Monday, May 16, 2011

Guest Post: No Gardening Experience Required

As part of the 2011 Blogathon we're asked to partner with another blogger and swap posts. This year Jackie Dishner of BIKE (a great blog I recommend perusing after reading her post here) shared her thoughts on vicarious gardening.

If you don't garden, I've learned you can still enjoy plants and nature by living vicariously through others' handiwork. That's what I do and have lived to tell about it.

Unlike Joan here, I'm not a green thumb. Not because I haven't tried, but because it's not a priority in my life. My priority has been to enjoy flowers and gardens and fresh mowed grass, but not to get too involved in the maintenance of them. Why? Because I give up too easily. I've lost more plants to under-watering than you'd care to know about. If you're a gardening pro, you'd be mortified with the actual numbers.

Suffice it to say it's like I've totally misinterpreted the word: xeriscape. A popular term in Arizona where I'm from, xeriscaping involves planting trees, shrubs and flowers native to the desert environment; they don't require a lot of water. But "a lot of" is a key phrase. It doesn't mean "none." But that's what I eventually wind up doing. I forget or get sidetracked or just don't water my plants at all.

Even though I have an automatic sprinkling system, I'm still not very good at watering my plants. When that thing broke last year, it took me till this year to call in the expert to fix it. When he arrived a month ago, I was embarrassed to discover the problem was a simple 10-minute fix. I paid him $150 to slap on a new timer and re-set it. That was it! My water was back on. And whatever vegetation was left in my yard could now be salvaged. Maybe. To be honest, only the freebies were left. My grass was now dead. The flowering shrubs were no longer blooming. And the vine that used to crawl up the side of my house by my front door was on her last leaf. The ones that were doing well enough were the plants that came to my yard by seed, carried here by birds, wind, and maybe rain.

Even the six terracotta pots I have lined neatly in a row on top of my front patio wall are empty. I had great intention when I bought them, planting red geraniums inside that bloomed during the latter part of the spring one year. But when they dried out that following summer, I never refilled the pots. It's been four years. So you can see that's why I have to go to my neighbor's house to enjoy the vegetation.

A few doors down lives a woman who lives for gardening. She's outside every day, planting, pruning, potting. Her stuff actually grows and blooms. I step up to her front door to see rosemary off to the side - and I can smell it, too. Her backyard patio is full of iris plants and cacti of all kinds. Tomato vines and chili peppers line the back of her house, and below her fence sit day lilies and an herb garden. The woman grows her own garlic, for goodness sakes. I get mine at the Safeway. In the spring, her front yard is lined with wild daisies. Even her bougainvillea (which you don't do much with at all) looks better than mine. As in, the leaves actually turn pink.

I love to go sit with her in the evening. She'll pour me a glass of red wine and tell me all about the new plants she just bought and where she'll add them. Her patio has nice furniture, fun garden art, and cats. It's a lively place, full of color and conversation. If I were able to garden, if I would take the time, I'd want to model mine after hers.

Alas, that is not my skill. It is not my passionate interest. But I enjoy flowers and gardens and nature enough to know that I can still revel in the beauty. Just not at my house. I live the garden lifestyle vicariously through my neighbor. Luckily for me, she's more than willing to share.

Would you let someone like me come into your garden? If so, what would I see?

Jackie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, writes about art, travel and design and is the author of an Arizona guidebook called Backroads & Byways of Arizona. She blogs at BIKE with Jackie, a self-development site that focuses on helping others turn obstacles into opportunities. For the blogathon this month she's focusing on a theme: joy.


Anjuli said...

I could identify with this post- I too love to admire flowers and gardens. I tend to do the under watering- or over watering- and killing of plants. I've even killed some plants which gardeners will shake their heads and say, "But that plant is very difficult to destroy!" So, yes, I'll simply observe and enjoy others labors!!

I'm glad to find PopcornHomestead again- because I remember from last year's blogathon I learned so much!!

Alexandra said...

The answer to that question, is WHY YES! Would love to have you visit my garden. I am a recent convert to gardening. I find a garden, full of flowers, with bees buzzing and hummingbirds flitting about, brings such peace ... Would have a hard time living in Arizona!

Haley | Girl About the World said...

Like you, I enjoy and appreciate others' gardens, but it's not my forte. I have two window box planters that have gone unfilled since I moved here a few months ago. I spent a summer house-sitting once -- taking care of the house and the dog, no problem. But their huge and beautiful garden? I was so dutiful about watering and caring for it, and I still probably killed half of it. :)

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

Anjuli! I was just thinking of you as I'd spotted your name on the list of bloggers. No worries about gardening. I've killed my share, too, in the same way. It's a miracle perhaps that plants are so patient with us! (FYI, I didn't get to read your book yet as my mom wasn't finished and wouldn't give it up!)

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

Alexandra, you should really check out Great Garden Companions. (It's listed on my sidebar to the right.) It rocked my gardening world, for sure, and I bet you'd enjoy it loads based on your comment.

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

Haley, Like I said to Anjuli we've all got a few dead plants in our past. (I've got a rather neglected flowerbox myself at the moment. Closing the blind now so I can't see it...) Your Plant Charming is still out there, I bet!

Unknown said...

So nice to know I'm not alone. Alexandra, some day I'm coming to Chez Sven. Probably spelled that wrong, but I know I am. And I will see your garden. BTW, you wouldn't have a hard time living in Arizona, you would adapt. We do have some very lovely gardens here. We also have many different climate zones, so there's opportunity to enjoy mountains, springs and forests, as well as this lovely Sonoran Desert and her natural cactus garden.