Rural Living

Gardening 'Quite Contrary'

Further Sagas of the Soil

by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

How does your garden grow?

It doesn’t seem so long ago — two years — that I discovered the joys of gardening. You may recall, I waxed rhapsodically about planting flowers, filled with enthusiasm and hope and wonder.

Please don’t ask me how my garden is doing this year.

The massive snows of last winter kept me happily at home on frozen turf until April. It seemed to be 34 degrees one day, and then 89 degrees the very next.

I was not fooled; although I do love the utter, ironic beauty of daffodils in the snow. I would wait to plant until May.

We actually had some frost and even a freeze or two in early May. I smiled smugly to myself. How many times have I planted herbs or delicate spring flowers, only to find them frozen in surprise some May morning? I would wait until June.

I found myself at a garden shop the last week of May, and was overtaken by the wild impulse to buy, buy, buy. I filled the car with snapdragons and petunias and impatiens and coleus and other wonderfully colorful blooms.

On the way home, I realized I had forgotten to buy potting soil (I no longer call it dirt). No matter; wouldn’t have been room for it in the car, anyway. I’d pick up some the next day.

While shopping at the garden store, I had felt a sore throat coming on. Too much singing, I told myself. By evening, though, I knew singing was not to blame. I had caught “something,” and I knew just where that happened: at our chorale concert. Anytime you put a hundred or more strangers into a room, germs are bound to be passed around. Apparently, I had helped myself to more than a single serving.

The next week or so was a coughing, hacking, sneezing, feverish, exhausted, bleary-eyed blur. I could not even muster the energy to step outside; little Brownie was left on her own — booted out the door to make her business calls in private.

“Hurry back, no dawdling,” I’d wheeze, before closing the door on her furry little behind. “Knock when you’re ready to come inside.”

Each morning or afternoon, I’d take a quick peek out at the flowers waiting to be planted. I’d consider doing a pot or two; then, I’d remember I had no dirt, and no energy to drive to the store and buy some. Besides, it rained every day. They’ll be fine, I told myself.

This morning, I awoke at 6:30, ready to get back into my real life. I think it was the thought of those waiting flowers that urged me from my slumber. I leapt up and, without coffee for the first time in my life, traipsed outside to plant the flowers. I figured I had enough dirt — uh, soil — to make do.

Turns out, I didn’t need much dirt at all. The flowers appeared to be dead. They were droopy and withered and spindly. I felt guilty as all get out.

But I am the eternal optimist. By golly, I got my trowel and my little shovel thing and started digging around. Dead flowers, it turns out, are quite easy to pull from their little plastic containers. I pulled them out, crunched around the bone-dry root systems, and stuffed them into the soil. Then, I nearly drowned them with water. Finally, I wished them all the best, and trooped in for coffee.

Throughout the day, I wandered out to take a look. Twelve hours have passed since my last-ditch effort at last-minute gardening. And believe it or not, most of the flowers appear to be rallying! If some critter doesn’t skulk around out there tonight and lay waste to them (this is what happened last year, if you recall), I think I just might have what I will call my Lazarus Garden in the ground and on its way to glory.

I have not confessed my gross, neglectful sins to my best pal and my sister — both Master Gardeners whose gorgeous places have long since been planted and are flourishing. I figure they’ll learn the truth when they read this.

I was recently asked to become a member of the garden club. I struggled not to laugh out loud, and politely declined. I said that I have too much to do. The real truth, of course, is that I never do much of anything. Until it’s almost too late.


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