I'm what you might call a greedy gardener. I have formal flower beds at the front and back of the house, a huge vegetable garden and a new hillside flower bed outside my office. I regularly neglect every one of them, yet I have a near-pathological urge every spring to BUY MORE STUFF. Often these new plants, purchased in a heady rush of excitement over their colour/fragrance/newness, are left to wilt in their containers because I haven't got the faintest idea where to put them, or I get busy with other things, or it's too hot out. I know. I should be banned from all garden centres within a 50 km radius or whipped with stinging nettles for serial botanical neglect. Thank heavens the only one who really notices is D, and I don't really listen to him when he starts ranting about how many times he's tripped over my nearly dead marigolds or wilted roses.
My enthusiasm for gardening bursts into action in April and peters out around July, or whenever the first bout of relentless humidity descends upon the Bruce. There’s something rejuvenating about spring gardening; I dive into the task of tidying up autumn debris with a big silly grin on my face. I don’t know if it’s the scent of fresh earth, or the way my muscles start to unwind after the laziness of winter, or the feel of my crusty old gardening gloves. Probably all three. There's deep pleasure in being outside without ten layers of clothes, digging in my patches of dirt.
There are so many gardens at Someday I hardly know where to begin tidying up all the gunk to make way for spring blooms. This year I decided to tackle the wild looking patch along the driveway that I like to call my "naturalized rock garden" (although it doesn't have very many rocks and looks more like a nature preserve than a garden). It's full of perennial treasures like columbines and bluebells and forget-me-nots, and over the years I've planted fragrant grape hyacinths, stubborn crocuses and crinkly-leaved primulas as part of my previously mentioned compulsion. Last summer, I even hauled six loaf-of-bread-sized rocks home from the beach. “See?” I told D. “Now it’s a rock garden.” D rolled his eyes and muttered something about crazy people and their stones.
Spring gardening has a lot in common with brushing a toddler's hair. You're tempted to rake through the snarls and tangles and sticky bits without mercy, but you know that if you do, it will all end rather badly. The trouble is that my so-called rock garden rests under four very large maple trees, and in the spring, every inch of the ground is covered in crispy dead stuff. I try to pick leaves off the flowers with one tine of the rake, but I always end up getting impatient. I start thinking how good a hot cup of coffee would taste, twang the rake a bit too vigorously, and a little bluebell head snicks off and rolls down the hill, causing me to shriek as though I've just witnessed Eddard Stark's beheading.
Once the cleanup is done, usually around May, my planting obsession takes over. Five years of wildly unorganized purchases have taught me that a crowded garden is not a happy garden. Stick too many plants close together and things start to tilt out of balance: one flower elbows out another, a gang of aphids show up, weeds strangle the roses and suddenly it’s chaos.
My preference for buying “care free” perennials backfires because I forget to thin and transplant them. The front gardens have been taken over by a fuzzy but determined troop of lambs’ ears; the harmless looking plant that resembles giant buttercups has morphed into a yellow menace, squishing my poor peonies and threatening my innocent mock orange. Daisies have exploded in unexpected places from heaven knows where. And don’t get me started on what were once two tiny patches of sweet woodruff I’d brought from my old gardens in Waterloo. Apparently woodruff takes the term “ground cover” very literally.
You’d think I’d learn a thing or two from my mistakes, and try to limit my flower-buying until I get my gardens in some semblance of order. Instead, I have a dahlia, a clematis and a geranium gasping for water in their pots by the garage, a husband who wants to strangle me and a slightly guilty conscience. If only someone would hurry up and invent a spray-in conditioner for tangled up garden messes. And a cure for obsessive plant buying.