July 22, 2008
how does my garden grow

When we bought this house last year, my mom quietly began to plant things in our gardens. She and her mother have gardened ever since I knew them, and although I was around gardens my whole life, I never bothered to do much or learn much about growing plants. I’m not completely apathetic; one of my favourite books from last year was Down & Dirty, a hip book of gardening projects for every level of engagement. Using this book, I planned my gardens for this year. Strawberries in the front, blueberries in the back, a trumpet vine up the back of the house, a dinosaur garden for Blake near his sandbox, containers full of vegetables…oh yeah, I was ambitious. But when it was looking like I’d be gone for a full month this summer, my ardour cooled. Vacation plans plus a typically hellish June with an extra helping of stress and depression finished off my ambition neatly.

And still, my mom and her mom quietly planted my garden for me. Tulips, mums, a hosta, day lilies, two rose bushes, foxgloves. A lot of the perennials from last year came back, and Grandma made a point of filling up the two swans in the front with some annuals. (The swans keep Beryl the houseplant company in the summer, when I move her to the middle of the lawn to cover a stump.) Last fall we seeded the back with grass seed, which had completely died out in that yard at some point before we bought the house, and this spring lots of grass poked up. It was a nice little plot. But it wasn’t mine. I watered it when I remembered, which wasn’t often, and I let the weeds expand. Mom & Blake planted beans along the back which were quickly eaten by bugs.

Last week everything changed. I’m not sure what changed: if I became more determined, or if my plans had become more than vague musing. Maybe my parents just decided to help, and that was the push I needed. In any case, they came over last week and started digging out beds. Mom, Blake & I went to the garden centre and came back with three ferns, two vines, a packet of sunflower seeds for Blake, three bags of dirt and a soil testing kit. For the first time in my adult life, I picked out the plant and the place. For the first time in my adult life, I put a young root ball in the earth myself. I was (and am) inordinately proud of myself.

Now when I get up in the morning, my first job after breakfast is watering the plants. I water the front gardens that my mom planted in the hopes that I would someday take a natural interest in gardening, and pay special attention to the place where Blake planted his seeds despite the late season. I go to the centre of the lawn and water Beryl, my faithful houseplant who lived long after any weaker plant would have withered away, and the two swans full of flowers who swim along with her each summer. I water Spidey the spiderplant who chums with Beryl in the winter and hangs aloof on the fence in the summer. I water the pot of perennials that my mom bought last year, that still struggles gamely onward after quite a lot of neglect. I water Blake’s dinosaur garden and the little plastic dinosaurs that stalk between the fronds. I go around the corner and water the trumpet vine that’s already reaching for the wall and demanding a trellis. I water the Boston ivy between the windows that I hope will make my house more and more like a library. I water the few beans in the back that have, against all expectations, survived their sisters and have shot out vines that require me to improvise with bamboo shish kebob skewers and string. And then I weed. I love the weeding. I often can’t stop weeding once I start, even if I know I need to be somewhere else and even if Blake is calling to me. God, I love the weeding. And luckily, there are lots of weeds to pull.

This morning the Boy came to pick up Blake, and I discovered that the frustration I feel around him could be profitably channeled into my gardening. It only took an hour of weeding to lose the anger, and I would have weeded longer if I hadn’t become dizzy. How did I get into gardening? Simple: I bought a house and lost a husband. Don’t try this at home.

I have been super busy the whole week that Blake’s been home. There have been a lot of outings, a few parties, and a lot of cooking, laundry and cleaning. The pureed food experiment is going well, although my success rate is still a lot lower than when I cook with other books. Blake has started eating peeled cucumbers and tomato slices as an appetizer, which is awesome.

As much as I’ve enjoyed this week, I’m looking forward to these next few days. I need the sleep, for one thing. For another, I’ll get the chance to do a few things that require solitary concentration, like writing this journal and setting down the Strong Bad crochet pattern for those who have asked. Maybe I’ll even get to eat something that Blake wouldn’t touch with a pole. Good times.

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