This time of year is always a hard one for me. You’d think I would be whooping for joy – the grass is up, the apple trees are in bloom, the perennials are growing, the alpines light up the nursery and we’re making money. Instead I am grumpy, annoyed and making life miserable for all those around me. There’s a persistent nagging in the back of my mind that I should be somewhere doing something that I’m not. There’s always an unfinished list on my desk and uncompleted tasks in my garden book. It’s all about time and I don’t have enough of it.
Which dragons do I slay and which do I leave standing? Oh dear, oh dear! The dandelions must at least be headed before they start to fly, the tree seedlings need to be removed from the garden before they grow strong and root deep, and any remaining winter die-back on the shrubs needs to go. Really, it is June already! Aside from that, I don’t know where to turn, the list just goes on and on.
I suppose all of you organized decisive gardeners know exactly what you’re up to. I see you out there digging, raking, lifting, separating, cutting, planting and trimming and I am jealous. Yep! Jealous! What a life! Not me and my garden. We are, at best, a disheveled, overgrown partnership of compromises. Mysteries lurk behind each rose bush, surprises in each patch of currants. And nature abounds.
Birds aren’t especially fond of tidy gardens, which makes them feel right at home in mine. Robins have built a nest in the atrium and talk about untidy! Twigs and grass everywhere, which of course I won’t pick up - that would just be wrong. There’s a pile of garden scraps by the alder patch that stayed one day too long and now must stay for the summer. A mamma Junco chose to make her home in there. Soon she will be dodging garden traffic as she darts in and out of the pile to feed her young.
The bugs in the old, dead birch are a feast for the Woodpeckers, both Downy and Hairy, bringing such wonderful rhythm to the twittering air. A bedlam of songs greet us when we step out of the house in the early morning. By mid day they have ebbed, only to pick up later in the evening and continue late into the night. From the look of the activity in this unruly mess, I know we would be missing a lot of life if we cleaned the place up.
In the heart of the garden, Dragon Fly larvae are thriving in the pool. It’s all those dead leaves in the bottom! A lingering sit on the ground by the water, looking into the shallows will reveal a long list of little critters to ponder, as well as a chance to take note of the visitors nearby. Chickadees busily explore the larch tree, Robins hop about after worms and bugs, and, if you’re there very late, when it’s nearly dark, you can feel and sense the little brown bats swooping past your head in pursuit of the dreaded mosquito. All these wonderful creatures are comfortable guests in their disorderly home.
So while I ponder the tidy gardeners and wonder at their organizational skills, my little jungle thrives. Every time I get brave enough to plunge into the cluttered chaos with my trowel in hand, I get lost in its magic and do just about nothing. Oh sure, the paths get narrower every year, the bushes more ragged, the pond smaller, the ground cover larger and the rock work less visible, but what’s a nature lover to do? I planned all this, after all - the right selection of shrubs, the location of the pond in filtered shade, the apple tree arbor, the crazy lilacs and those out of control currants. These were all by design to do exactly what they are doing now – attract life to the garden. So now that they are doing their job, who am I to tidy up?
The moral of the story is this: choose your garden design wisely, for it may bring just what you hoped. Tidy rows of organized, back breaking beauty, or relaxed disorder - or it may be that I’m just a lazy gardener. Either way, this is for all you who love to garden but just can’t be perfect. Don’t sweat it, perfection isn’t natural anyway.