My life as a gardener has ebbed and flowed. There were seasons when nearly all of the vegetables eaten and flowers filling vases came from no more than 50 yards from the back door. I’d spend early mornings and late afternoons weeding, watering, and proudly harvesting. Carrots, potatoes, eggplant, beets, lettuce, radishes, beans, and snow peas. And of course tomatoes and zucchini. So much squash. My collection of recipes featuring summer squash grew too. Moments in the garden created sweet memories.
One year I tried my hand at growing cantaloupe. Never again. One day I spent hours ripping out dozens of rose bushes because I could not take one more minute of beetles and fungus and fight. I’ve had my share of gardening failures. I’m still searching for a low maintenance rose that can tolerate the heat and humidity in my area.
I’ve grown peonies and tulips and limelight hydrangea, phlox, dahlias, daisies, and Black-eyed Susans in my father’s memory. Along the way, I’ve learned tricks for keeping the deer at bay and thwarting even the most determined rabbit’s efforts. One October I planted dozens of apricot beauty daffodil bulbs and another I peeked over a bank at the edge of the yard, only to discover a tangle of pumpkin vines growing on and around the brush. After tossing the weeds that were the reason for my visit to that spot, I climbed down the short hill and picked three tiny pumpkins. My daughters, still small then, squealed with delight when presented with surprise pumpkins from their very own yard.
Growing plants and tending gardens hasn’t been part of my life for a few years now. I pull the most unsightly weeds at the edge of my patio, fill a few pots with annuals each spring, and call it a day. My houseplants have met with a variety of fates. Orchids, which I’d never kept alive for long after their blooms fade, are thriving. I’m not really an orchid person but suddenly I am the proud owner of five or six, maybe more. They sit on a ledge at a southeastern window in my home, so far surviving on my inconsistent care techniques. My theory is misery loves company and they’ve bonded over my lack of orchid understanding and are determined to convert me. Secretly I’m a little proud though. Really though, I’m more of a bunches-of-tulips-or-peonies-cascading-over-the- edge-of-a-vase person. But I try not to mention that in earshot of the orchids.
This summer, visits to beautiful gardens have me wishing for one of my own again, wondering if perhaps I should clear a spot, pick up a trowel, and add a little beauty around the land that slopes away from the house and patio. Maybe a few bulbs, a peony or two. Nothing much. It’s not my land. I’ll save my lists of must-haves, sketches of small flower beds, and big ideas for later. But the idea of planting and tending something, just enough to create some new garden memories, is growing.