looking in your direction!)
I could go away for a season, and when I came back—after I had finished screaming and clutching my chest over the amount of goosegrass now infesting the beds—the garden would still look more or less the same, which gives it points over other any other large pet you could name. (Just try this with a rhinoceros, or a pet narhwal. You think your HOA is grumpy now…) And the birds would still be there and the bugs would still be there and the frogs would still be frogging it up frog-style in the pond. They don’t really require my input for any of these things.
So at the end of the day, I fall back on my standard New Year’s Resolution….keep doing what I’m doing. Just do it better and harder and with more mulch.
Happy gardening, one and all!
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