Garden Variety

By Debbie Koenig

When I was pregnant, I used to joke about my prospective parenting skills: I can’t even keep a cactus alive, so how will I handle a baby? Almost 11 years later I can definitively state that I have not killed my child, but I still can’t manage plant life. And yet, I feel the urge to try again.

Spring has arrived up at our house, our first glimpse of new life since we closed on the place in snowy December. Two weekends ago we drove up to find daffodils in random patches all over the property — who knew, they propagate themselves? Next to the deck is a small tree sprouting cone-shaped, purplish buds. I posted a picture on Facebook, asking my gardening friends to identify it, and discovered we have a lilac tree! Soon after, we spotted a second one budding at the back of the house.

This past weekend I posted more pictures, and learned that we have spirea bushes flanking the front door, irises and violets on the sunny side of the house, a prickly barberry bush off the back deck, bright fuchsia azaleas, and — oh, happy day! — hydrangeas. All of this thrills me, and also terrifies me. I literally don’t have a clue how to care for any of it. I’ve never lived in a house before, never had a patch of land. And yet, I’m itching to plant more.

My dream garden would be a mix of herbs, vegetables, berries, and peonies. If I could live surrounded by all that, I’m pretty sure I’d be content. I dream about eating just-picked produce and filling vases with fluffy cut peonies, harvested mere feet from my door. To start I’d plant tomatoes and zucchini, eggplant and green beans, lettuce and cucumber, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, and every herb I could get my hands on. My picky eater would blossom, too, as the sight of glorious vegetables that we grow ourselves tempts him more and more. Such a lovely fantasy.

But yeah, at this point nothing but a fantasy. When I drive by the garden center I want to stop and load up the car with seedlings ready to replant. But if I did, I’d hum happy songs all the way home, and then realize that I have absolutely no idea what to do next. While I dithered the seedlings would linger, then wither and die. This notion may sound strange to you, but gardening genuinely scares me.

I hope that knowledge will help me get past that fear. I’ve got a bunch of gardening books on hold at the library. For this growing season, I’ll focus on learning more about what we have already. Next year, I become a gardener.

Follow Debbie on Connect @debbieskoenig. 

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