Sunday, May 15, 2016
My mother tells me that I have gardening in my genes. Her grandfather was a gardener at an old estate house famous for its lovely gardens. My dad's parents were both natural gardeners, Italian immigrants for whom it was natural to have a massive backyard garden producing fruits and vegetables for the whole family most of the year. With that lineage, it's natural that my parents were big gardeners, too. I grew up seeing them outside in the garden on weekends, and hearing them comment on plants and flowers. I have a lot of memories of weekend trips to the local nursery. In elementary school, the girl whose family owned the nursery became a friend of mine and it was a treat to go to her house after school where we'd run among the flats of plants and shrubs. That smell of recently-watered soil is a very familiar and comforting smell.
And I want to like gardening, I really do. I love being outside and planting things and watching them grow. But there's a little issue I didn't realize I'd find so discouraging. The soil here isn't soil. It's clay, heavy, dense clay. When you dig a hole in it and fill it with water to soften it for more digging, the water just sits. Overnight even, it just sits. It doesn't drain. It's just...clay.
When I moved into this house, the backyard was an expanse of bare dirt. I'd read the gardening books, and when landscapers came in to put in the first bits, I had them amend the soil and rototill yards and yards of good soil into the dirt that was here. I figured that that would take care of it. And maybe it's better than it would have been if they hadn't done that. But still, it makes for miserable digging.
Which is why I have taken an easy way out: container plants. Pros: nice soil, no clay. And in drought-stricken California, I can water the potted things and not use quite so much water. Cons: they dry out faster. But that just means that I get the pleasant experience of strolling around the garden to do a bit of sprinkling each morning. It's very pleasant.
A few years ago, I put hooks up so I could hang baskets around the edge of the patio. Having flowers there makes me very happy. Last weekend I refreshed the baskets and they look so pretty.
It makes sitting out on the patio quite nice. Last evening my sister and sat and enjoyed chips and quacamole and some very nice sistery chat. Perfect.
And yesterday, I got a window box installed on the window at the front of the house, and I've filled it with pink geraniums and white petunias. I can't wait to see it grow and overflow into a lush colorful spill of color.
Master gardener, I'm not. But I'm happy with my bits of color.