Requiem for a Garden

Part of me is grieving a big loss in my life. No, I haven’t lost anyone important to me recently. My partner and I are still together and doing great. The dogs are fine,too. It’s our garden.

I’ve lost interest in gardening–a hobby I’ve enjoyed for several decades. More accurately, I’ve given up. I don’t have the time, and even if I could find time, have lost the inclination.

The gardening bug first bit me around 1985 when I lived in a duplex back in Lexington. Because the previous tenants owned at least one dog, the fenced in backyard sported a few patches of grass and large swatches of bare ground. I picked up a bunch of flower seed at the Ben Franklin store for ten cents a pack and scattered them along the fence.

Thanks to what can only be described as beginner’s luck, most of the varieties I’d randomly selected from the large bin of seed packets came up and bloomed. I was hooked. I subscribed to gardening magazines which generated a steady stream of flower catalogs in my mailbox. I wanted one of everything.

For the next twenty-plus years, weather permitting, I spent most of every weekend piddling around in my garden. If it was too cold to work outside, I’d pour over catalogs, making my selections for the coming year. In late winter and early spring, I hit every garden center in town looking for interesting and unusual varieties to add to my growing collection. Come fall, I repeated the process, focusing on bulbs and winter-hardy annuals.

In 1996, I left Kentucky for a job in Washington, DC. Living in the big city wasn’t conducive to gardening. I tried container gardening with disappointing results. After accepting a job in Georgia two years later, I couldn’t wait to garden again.

It didn’t take long to figure out that gardening in Georgia is dramatically different from gardening in Kentucky. Spending entire weekends in the garden simply isn’t an option here. I tried to adapt. If I could get out early enough, I’d work for a couple of hours before the heat and humidity drove me back inside.

Then the drought hit. Keeping everything watered in my one-acre garden was a challenge before restrictions on outside water use were imposed, and nearly impossible after. Well-established plants mostly survived, but new arrivals died of thirst or were eaten down to the ground by deer.

Opting for a more active and healthier lifestyle was the final nail in the coffin. Instead of spending the cool morning hours in the garden, I take advantage of the lower temperatures to run or ride my bike. Last year, for a while I tried to do both.

For the first time in more than 20 years, I didn’t plant any bulbs or pansies last fall. This year, other than an afternoon spent cleaning up winter debris with my partner, we haven’t touched the garden at all. We keep talking about pulling weeds and mulching, but do good to find time to mow.

Despite the neglect, the garden has been beautiful this year. Because of the mild winter and unseasonably warm spring, everything is blooming at once. So far, the deer have left things alone, too. I’ve barely had time to notice it.

Then it hit me. I’ve been feeling guilty about letting the yard go. But today I realized I’m much happier without it. Maintaining the garden had become an endless “to do”list that I could never complete.  Instead of a joy, gardening had become a set of chores I could never find time to do.

The activities I’m doing instead of gardening–running, riding my bike, going to the gym, participating in my writer’s group–are more satisfying and better for me. Physically I don’t know when I’ve been in better shape. I’m much more active socially, and have developed many new friendships I wouldn’t have today if I still gardened the way I did ten years ago.

I think the important thing is to do something you can lose yourself in. For years, I lost all track of time when I was in the garden. What I do is less important than making sure I’m always into something, here in…

My Glass House

2 responses to “Requiem for a Garden”

  1. Sometimes things/hobbies, just like people, jobs, friends stick around in our lives just long enough to serve their purpose or teach us a lesson. Good for you for recognizing it about the garden and for embracing the things that keep you from dedicating your time to it. If you ask me, you’re still gardening, you’re just maintaining yourself now instead of the soil and I think that’s fantastic :).