Confessions of a Southern Gardener
A few months ago, probably around the winter solstice, I curled up on the couch with my 2017 Burpee Seed catalog, over-wintering like the shriveled stalks of last year’s garden outside my window. I anticipated the extra tock of the clock each day that will eventually lead me to long, leisurely, southern summer evenings. I was anxious to wipe the slate clean and start anew—my yard a fresh palette.
I decided to do a little “sow-searching” before committing garden genocide again this year. I’ve concluded I need to “know thyself.” It has been much too easy to forgive myself for the time and money wasted by not keeping up my garden.
Rather than dumping a bunch of seeds into poorly worked ground on the first warm Carolina day in spring and hoping for the best, why not read the directions and work the soil on a cold, cloudy January day? I did just that; I scattered the seeds and pressed them gently into the earth. Imagine my surprise when I saw a bumper crop of fledgling wildflowers bursting forth on a cold February morning. Yes, the nascent beginnings of another season.
But—memories of gardens bygone haunt me. My past gardening blunders consist of, but are not limited to the following: breaking the ground and my back on the first warm spring day, haphazardly preparing the soil for beautiful high-end plants, watering sporadically at best and then acting surprised when the squelching hot Carolina sun cooks them to a crisp, planting shade plants in full sun and full-sun plants in the shade—just because that’s where I wanted them. I would then avert my eyes for the rest of the summer from that plot until late fall when I couldn’t stand to look at the stick plants anymore. When my puny gladiola did a down dog pose because I planted them too shallow, I spewed expletives as if it were their fault. Finally, I donated the upside down clay pots, green with mold, to the creatures that inhabit them. However, all was not lost. My hubby has a green thumb and, although devoid of flowers, the raised beds he began last year were a cornucopia of organic veggies and I canned a whole lot of squash. I managed to salvage the season semi-successfully by starting a productive herb nook. Rosemary, fennel, holy basil, grapefruit basil, lavender, stevia, tarragon and sage. I dried the herbs by hanging them upside down in a cool dry nook inside and then filled jars with wonderful fresh herbs that lasted all winter. I also made a nice shaker jar of Herbs de Provence, awesome on salads and pasta.
Today, the sun is beaming and the ground is warm and if all goes according to Pinterest (my Pinterest fails far outnumber the successes) and my journal notes, in a few months I will be walking down a cool, pebbled path with a basket of fresh-cut flowers holding an adorable pair of garden scissors, my hand sliding over the tops of rosemary bushes releasing their aroma. Both sides of my path will be filled with fragrant, colorful flowers. Heirloom roses will climb white trellises, all perfectly pruned and landscaped. Birds will pick the bugs off of plants. Bees and butterflies will compete for pollination. A statuary waterfall and bench will await me at the end of the trail and then I will see it, the ultimate prize: the highly coveted “Yard of the Month” sign!
But the truth is, gardens don’t just happen. There is a time and season for everything—pruning, watering, planting, rooting, de-heading flowers, etc. The universal kick start began on March 20, the spring equinox. According to my little Farmer’s Almanac, life and movement in the natural cycle appear to pause or “stand still” for about five days during this transition. I decided to pause with it, reflect on my garden plans and their feasibility. I determined how much time and money I want to put into my little garden and expect the results to be as such. I will ride the current of spring’s surge of abundance but try to keep my goals realistic. I believe I would like this quote on a garden plaque for encouragement:
“Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” —St. Francis of Assisi (Who can’t use a little sainthood in the garden?)
If all my aspirations fail, I will drown my sorrows on a shaded porch, in my rocker, with a glass of Chardonnay while admiring my hanging baskets and potted porch plants.