Before I met my wife, back in the seventies, the only things I had ever grown were some marijuana plants out at an abandoned farm. Those turned out pretty good, but I really had no interest in growing anything else, like vegetables or flowers. But my wife was interested in growing things, and she started dragging me along with her to flower and herb sales. I was the dumb muscle she used to help load bags of manure in the car, scavenge rocks for garden borders, and to dig holes wherever she pointed.
Gradually, I began to like it. Gardening is not rocket science—plants want to grow, and will go to great lengths to find a way to do it. All you have to do is make a welcoming place for them and get out of the way. My wife introduced me to the concept of perennial plants, ones that establish deep roots and come back year after year, and the frugal side of me embraced the idea of something you only have to buy once, yet there it is again every spring. It is a joy to survey your garden after a bitter cold winter to see the sprouts of your Purple Coneflowers, Black Eyed Susans, Red Poppies, and Dame’s Rocket poking out of the damp earth after a spring rain.
I have even learned to love weeding. I know that sounds crazy, but there is something Zen-like about getting dirt under your fingernails digging up weeds, choosing which plants you don’t want on your canvas. And kneeling in a garden is a great way to reduce the stress from modern life. It’s a human activity at its most elemental, connecting to an agricultural past while planning for a beautiful outcome. I usually put on some headphones and listen to music while I dig and yank at the stuff I don’t want crowding out my favored flowers. A lot of my weeds are plants we wanted once, but didn’t realize how invasive they can be, like Mint and Goose Neck Loose Strife. Sure wish we hadn’t planted that one.
A lot of our friends will come over to admire our gardens when things are in full bloom, and they often say, “I wish I could grow things, but my plants always die.” If that sounds like you, probably all you need is the desire to garden, and maybe some advice from an experienced gardener to avoid problems like planting shade plants in full sun, or under-watering. The main thing to realize is that it’s nice to enjoy a beautiful garden, but a lot of the fun is in the process of making it that way. There’s nothing like taking a large expanse of flat, boring lawn and transforming it with the curved lines of flower beds and shrubs. It will make your house more welcoming and more valuable.
About ten years ago, my dad gave us some Bluebells from their yard in Virginia. My parents don’t live there anymore, but the flowers we brought back and planted come back every year, and have spread nicely. They are a living reminder of a place that no longer exists.
And that’s a pretty good reason to be a gardener.