Sunday, July 8, 2007

Life Begins In A Garden

It has been hot in Seattle. Anyone reading this who is not from the Northwest is going to start laughing at me, but for me, it has been HOT. July and August in Seattle are notoriously hot. It has been in the high 80's this week and, rumor has it, it is suppose to be in the high 90's this coming week. I dread the hot weather. And while 90's is something that we only get for 2-3 weeks a year, it is 2-3 weeks too long for me. I HATE the hot weather. HATE IT. I am a true Northwesterner and love a good 65 degree cloudy day. Fall is my favorite time of year and I can get pretty excited about winter too. Summer? Hate the hot weather with a passion (now, for those of you non-Northwesterners who are still laughing at me, please remember that the average Seattle-ite does not have home air conditioning or a pool. NOW how much do you like the hot weather?).

But I have been able to find one redeeming quality of summer--my garden. I am not a gardener. We lived in this house for about 7 years and I pulled waist-high weeks and dreamed of some day having something attractive to gaze upon in my back yard. And then about 3 years ago I decided to go for it. We dug up shrubs, brought in new dirt, and I went plant shopping. I did all kinds of plant shopping. I went to the local mecca, Flower World, I bought plants through catalogs, I went to local plant sales, I even purchased from ebay--I have been spending the last 3 years filling my garden beds. I've even started dividing my own plants, sharing with others, and I've been filling my blank spots with gifts from other gardeners. This spring I was given the gift of extra dinnerplate dahlias bulbs, bearded irises, lily of the valley, and centerbury bells from a couple of friends from church. Can I tell you how excited I am that my dahlias are growing?! Actually growing! And for the second year in a row, I am actually growing sunflowers from seeds I stuck in the ground. I feel like a proud parent.

Now again, I truly don't consider myself a gardener. 10 years from now if most of what I have planted is still living, then I will accept that title. But for right now, I consider myself extremely lucky. I stand in awe each day that I see something that I planted with my two hands still living. And growing. And blooming. I am out in my garden nearly every single day--I know all of my plants and I track their daily progress in wonder. In the summer when it feels like I live near the surface of the sun, I water each day and can literally see my plants grow and bloom throughout the day. The mixture of water and hot sun and the affects they have on the plants amaze me.

Have I made mistakes? Absolutely! Do I experiment? Of course! I realized a few years ago that I was afraid to garden because I wanted it to be so perfect and was afraid of failure. Once I let that go and allowed myself the freedom to make mistakes, it instantly became fun. Now, I move plants all the time. Doesn't work there? No problem! I'll pluck it out of the ground and stick it somewhere else! I have a little game of musical plants going all the time.

I've also tried to mark my plants. I think it's fun to see the labels in the garden, and it's also good during the dormant season, so I don't accidentally dig up my precious chocolate cosmos. Nice copper plant markers are very expensive and that has been a source of frustration for me, as the cheaper, plastic markers break. Then last month I learned of a very fun solution from Garden Gate Magazine, (a gift from my very dear friend and fellow gardener-in-crime, Heidi)--using a special paint marker that is weather proof, I have made markers out of the 45895687 river rocks I have all around my house.

I have also learned a few valuable lessons along the way:

1. Slugs are evil and a part of God's curse upon Man. So are moles. And deer. And weeds. The only solution for any of these maladies is cement.

2. I actually prefer chicken manure to steer manure or bark. Who knew?

3. Newspapers make great weed barrier in the winter. We stopped getting the paper a few months ago because we weren't reading it. I'm tempted to renew our subscription just for the garden.

4. Despite what Leah told me, using Flickr to import my photos is no better than getting them from my harddrive. They look terrible on my blog either way.

5. Everytime my mother sees my black hollyhocks she tells me that they grow black hollyhocks at Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello. Every. Time.

6. Dividing irises really does help them bloom.

7. Bee balm looks a lot like a weed in the early spring. Oops.

8. It really is easier to pull weeds without gloves.

So, when I'm not knitting (I have 3 new hats done for Venue) or reading, or sanitizing the sheets or Mike's pillow because that was the only part of our bed not covered by a protective sheet last yesterday when apparently we breathed too loudly for Alice's delicate sensibilities, then I'm out in the garden, imagining the birdhouses, containers, and arbors I can buy after I've made my first million with Venue.

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