As usual this time each year, I’m wearing my armchair gardener hat. I describe it that way because, despite my well-intentioned dabbling, I’m no more a gardener than I am a flyfisherman. Fortunately our annual Home and Garden issue allows me to successfully maintain the illusion of being a gardener and inspires me to continue my horticultural efforts every year.
Each spring, it is my pleasure to spend time in the gardens of impassioned and gifted Augustans whose gardening pursuits go far beyond dabbling. This, inturn, encourages me to embark on my own modest efforts to convert some small nook or crannie of my otherwise unwieldy yard into a place I can dig and, if I’m lucky, nurture a few plants throughout spring and summer.
And I’ve had some success (though mostly with containers). Last year I grew a large pot of tomatoes and jalapeno peppers that supplied me with both for several months. It was very rewarding to not only grow my own food but also to enjoy the incomparable flavor of homegrown tomatoes. The jalapenos lasted until the first freeze. Ambitiously, I even pickled a couple of jars. And this year I’ve added containers and vegetables to include cucumbers and squash along side my container of tomatoes. I am hopeful.
I am also faced with the challenge of planting from scratch a relatively small but highly visible flowerbed in front of my house. All the old scraggly shrubs have been removed and I’m left with a blank slate (except for the occasional pine root) in which to plant a whole new flowerbed. While I find this to be more than a little daunting, I spent some time with Jeff Tilden exploring his garden (see “Perfectly Imperfect,” page 34), which did inspire me. While that’s a little like viewing paintings at the Morris and then trying to support myself as a painter, I am determined. My plan is to focus more on his spiritual approach to nuturing plants and less on trying to duplicate his artistic talents as a garden designer. Maybe that’s what separates gardeners from people like me who do “yard work.” A sense of wonder and passion for all things that grow.
Whether or not I am able to harvest fresh vegetables this summer or successfully plant a flowerbed that’s worthy of praise, there is one thing I do have in common with the real gardeners of the world: I really enjoy working in my yard. From cutting grass to pruning back encroaching vines to staking up drooping tomato plants, I really take pleasure in the work.
You never know. There may be hope for me yet.