Thinking of Gardening

It’s that time of year when the garden catalogs start piling up on the kitchen table. Big juicy begonias in shades of red, yellow, white and pink entice me to flip through the pages of the White Flower Farm catalog. There, against a white clapboard porch with a Giverny-style bench, dangles succulent begonia. But fool me twice, shame on me.

I planted that wisteria 20-plus years ago, and each year went out daily anticipating its magical blooms. I read articles about tricks to make your wisteria bloom, and tried them all. I poured all my love, as well as water from the watering can, over its invading roots. Fifteen years later my son said, “Mom, I think someday when someone buys our house, the first thing they’ll do is rip out the wisteria.”

But I proved him wrong; I ripped it out at that very moment.

On the next page I see pom pom hollyhocks. Yup, had those too, until the Japanese beetles ate them. Oooh, look at the luscious purple cimicifuga — I planted those once. Perfect for my shade garden… so why did it dry up and die?

Oh, and there’s the Joe Pyeweed I planted. It flourished. Too well, unfortunately, so I had to move it before it took over.

I’m so enchanted by the yellow-throated daylilies. Planted fields of them over the years. They were like Fourth of July fireworks, peaking at that time of the year, until the deer discovered them.

The heuchera look so pretty in peach and obsidian on the catalog page, but they never thrived for me. And hostas — been there, done that. I planted White Flower Farm’s Emerald Isle collection, and had a sea of hostas in beautiful blues, lime green and yellow and white until Bambi decided to make it her salad bar.

Over the years I’ve spent enough money on plants to have made a down payment on a vacation house. This catalog that formerly brought joy now only reminds me of frustration, so I close it until the mail brings another: Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Mmm, I love Johnny’s. The cover shows people working in a community garden. I love community gardens. In fact I started one in West Windsor a few summers back.

I love the beautiful leaves of cabbages, collards, kale, mizuna, tatsoi and baby pac choi. If only I could grow those things. By the end of last summer, I threw up my hands. Deer, Japanese beetles, ground hogs, squirrels, fungus, blight, invasives — it was all just too much for me. (If you like reading about the love-hate relationship with gardening, read more here.)

I had hoped I’d recover in 2011. My husband says gardening is a beautiful day spoiled. “Remember the heat and humidity and mosquitoes,” he says. “Last summer you were dreaming of being surrounded by brick.”

This morning I read a quote from Twyla Tharp on Facebook: “Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.” And maybe art is the only way to enjoy beautiful growing things, to enjoy the red ruffly leaves of flowering kale while caressing them with a pencil, preserving them on canvas.

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