Two weeks ago I waited for the sun to rise, then moved happily outside. Wow! Plants (and weeds) were rocketing up.
I walked around, making notes, before wandering into the alley. The rose garden’s twelve big bushes were full of fat buds. Glossy leaves gleamed in the sun, which was just peeking over the east rim of the fence.
BUT. A closer inspection revealed aphids on one bush’s buds, piled on top of one another two or three deep. Incredible. Gritting my teeth, I blasted the creatures with jets of water, and then applied Rotenone. From now on, constant vigilance would be necessary.
Then I needed to weed, prune, and tie climbers’ canes to the garden wall, while being stabbed for my trouble. And I’d have to begin the thorny task of deadheading each bush very soon. I winced in anticipation.
Suddenly, out of the blue, I sagged. In fact, I actually plopped down in that alley and put my head on my knees, feeling inexpressibly weary. What was happening?
I knew. The words stuck for a minute, but then- POP- out they poured.
“I can’t- no, won’t do this anymore.”
“Why?” asked my muse.
“Well,” I sighed, “I don’t want to. I’m tired, and it isn’t even properly morning, yet. And there’s only me to maintain everything- which I prefer. BUT — I’m waaay too fat with flowers that demand huge blocks of time, money, and my aging body. This. Must. Change.”
Sitting out there, I sniffed the cool morning air. Ahh, lavender and roses, my favorite perfumed combination. A sprinkler clicked on; a chipmunk whizzed past my booted foot; a door slammed somewhere, and a car rumbled down the alley past me, oblivious to the heap of occupied clothes by the gate.
For a long time I warmed the asphalt, thinking. This group of exquisite, but highly bred and sensitive plant ‘royals’ needed servicing in so many important ways disproportional to the rest of my garden. They eroded my time, my wallet, and my hands and knees, not to mention requiring pest-poisons I don’t need elsewhere. Though I loved them, I faced a reality.
The roses had to go.
The decision was a huge relief.
Here’s the deal. I’d made a promise to myself years ago. The minute I slipped from being ‘master’ to ‘slave’ of this garden, some part of it would vanish. I wouldn’t second-guess. I’d just do it – make things disappear.
And that’s exactly what happened. I rang Les. He came. We gloved up, dug and yanked. Thirty minutes later, there was nothing.
A friend came right over to adopt every bush. Sarah would give them much more space and sun.. She drove away, the bewildered roses peering out the windows. I refused to wave. They were gone. I was left with cored earth.
(Three rose bushes still live inside the garden walls, and one’s by the front walk. I haven’t banished them all.)
Plump, scented lavenders sat forlornly in the big, empty beds, but I felt not a twinge of regret. Instead, a wave of new energy infused me. A much simpler Blue Garden would be perfect here!
I transplanted more lavender, veronica and a butterfly bush- ‘Purple Knight’- from the secret garden, where they’d sulked for years. Not enough sun.
I trotted off to the nursery to buy a flat of purple and blue petunias, and a cool blue leymus grass the same antique copper color as my fence. Hmmm… why not toss in pink geraniums to add zest? Wow! Soon this new garden would be splendid. Best of all, it would require nearly zero maintenance. (Well, I’d have to deadhead the petunias daily- but that would take 30 seconds.)
Hey! Why stop there?
The Faerie Garden’s high maintenance brick path vanished. 600 were lifted, cleaned and tidily stacked, ready to sell. Simplicity was the carrot in front of my nose. There’d be no more hours on my knees pulling a zillion weeds from between them. Bye-bye to the grass and steel edging. Instead, I continued the soft, wood-chipped path that began at the front porch, moved the faerie fountain into the center, and allowed the ostrich ferns, Labrador violets and celandine poppies to romp. A woodland garden emerged.
Maintenance? Minutes a week.
Finally, I looked hard at the Brick Walled Garden’s interior. And made it vanish. Instead, another soft, meandering wood-chipped path emerged. Plants needing almost no tending- lamium, variegated iris and ground-hugging veronica- were moved in. Potted annuals decorate the fountain area.
I’m absolutely bone-tired, but delighted.
I’m still Master of all I survey. It’s not a retreat, exactly- merely advancement in another direction, to cultivate my ‘happy-chondriacal’ nature.
I’m changing: the garden must, too. It’s fine to have and to hold, but not too tightly, or for too long.The bigger challenge is to accept what is happening with grace and humor.
That goal will never change.