Imagine the perfect garden.
Close your eyes for a minute and picture it. See the colours, the shapes and the forms. Now, ask yourself: “What am I seeing?”
Do you see your own yard, in its present state? Do you see what was? What could be? Do you see a neighbourís yard? Do you see grandmotherís geraniums? Do you see the bougainvillea or the wisteria from your tropical dream vacation? Do you see a row of peas, plumping up for the harvest?
Now, look at the picture once again.
Where are you? Are you even in the picture?
If youíre not there, what kind of a garden can it be?
The lush and often inspirational photos in our favourite magazines do a good job convincing us that gardening is about completion Ė a yard full of flowers, a balance of perennials and annuals, the usual and the unusual, perfect rich fluffy loamy soil, planters, glazed terra cotta pots, no weeds, garden statuary, plus the time, the money, the room and the staff to accomplish what we want. NOW.
Gardening isnít about instant gratification.
If weíre so focused on getting there, we wonít enjoy the trip. And so much of gardening is about the trip.
Itís about touching warm and living soil. Itís about smelling the lilacs. Itís about planting something and going outside every day to see it grow. Itís about figuring out the difference between a weed and a flower. Itís about feeling the sun on your face or hearing the birds sing. Itís about praying for or cursing the rain, and imagining the people all around the world whose lives depend on it.
Think about gardening as a slow dance with time. Itís about planting a seed and waiting for fruit. Itís about hoping your life stretches long enough to see how the tree you planted fits into the landscape. Itís about leaving room for next seasonís crop. Itís about allowing a few chance seedlings to take hold, and see whether they become friend or foe.
Remember, weíre not totally in charge here. Weíre not supposed to be. And remember that a garden can be defined in many ways. Maybe itís the plant on the windowsill because thatís all the room and the time youíve got. Maybe itís the vegetables you sowed in spring destined for the canning jars in fall. Maybe itís the roadside ditch – and the native plants or the weeds that have found a home there. Maybe itís a backyard with a couple of petunias around the tree and the kidís tricycles and baseball bats discarded in favor of the next game.
Letís face it, Canadaís growing season is compressed into a fraction of a second between the snow thawing and the snow falling. In that short time period, life breaks loose. Century old trees come into leaf, tomatoes grow from seed to plant to fruit, delphiniums stretch to 6-feet or more, barren ground gets stuffed with the life of weeds, and in the middle of all this chaos, gardeners arrive with shovel and hoe and great hopes to exert some kind of control, to find beauty in the weediness.
Gardenersí ideas about what we need, what we want and what we should have are so radically different. And like our gardens, ever-evolving.
Itís a sad gardener who isnít prepared for life to arrive unannounced.