brokenclay.org/journal

The reluctant gardener

I can admit it now: I don’t want to garden.

I have impeccable gardening credentials. My mother was a master gardener and later a landscape designer who created beautiful gardens in West Africa, Asia and the tropics of Washington, DC. We were roasting eggshells and collecting hair clippings to compost when I was six.

As a young wife, I canned what we grew – peaches, currants, tomatoes, applesauce, strawberries. Quart after quart in a house with no air conditioning, in Washington, DC, heat and humidity. While expecting my third child, I got up for weeks at 6 am (to beat the heat!) and weeded on hands and knees, hoping my sunny-side up baby would turn. I dug through heavy, red Virginia clay to plant the obligatory azaleas and rhododendrons.

Then I got multiple sclerosis and a full time job and I moved to Colorado, the “Great American Desert”. Virginia clay was nothing compared to the nutrient poor, expansive clay soils of the Front Range. A 4 x 4 patch of soil took two days to turn over and prepare for planting (of course, this had absolutely nothing to do with MS fatigue or the fact that after 20 minutes of digging I had to crawl back into the house for a cold drink). As an enlightened gardener I knew not to try to plant like it was back East, so I learned about xeriscape and put in penstamon, ice plant, yarrow. They sat and did not grow.

Then came the drought of 2002, and the water restrictions. All around me rose the cries of horror – how would the perennial beds, the trees, the shrubs, the lawns survive?

Not me. I was relieved. At first, I was horrified to be relieved, but then the idea of not gardening started to grow on me. Here was permission not to worry about the yard, not to feel guilty that I’m not growing peas and lettuce. I should have known – when I buy shelter magazines, I devour the home decorating stuff and skip right past the beautiful gardens. I’m sorry, Mom!

We can learn to appreciate cottonwoods, russian olives, and whatever that scrubby stuff is that grows if you don’t do anything. We can buy jam and tomatoes at the store (the horror!). Think of all the time (and money, and water) that will be freed up for other things. Now if I can just get my husband to agree…

Katja

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