Sunday, January 4, 2009

Gardening as Self Abuse

Gardening has a completely undeserved reputation as a genteel past-time, something frail spinster ladies can potter around in. What a bunch of well rotted steer manure. I've just emerged from an afternoon wrestling a tiny portion of our yard into submission and if I'm frail, it's not because I started that way, but because the yard very nearly triumphed. My back hurts, my knees ache, my hands are a wreck; I look, as Dottie Parker once claimed, like something from the Fall of the House of Usher.I blame the yard, not my own feebleness. Our little patch of heaven is a steep, rocky side of the canyon behind us; most of our neighbors ignore anything beyond the patios, leaving the rest of the outdoor space to the acacias and the coyotes. Oh but not me, nosirree, I’m up there fighting the good fight against invasive blackberries and trying to talk the quince bush into not dying.

Our friend Tim just gave me several gardening books, a genre of writing which has the same relation to my landscaping that pornography does to sex. These books always discuss the importance of establishing a landscape plan, of considering the color values of your plantings, of carefully choosing the correct specimens for your particular environment. Oh, please.My plan consists of poking around with a pick axe until I find a big enough spot between all the rocks to stick in whatever possibly doomed greenery I’ve dragged up there; the colors are whatever I snag in the half-off clearance section of the nursery; and the choice is solely the plant’s: live or die.

Plus this time of the year is a gardener’s least favorite. Everything looks sort of shaggy and uninspiring and all the tasks at hand are just dreary maintenance. It’s the time for long term leaps of faith like putting in tiny seeds hoping that in six months they’ll be lush bunches of sweet peas.

But I have faith. The solstice is behind us and we’re heading into the beauty of early spring when the ceanothus blooms and I can find out if the morning glory seeds I accidentally dropped are going to surprise me and come up. Stranger things have happened, certainly in my garden.


  1. There really are times when gardening can be a hassle but when spring comes, that's when I see that all the hard work that I've done paid off.

  2. That's "shaggy and uninspiring"? Honey, you have high standards - looks more like Sissinghurst to me!

  3. wow!
    Just beautiful!
    If this is self- abuse, you must be the master.

  4. What a beautiful yard! Beauty is pain, my friend, and well worth the cost.

  5. Mr. P- your garden is gorgeous! Kudos, darling.

    Nest time Miss J visits the big city of SF, she hopes she can have a glass of wine in Mr. P's lovely back yard.

  6. His garden IS gorgeous and don't let false modesty make you believe otherwise! Think pasion flower.

  7. All thatlushness, and on rocky steeply sloping soil?! Wow! I actually design gardens for a living, so I can say with a small amount of expertise that your garden looks lovely.

  8. "gardening books, a genre of writing which has the same relation to my landscaping that pornography does to sex."

    Ha! That should be added as a disclaimer on the front of every gardening book! There would so many fewer discouraged former gardeners in the world.

    But your garden looks dreamy to me. The depredations of a pooping and peeing dog, four kids and their litter of plastic toys, and crappy East-Coast weather have killed the few gardening fantasies that my own mediocre skills didn't do in.

  9. Jeebus! Surely you've opened the Chelsea Flower Show with her Majesty!

    Or some queen, like.

    Fabulous! Puts my little bush to shame...


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