09 June 2010


I remain convinced that I should be a good gardener.  My qualifications are as follows:
  • I think flowers are very pretty.  They can dress up even the dullest of places, such as intersections or a subdivision of little box houses all the same.
  • I grew up in a farming state.  Being surrounded by so many fields and farm implements must instill some sort of knowledge of plants.  By osmosis, which I do believe is a plant-related term.
  • I like the idea of planting some seeds and watching them grow.  I think this may be more of a metaphorical thing for me; I like the idea of putting down roots and feeling connected to a place.
  • I like to buy bouquets.  And I can't help but think of Virginia Woolf's line:  Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.  Sometimes, just as I'm debating which bouquet to get at Trader Joe's, I say that to myself {in my head, yes, and I only sometimes affect the British accent}.  Repeating lines from classic books brings an air of literary levity to your day, but it can also make you feel/sound nerdy, so use it carefully.
I need to remain convinced of my gardening skills in the face of reality: I kill plants.

Since I moved here five-ish years ago, I have killed:
  • a little daisy tree
  • a peace lily we got for my grandpa's funeral
  • some sort of tree thing that was in my dad's office for years.  Thriving.  Healthy.  Providing little spots of shade and respite.  {Not really.}  It came to live with me, and I kept it alive for a year, a wild horticultural success for me.  I moved then, and I think the tree didn't approve of my real estate purchase.  It judged my condo and found it lacking, and to show me this, it dropped its leaves in disdain.
  • a little palm tree {Note the pattern of little.  Miniature things make me happy.}
  • Serbian bellflowers
  • basil
  • mint
  • lavender
  • more basil
  • cactus
  • poinsettias
  • petunias
  • hyacinths
  • This is embarrassing.
  • I should stop.
I want to be a good gardener, so very much, and so I'm trying again this summer.  How can I be so bad at using water, a natural resource?  {An unhelpful question:  just because it's a natural resource doesn't mean we naturally know how to use it well.  End of oblique environmental side note.}

I spent Monday night with my hands in dirt.  This is a good thing for me; I don't get down-in-the-dirt dirty often enough.  Dirt under my fingernails.  Dirt on my face.  Dirt on the old race t-shirt I put on to do my back-to-the-earth work.  I left on my pearls, though.

Gardening is one of those “God's in his heaven, and all's right with the world” activities.

With your hands in dirt, you forget about the 72 unanswered emails at work and the bills sitting next to your checkbook, waiting to be paid.

You start to feel better about snapping at a good friend because you accept a little bit more the truth that you will not always be good and perfect.  You plan your words for apologizing to your friend, and then you leave the guilt behind.

Dirt makes me calm and more open to the world, perhaps because I was one of those kids who preferred playing in—and eating—dirt.  Gardening is the grown-up version of making mudpies.

Do you see why I so want to be a good gardener?  It's an excuse to get dirty and have pretty things in your life.

And so I remain convinced that this is the summer I actually become a good gardener.  Step one:  Remember to water the plants.


  1. Oooo. Good luck. I also suffer from the "Black Thumb" and I know it can be challenging to overcome. I managed to grow tomatoes last year though, and this year I've got those, plus some hydrangeas that are at least hanging on by a thread. :-)

    May the dirt be with you!

  2. We may live most of the way across the country from each other, but we both get bouquets of flowers from Trader Joes :)



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