Gardens to Gables

Thugs and Beauties: The Perils of Gardening

Winter seemed very, very long this year. So as the last (I hope) of the snow melted, I bounded into the garden, (mud slushing underneath my feet) anxious to observe the awakening of the frozen earth.

Johnny jump-ups (or railroad pansies, as my family calls them) turn their faces to the sun.

Johnny jump-ups (or railroad pansies, as my family calls them) turn their faces to the sun.

And then I groaned.

Have you ever fallen in love with a plant? It is a mad crush, rendering you into a facsimile of your middle school self, blind to any faults, seeing only the loveliness of its variegated foliage, extolling over its shape and form, and how it will transform your garden border! You throw caution to the wind, and buy three or four pots of this stunning perennial and you watch it lovingly through the summer and into the the fall.

Nestled between the salvia and coreopsis, it seemed so mannerly in May.

Nestled between the salvia and coreopsis, it seemed so mannerly in May.

As autumn nights cool, you might hesitate a bit in your perusal of the border – that new plant is a little larger than you thought it might be, and it is behaving a bit boorishly with its neighbors. But winter descends, and all thoughts of gardening hunker down, much like the gardeners, under a heap of blankets and mugs of hot tea and cocoa.

I adore my lenten roses. Although some caution against moving them often, mine have proved to be hardy travelers, and greet spring the earliest.

I adore my lenten roses. Although some caution against moving them often, mine have proved to be hardy travelers, and greet spring the earliest.

Then, in riotous March, you realize the “hardy” and “drought-tolerant” perennial to which you gave your heart is a THUG. An insidious bully with designs to overtake your garden by force. Over the fall and quiet winter, it sent creeping roots out into the border, a campaign unnoticed by the gardener and her assistants (who are more interesting in lying on top of a mound of flowers, or eating bees). With the warming passes of the spring sun, the extent of its evil plot was unveiled. I will be doing a lot of selective digging this spring.

It is EVERYWHERE!

It is EVERYWHERE!

Gardening, I think, is one of the most optimistic endeavors one can undertake. You can’t have a glass half-empty (or, as is the case with one or two of my nearest and dearest – a broken glass, heaped into a pile of useless shards) or a tendency to quake when the weather turns bads, or a six-foot privacy fence, uprooted by a falling hackberry, lands in the middle of your border, squashing a forsythia and several nice peonies (the forsythia was in its infancy and its growing pattern is now most interesting). Gardening forces you to embrace the unexpected, deal with the lack of rain or deluge of too much rain, and keep moving forward. Because you know that even when poison ivy crops up in your border (and subsequently all over your chin), or the smoke bush you planned for, and finally found, dies after a late freeze…there will still be growth. And there will still be beauty. A pretty good metaphor for life outside of the garden I think.

It is not blooming yet, but this is one of (hundreds) a division of my grandmother Tishmama's primroses. Delicate little yellow blooms will clamor all over the slightly fuzzy leaves in another few weeks.

It is not blooming yet, but this is one of (hundreds) a division of my grandmother Tishmama’s primroses. Delicate little yellow blooms will clamor all over the slightly fuzzy leaves in another few weeks.

So, armed with a new pair of gardening gloves, my Felcos, and trough, I venture gingerly into the border, shooing away a tiny dog, watching nervously lest I crush any jonquils, and with the sun on my back, I welcome spring.

Daffodils and columbine (and a mystery plant that I love for its dark leaves but have no idea what it is) enliven the still-bare parts of the border.

Daffodils and columbine (and a mystery plant that I love for its dark leaves but have no idea what it is) enliven the still-bare parts of the border.

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