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Wild Gardener

A morning spent pulling weeds reminds me why my flower beds are in such a state of disarray: I hate gardening. Don’t get me wrong, I have a deep and abiding reverence for nature. I talk to the petunias when I deadhead them. I commune with trees, conscious of their energy and dignified presence. I anticipate the coming of the lilacs like a lover awaits the beloved at the baggage claim. But I’d rather visit the dentist than spend a morning crouched in the dirt pulling weeds.

There are three flower beds on our property and one by one they are reverting to their wild state. The day lily bed is overrun with dandelions — great stout brutes with tap roots the size of carrots. Chervil has invaded the bed once occupied by a crowd of tall, purple phlox, aromatic Asian lilies, iris, primrose, and daisies. The only thing still holding its own against the influx of chervil is a bushy Rozanne Geranium covered in purple flowers.

The third flower bed is where I spent my morning and, incidentally, trashed by left wrist. Following the incline of the stone steps, it runs close to both the front and back doors making it difficult to ignore. At this point in the season, it’s a riot of blooming yellow sedum. Though originally planted in the bed, the sedum now sprouts from the stone stairs, pushes its way through gaps in the drywall, and pokes up randomly in the grass by the front door. Snow-on-the-mountain covers every available inch of ground, growing up through the leaves of the Stella Doro lilies, surrounding the thyme, crowding the primrose, and interfering with my beloved lavender bush. It should be noted that this abundant plant is a volunteer, an uninvited guest impossible to get rid of.

Which leads me to the real renegade of my beleaguered flower bed: meadow grass. My spouse works diligently to keep the land immediately surrounding the house looking like a suburban lawn, but it is every bit a hay field. The deep-rooted grass, if not mowed every five days, grows to great height in no time. In the flower bed, this grass is in its seeded state, tall and impossible to pull up. I try. Really, I do.

Finally, an ornamental maple grows at the top of the incline surrounded by a plethora of miscellaneous weeds, among them sweet low-lying wild strawberries, something tall and thorny, and of course, grass, lots of grass.

Every spring I tackle the garden with gusto, raking out the dead leaves and delighting in the tiny green shoots beneath, but I can’t sustain my enthusiasm and inevitably defer to Mother Nature. She knows what she’s doing and doesn’t need a novice like me to take charge. For centuries we humans have done our best to manipulate nature to our own ends and look where that got us.

I study the flower bed from ground level. In spite of the weeds, there’s beauty here. The stunning yellow of the sedum, primrose, and Stella Doro lilies, the mellow mauve of the mallow, the deep carpet of snow-on-the-mountain. Even the grass, tall and swaying in the slightest breeze, has an inherent beauty; it feeds us, after all. So, I weed my tiny patch nearest the top where the heady scent of mint, thyme, and lavender lifts out of the wild garden like a prayer and leave the rest to Mother Nature.

3 comentarios

Susan Stewart
Susan Stewart
22 jul 2023

Oh how I love this piece.

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14 jul 2023

I enjoyed the light humor in this piece. There was a smile on my face as I read it, and some empathetic nods at times. Thanks for sharing this vignette of your daily life.

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Justine O'Keefe
Justine O'Keefe
18 jul 2023
Contestando a

Thanks, Ellen. I'm looking forward to having someone else do gardening and lawn care when we move to Eastview. We can't all have a green thumb!

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