Aversion to Gardening

in your own backyard

After a summer of daydreaming about wonderful destinations and fun-packed adventures that could be mine if only I wasn’t locked down by a pandemic, I turned my sights last week to pleasures readily available to folks stuck at home. With great joy I reflected on my life-long love of reading, a pleasure still easily indulged.https://julewardwrites.com/committed-relationships/romance/addicted-to-reading

House and Garden
Photo by Ben Ashby

Today the pendulum swings to an engrossing activity that I personally dislike so much I hate to even write about it.  But it’s so big and obvious that it can’t be ignored, especially because thousands of people find that tending their garden tops the list of summer delights. There are literally dozens of magazines devoted to the topic. Talented photographers spend a lifetime capturing the beauty of gardens in breathtaking panoramas. Neighborhoods across the world host garden walks so folks can take a peak at each other’s hidden gardens. A public park without a garden would hold little appeal for most people.

she loves me, she loves me not

I have to clarify that I don’t hate gardens. Beautiful gardens, as small as a neighbor’s patio and as magnificent as Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Canada, https://www.butchartgardens.com/have enchanted me since I was a tiny girl picking the daisies from my mother’s garden. The enchantment and its consequences may, however, have something to do with my present aversion not to gardens themselves, but to gardening.https://www.butchartgardens.com/

I can remember that summer afternoon of my fourth summer as vividly as last summer’s trip to Portland’s International Rose Garden.https://www.portland.gov/parks/washington-park-international-rose-test-garden Having gathered a fistful of the pretty white-petaled blossoms with their fuzzy yellow center, I headed into our backdoor and up the steps to the kitchen. “These are for you,

Little girl with flowers
Photo by Caroline Hernandez

Mommy,” I chirped.

Instead of the smile I expected, my mother’s response was a horrified, “Oh, no.” She ran to the kitchen window and peered out at our yard. “You’ve wrecked the daisies!” She was screeching, or so it seemed to that four-year old. “Don’t ever touch my garden again. Do you understand?”  I nodded and backed out of the kitchen.

grandparent retreat

One incident alone isn’t enough to set up a lifetime resistance. But other experiences amplified rather than diminished that first vivid impression. My paternal grandparents bought two city lots at the end of World War II. On one they built, a charming Cape Cod two-bedroom. The other one, lot line to lot

line, was a vegetable garden. Most Sundays my grandmother prepared dinner for her sons and their families. Often after these family gatherings, I remained at their home for a few days.

Staying at my grandparents’ home gave me the chance to do whatever I

Carpenter at work
Photo by Dominik Scythe

wanted from playing dolls in the living room to exploring the near-by creek.  Grandma fixed all my favorite foods. Grandpa, who had been a ship builder until his retirement,  often built toys for me.  I loved watching him take small piece of wood and turn it into doll furniture. They didn’t ask me to do a single chore and let me read myself to sleep at night. Grandpa would walk me to the candy store on his was to the tobacco shop to buy his weekly cigar.  He also begged a cigar box off the tobacconist for me. Staying there was my own little piece of paradise.

forbidden eden

Only one thing was forbidden. I could not bother them when they were in the

Vegetable garden
Photo by Mario Rui Andre

garden. Looking back, I think that for each of them, the garden was a time of escape, a time to be alone with their own thoughts. Or it could have been that producing an abundant crop of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, and corn took all their concentration and they just didn’t need to be distracted by a small girl who asked a thousand questions a minute. For reasons that remain a mystery to me, Grandma taught me to sew, can, and braid rugs, but never to garden.

if at first you don’t succeed. . .
Flower border
Photo by Stella de Smit

Years passed and the summer arrived when I acquired a garden of my own. It came with our first house, a tiny Victorian cottage in the suburb of Western Springs. We bought the house not to obtain a garden, but because apartment dwelling had become uncomfortable with two small girls. We moved in when the garden was in full bloom. Flowers of various shapes, sizes and colors grew in a bed that ran around the edge of the back yard lawn. We enjoyed their beauty that summer without giving them a lot of thought.  Then came a typical Chicago winter. Everything died back and was buried in snow.

Finally spring came, the snow melted, and small green shoots sprouted up all

Weed-filled yard
Photo by Adam Winger

over the edge of the yard. Somewhere, somehow I’d learned that you had to get rid of weeks so they wouldn’t choke the emerging flowers. So, while the girls took their nap, I labored in the cool, damp April afternoons, pulling weeds. In May I waited for the flowers to start.  None came. In my ignorance I had uprooted not only weeds but flowers as well. http://wssa.net/wssa/weed/articles/wssa-what-makes-a-weed/ Too disheartened and busy to plant a whole new flower bed, I concentrated on raising children instead.

workable compromises
Photo by Robert Bye

Two years later, we moved back to the city away from the suburban landscape and the dreaded garden. My girls and I lived close enough to the park to enjoy the wonderful flowers that bloomed there, changing with the seasons.  In the winter, we frequented the conservatory, taking a morning-long tropical vacation in the middle of a Chicago January. The closest I ever came again to “gardening” was filling

Geraniums outside window
Photo by Sabita Sahu

window boxeshttps://blog.gardenloversclub.com/gardens/flower-box-ideas/ with geraniums and petunias. That was just right for me.https://blog.gardenloversclub.com/gardens/flower-box-ideas/

the end of the trail

Lounge chairs in our Portland yardIronically, now in my wisdom years, I once again live in a house with a garden, an unexpected series of events plopped me down here. I remain, however, unwise in the ways of flowers and flowering shrubs. Here is where the Love Lesson comes into this post.  This time, when I moved to a home with a garden, my stalwart husband Jay had retired from professional life. Fortunately for me, he has discovered a late-in-life passion for caring for the flora that fills our Portland outdoor space.  Nothing could be more ideal – a garden without gardening.  At the back of the yard there’s a beautiful lounge chair under a pear tree. It’s my favorite spot for my true addition – reading.

Where do you weigh in on the topic of gardening?  I’d love to hear from you.

Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/gardening-quotes
Black-eyed susans
Photo by Joshua Cotten

One Reply to “Aversion to Gardening”

  1. The funny thing is that I remember you as a gardener when we were little! I mostly remember the rhubarb, which we didn’t appreciate, but I was proud that you grew it. I also remember you harvesting our mulberries into delicious cobblers. So don’t sell yourself short! You instilled enough gardening in us that I count myself as a fair gardener myself these days. I don’t do much in our current home, but I have a green thumb when I need it.

Comments are closed.