Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Hopeful Gardener

We had a pretty good cold snap here for a couple of days. At night it still gets down to 30 or so, but the days warm up to nearly 70 degrees. Spring fever is settling in.

Every spring, I get the urge to garden. I step outside my door and I see brown grass with a few green blades pushing through, flowerbeds with the ghosts of last year's flowers seem more haunted, and the azalea bushes open their first tentative flowers. It is time to restore color to the world.

I haven't always wanted to garden. It seemed like such a grownup thing to do - and boring to boot. You know that phrase about watching grass grow???? But all that changed about 15 years ago when I hit the big 30. I was living with my friend Kelly and her then-boyfriend Bill in a duplex that had seen better days. I contributed by making curtains and painting and doing a lot of cleaning. The house was on a rather steep hill, which Bill terraced leading down to the house. But those terraces looked so blah...

I must have mentioned it to my father at some point, because for my birthday that year, he gave me a whole flat of impatiens... and a huge bag of shit. When he reads this, he will sit up straight in his chair and say indignantly, "I did NOT give you a bag of shit, you ungrateful child... I gave you _____!" I know, Dad. That stuff had a fancy name, but it was, in fact, purified, refined horse shit. And it was wonderful. Kelly and I went to work mixing the dirt and planting the flowers and do you know that the children of those flowers are STILL THERE? It was, to date, my most successful gardening adventure.

After that time, I moved to a very sandy place and while I tried and tried, I couldn't keep flowers alive. It was too hot. Too dry. Too sandy. Fertilizer leached away at the first rainfall. I tried everything. It took us 5 years to get grass to grow - and people would look at us funny when we yelled at them for driving on the grass. Any growth at all was so precarious, and we guarded it with everything we had - including the dirty looks.

Now that we're in town, with "real" dirt and flower beds, I'm trying again. I have a plan.

The flower bed in the middle of the front yard has been looking like this:

And the rattlesnake weed was again taking over the big bed in the front yard:

So Z-boy and I went to Wal-Mart and after strolling through the garden section, walked out with these:

Yellow mums and a beautiful salmon-y/orange lily. The front bed didn't need much work, as I discovered landscaping material last year. I pulled the old plant stems out and the rattlesnake weed that was peeking around the sides and put in the new flowers. It turned out pretty nice!

Then I turned my attention to the big front bed, choked with weeds. We spent all afternoon pulling them out. With rattlesnake weed, if you don't get the root bulb (which looks like a white rattlesnake rattle), you get the weed back in record time. So it's a rather painstaking operation. We got about half the bed cleared.

we left the gardenia bush (pruned WAY back), and the little lilies that are starting to come up, but I don't know how long they'll last. Misha was making sure that most of them were laying down by the time we went in.

The plan for the rest of the front yard is rose bushes and other flowering bushes in the big bed. A butterfly garden in the other out-front bed that is away from the house and the walkway (in my experience, butterfly gardens also attract bees and yellow jackets). And the bed on the other side of the front steps will be used for growing chilis and other vegetables. It should make for an interesting garden.

See what happens when you give me shit?


Me said...

bag of shit...Ok that was funny :)Ok back to reading rest of post. I get so distracted.

quinn said...

lol...I can't be thinking about is still winter here..

S William said...

Wow, you guys actually use mortar between your pavers. With our bad weather, we just use the pavers. Our ground shifts so much that mortar bricks crack like mad.

Sayre said...

My father emails me:

"It was probably a bag of Milorganite--which is HUMAN shit, not horse, cow etc. Yes, it is heated in a retort, then pulversized, sacked and sold at your nearest nursery. The heating in the retort is critical. Years ago I decided that I would harvest dried night-soil from the sewage plant. My Mother's idea.."Works just fine," she said. "Think of the Japanese," she said. Rubbish! Went forth, scooped and dug it in at Dellwood. First rain it smelled as if the drains were backed up. Don't do it!"

It was indeed milorganite. I have no idea why I can't remember that word.

And Steve? That mortar IS cracking and popping out. But not from weather. I think it was just poorly made. After all, most of the houses around here are made of the same stuff!

nikki said...

30 degrees? hell, that's bathing suit weather here!

(pretty flowers!)

Janet said...

Gardening is something I think I'd like to get into one day. There's just something tranquil about it. I feel like it would calm me. Of course I can't be certain...:)