I love flowers. There are few presents which give me as much joy as a big bouquet of brightly coloured flowers or a potted plant chock full of blossoms. I love gardens – beautiful colourful gardens full of magnificent flowers, shady trees, attractive stonework and fountains. And I love to grow things. Um......let me amend that: I love to plant things.
A gardener I am not. I lack the patience, the knowledge, the strong back, or the interest in minute details like ph balance and soil construction and ratios of nitrogen to phosphorus to potassium.
Each year, I buy or receive as gifts perennial cuttings, carefully put them in the ground, water them the first few days…..and then neglect them. By next spring, I don’t even know where they are or what they are called, and as I madly yank out things that I assume to be weeds running rampant, I inevitably yank out the perennials too. Those that do survive soon become infested with aphids or caterpillars or slugs or other little creepy crawlies who munch holes in the leaves, strip the branches, and turn beauty into beast.
I compare myself to the person who buys a dog thinking if they just provide a bargain brand dogfood, some water, and maybe a place to sleep, the dog will spontaneously become Lassie and save Timmy from the well. No work necessary - the hand of fate will miraculously turn a pup into a loyal, intelligent, social, amazing pet. Sure it will!
I buy plants. I stick them in dirt, add some water, occasionally go look at them to make sure they are still alive, and envision a future with blossoms everywhere, friends and family agog at my beautiful, well trained plants. Yeah, right. The bugs and weeds win every time and before you know it the poor abused plant is being dumped at the nearest shelter…er…compost heap.
The reality is that what I love, when it comes to gardening, are flowers that grow spontaneously, surprising me one morning with a shock of blue colour here or a red blossom there, peeking out amid the weeds. The self-seeding, over-productive flowers that are the bane of other more disciplined gardeners are pure delight to me – hence the flower bed in my front yard, full of those bright orange flowers whose name I forget but which every neighbour has warned me I need to pull out lest they take over the garden.
But dreams seldom die, and so once again I have put my hand to trowel and, with visions of blossoms dancing in my head, planted a garden. My approach this year was different – instead of working the rock-hard clay and stoney dirt that surrounds my house, I decided to build a patio garden, full of pots and planters and hanging baskets of bright geraniums and petunias, impatiens and trailing white bacopa, cascading down the fence and surrounding my 8x8 patio, complementing my beautiful Tuscany-like bistro table in colours of red and white and touches of sky blue.
I have never found gardening to be an inexpensive hobby – flowers, soil, fertilizers, tools, one can spend one’s life savings in just two or three visits to a nursery. So I scoured garage sales for planters and stands and garden-type brick-a-brack. I cashed in Air Miles for gift certificates to the garden centre of a local home and garden store, I lugged home a small tree from another garage sale and friends gave me gifts of plants. I did end up paying cash for a few things that I couldn’t find elsewhere – a couple of long planters, some wrought iron shelf brackets, a string of solar-powered dragonfly lights, and a small outdoor area rug to put under my patio table.
I was pretty proud of myself. I built shelves on my sturdy cedar fence for the long planters, from which would cascade red and white showers of ivy geranium and wave petunias; I potted and planted and filled baskets and positioned a bird bath/fountain, carefully choosing which plants needed the shady location, which the sunny spots. And after several days of work, I finally had it finished – everything except the daily watering and waiting for Mother Nature to do the rest and produce my magical patio retreat.
Dogs checking it out
I took photos, and as I sat at my computer looking at them and preparing a blog, I heard a crash. Outside. On the patio.
Forty dollars worth of wrought iron brackets and two eight inch wide planks of 1” cedar are not sufficient to hold two twenty dollar long planters full of dirt and flowers and water. The long planter had come crashing down on the flowers below and the new outdoor area rug, bringing the dragonfly lights with it. The planter smashed to pieces, the blossoms and tender leaves were crushed, the dirt was everywhere, and like the negligent dog owner who blames the dog for the mess on the floor, I swore at the plants.
I let the mess sit there for a day or two before once again tackling the problem of how to suspend planters from the cedar fence. I bought two wrought iron half-circle fence planters, dug out some narrow red brackets from a box, salvaged what I could of the broken plants and dirt, and started again. This time the fence planters were attached directly to the thick, wide cross board and while I must now stand on a stool in order to deadhead flowers or check the soil, the twelve heavy 2.5 inch screws (and the additional security of a new shelf underneath) should stop these plants from tumbling down.
And so I still dream of a patio full of flowers, cascading down fences and rising up from planters, a soft patter of water in the fountain, a steaming latte or an ice cold tea served to friends at my table, a place to read and a place to laugh and a place to dream.
Please hold me accountable – check back in a month to see if I have kept watering, weeding, feeding, and deadheading those plants in order to achieve my goal, or if the patio is surrounded by dried pots of dirt with shriveled up leaves and dead, brown blossoms. And if the latter, please ban me from owning plants – for life.