CONFESSIONS OF A FAILED GARDENER
Catherine C. Salcito
Garden season is upon us: my gardening failures, like compost piles, amass and multiply. My perennials perish; my annuals expire. Neighboring yards will soon surge with green promise and early flowers. My beds will feature their characteristic spring look—akin to the moon’s surface. A few weedy remnants, like ravaged post-apocalyptic survivors, will still cling to shriveled roots above spent soil. My yield will be chronic back pain and permanently ruined sneakers.
My next-door neighbor, Dori, must practice some kind of voodoo botanical witchcraft. Her gardens flourish. Flowers debut annually over there like celebrities. It’s an ongoing Gatsby party—sumptuous blossoms arrive wave after wave from spring through fall, each more beautiful than the last. Years ago, when we moved in next door, Dori brought over cuttings and shoots from her thriving plants. Now, courteously aware of the plant casualty rate over here, she brings cookies instead.
It’s not that I haven’t tried. Gardening books with beguiling titles line a long shelf: Gardener’s Guide, Perennials for Dummies, Month by Month Gardening, and even Garden Lust! The titles seemed so promising when I carted them home from the garden store. Dog-eared page corners tucked in and broad swaths highlighted in neon yellow confirm my eagerness to attain garden splendor.
The plan seemed simple: shorter flowers would reside in front as a “border” with successively taller and increasingly showy flowers in a tiered, “layered” design behind. None of the flowers conformed. None remained remotely within their designated space. Despite the smelly compost I hauled, the hand cramps suffered gripping the trowel and “working the soil,” and the blue crystal-infused fertilizer I sloshed all over myself, the devious flowers went completely rogue and rerooted themselves higgledy-piggledy.
Countless forces conspire against me: rabbits ruin, slugs slaughter, and aphids annihilate. Tender blossoms end up butchered by Japanese beetles. Neighborhood dogs favor my flower beds for executing their business. When I reach for one of the nineteen pairs of garden gloves I’ve purchased, I can only locate four, all for the left hand.
Weather is the final adversary. Early season warmth taunts little buds to venture forth. April follows with erratic single-digit temps and nips them. May arrives and offers up a blizzard or two to further the death rate. Any bud that might have survived will be pummeled by June’s baseball-sized hail, and thoroughly finished off in the following weeks of searing dry heat.
I need to consider options. An expanse of brightly painted concrete might look okay . . .
Not all is lost! Here comes Dori with cookies . . . and a fresh-cut spring bouquet from her garden. God love her. “Hey, Dori!
Catherine Salcito enjoyed careers as a speech/language pathologist, educator, and college professor. Now, along with writing, she enjoys family and outdoor time, travel, reading, and experimenting in the kitchen. Not gardening though. Sad.
Garrett Lemons is an aspiring author and photographer constantly amazed at the wild wonders of the word and world.