I never got why some people enjoy gardening so much. To me, it was a sweaty, necessary evil that required me to make my yard at least halfway presentable in the eyes of others.
The majority of my gardening prowess involved beating back six foot high weeds and planting as many perennials as possible so I would never have to revisit a barren landscape again.
Sure, I’ve done my share of vegetable gardens and flowers and shrubs, but my success rate was never high, because I didn’t enjoy weeding and watering. And I tend not to do the things I don’t enjoy.
In past years, I’ve apologized to plants as I buy them, because I know they are going to die a dry, forgotten death eventually, in my gardens of doom.
My grandmother, who lived to be 102, was an avid gardener. Actually, beyond avid, if there is a word to describe living and breathing gardening. She broke ground with a shovel and a pick ax and cultivated heirloom seeds.
She mixed and engineered her own gladiola variations, resulting in riots of color unseen anywhere else on earth. She had five kinds of raspberries and made both jam and cordials. Her elderberries and blueberries were a vigorous purple and blue, bursting with juice in the hot summer sun. In her side yard, there literally were strawberry fields forever, just like the Beatles song.
And the flowers. So many strains of roses, lilacs, flowering shrubs, placed artfully around her property like a breathtaking maze of scents and colors.
When I went to visit her, she was always in her garden.
Her gardening dress, that she had sewn herself, was green and sturdy, and my most enduring memory of her was seeing her straightening up after pulling weeds, brushing white hair back into clips, which never did completely tame it, smiling in the sun, with her pockets full of tomatoes or other ripe vegetables.
She tried to teach me all about the intricacies of plants and gardens, when I was a kid, but I couldn’t have been less interested. All I wanted to do was run free through the jungle of fruit and flowers, and pick berries for her.
All the wisdom she imparted to me fell on disinterested ears, as I fidgeted and sighed, ready to run and play.
This year, I opened my yard to a friend who loves to garden. She is young, but knowledgeable in the way my grandmother was, about the art of plants.
The most amazing wonderland is springing to life, under her tender, intuitive care, and I’m learning, at last, the wonders of gardening.
Yes, it is time consuming and a lot of sweaty, hard work. But, I find myself willingly going out to it, and spending peaceful hours weeding, planting and sustaining, what she has started for me.
I understand it now. I know why it consumed my grandmother’s every waking moment during our short growing season. A garden is a happy place. Playing in the dirt is recreation, not drudgery. It’s zen and the art of garden maintenance. It’s calming and peaceful, and filled with birdsong.
Now, if I only had time to tend to the rest of my overgrown, haphazard yard. Impossible maybe, but I see now that pleasure is in the journey, not the destination.