Saturday, January 5, 2013
Compatible Gardners? TBD
Here's the thing--Teri likes clean lines, symmetry and a great deal of homogeneous order. She loves to weed and clip and prune and cut, leaving piles of clippings and "weeds" in the wake of her industry. This can be a good thing, indeed, an awesome thing, as she removes dead leaves, keeps the bush roses happy, and cultivates the dirt in the garden beds. I respect this and I often appreciate it, but there are those other times when it seems diametrically opposed to my approach.
My gardening has evolved over several decades and I realize that I garden somewhat like I parented--going for health, versatility, diversity and embracing the chaos a bit. I've learned that beds of slightly-crowded, diverse plants suffer less from pests and disease so I mix herbs and vegetables and cottagey flowers like calendula, poppies and nasturtiums in and around everything. They self-seed and crowd out weeds if allowed to establish themselves. I let things go to seed for the good of the order and prune at different times, depending on what's best for the plant instead of what looks best. It's definitely not THE way, it is just A way. I'll transplant and divide before I'd ever just rip up and toss something. Do things have a tendency to get a bit overgrown in my garden world? Yes. Yes, they do.
To me, the whole garden is my little ecosystem play land. Plants gone to seed attract birds, who then nest in our fruit trees and eat bugs. To Teri, plants gone to seed are an eyesore and potential problems--creating more weeding work later on. To me, low-hanging leaves or weak plants that the bugs are eating serve a purpose--giving them something to eat so they will leave the good and healthy plants alone. To Teri, those slug-eaten holes are unattractive and need to be removed! I like the way nasturtiums and calendula have a tendency to spill over bed edges and come up in surprising places while Teri wants things to stay where they are planted or risk brisk removal.
We haven't really figured out our co-creation yet. Teri wants to feel empowered to do what she thinks best and enjoy a good afternoon of tidying and tilling, and I would like to avoid the sinking feeling of panic I get when I come home to find her beaming in her work gloves by a full wheelbarrow. Dollar signs go off in my head when I calculate how much money and time it is going to take to replace those hollyhocks I've grown from seed since last spring. I clench and want to throw myself down, arms spread, to protect my babies from her sharp and ruthless tools. I can only imagine she views the untamed bed as spoiled offspring in need of some sound discipline.
So, we continue our negotiations. I know that it is possible for two gardeners to create together, just as it is possible for two cooks to share a kitchen. It just takes some effort, ongoing communication, and a willingness to give in and let go occasionally. We'll just have to see...