When I moved into my home nine years ago, I was most excited about the garden.
I took gardening classes. I bought books with titles like, “The Perennial Gardeners’ Design Primer” and “Month-by-Month Gardening in the Carolinas.” My garden dreams made their way onto graph paper, taped with photos of the flowers marking each one’s future spot. When I finally got to start digging, my neighbors teased me about how much time I spent outside; one referred to it as me playing in my sandbox.
In those first few seasons, an experienced gardener would have seen the exuberant handiwork of a beginner: one who believes there’s always room for one more plant.
The garden ran across the front of my 1950s ranch home and was as deep as the house in some places. There were orange daylilies, coral canna lilies, purple Siberian and bearded irises, and salvia in many colors, including my favorite, “Hot Lips.” There were sunflowers, yarrow, black-eyed Susans and even a small banana tree.
My gardening ambitions came to a halt four years ago after my daughter was born. The reality was I would rather play with her than weed my garden. My flower beds were soon overrun, especially by Bermuda grass, which home gardeners aptly call “devil’s grass.”
My husband got sick of seeing it in such a state. I got tired of feeling guilty about it. And so two years ago, I took a week off work and dug up the entire garden. I put an ad on Craigslist, offering the plants I already dug up for free and inviting other gardeners to help dig up ones I hadn’t gotten to yet. I scaled back the garden to about 20 percent of its former self.
Not much of that original garden remains. Some foundation plants that I could not bear to move: a fragrant sweet olive, a white cedar, a tulip magnolia and a beautyberry bush. I moved some verbena-on-a-stick and coneflowers in front of our picture window so we could watch the goldfinches feast. I saved my beloved irises.
But editing the home and garden section has renewed my gardening interest. I find myself perusing bulb catalogs and plotting combined orders with a neighbor. I’ve fallen in love with the essays of the late Wayne Winterrowd and his spouse, Joe Eck, who together built and tended a lush 28-acre Vermont garden. Right now I’m reading their “Our Life in Gardens.”
There I was Sunday afternoon dividing my irises, only this time I had a helper. I was out there with my shovel. My almost-4-year-old daughter, Jo, joined me with her plastic sandbox shovel.
She didn’t want to get her princess dress too dirty, but she beamed when she told me: “I’m helping.”
I’ll likely spend the winter planning my next gardening phase on graph paper.
Next year, I will have to train Jo to help pull the Bermuda grass.