The lone voice of horticultural reason

Why We Garden

10-22-99 – Nothing very exciting happened in my garden this year.

One afternoon in my garden I realized that the only colors that get you into trouble are the reds and the oranges. Absolutely all the other colors that flowers come in look good together, to the point that you pretty much can’t mess it up. It’s the reds and the oranges that get you into trouble, and have to be thought out and placed carefully.

One morning in my garden I decided I’m going to have one area, just a small bed, filled with nothing but native wildflowers.

One evening in my garden I sat on my bench and watched while my son showed me how good he’s getting at tossing a baseball up in the air and smacking it.

One morning in my garden I focused my entire attention on fitting big, 90-pound gray trap rocks together, side-by-side, as the edging to a new garden bed. If you spend some time at it and learn how to look at the rocks you can make them fit really tight, so there’s no gap anywhere, like they were chiseled to fit by a stonemason. I spent about an hour at it, real early, before showering and going to work. During that day at work I had some meetings and confirmed some things with letters and talked on the phone a lot, but mostly I thought about getting home and having a quick dinner so I could spend about another hour fitting rocks.

One afternoon in my garden I resolved that next year, next year, next year, I finally will leave a lot of room between my perennials and annuals, and let them stay like that, to grown all season, instead of starting out that way, then ramming a second wave of new stuff in there in June.

One evening in my garden I came to my final conclusion concerning what I think of our president.

One morning in my garden I came to the realization there are about four perennials I’ve been trying to grow the past few years that just aren’t going to make it in my shady yard, and it’s time to face facts.

One evening in my garden I was doing something that involved me standing on a flat rock right in the middle of the main bed when a brilliant sphinx moth blew in from nowhere and started feeding. Easily mistaken for hummingbirds, they dart around like little space ships from flower to flower, this one showing a particular fondness for my red phlox. I stood perfectly still; the large moth left the phlox for the veronica I was in, then left it for me, poking his little needle-like probe into my chest as he explored several of the designs on the t-shirt I was wearing. He quickly deemed me a curious, but worthless flower, and hovered sideways a foot or so to some white phlox that tasted better. I went back to whatever I was doing. He stayed with me in my garden for the next hour, until I lost track of him in the dark.

One evening in my garden I looked back on another blessed gardening season, and with a final walk-around review of my landscape and some last-minute notes in my notebook, I quit gardening for this year, aware, however, of a bemused anticipation for next spring already germinated in a back corner of my mind.

Don Engebretson
The Renegade Gardener