Gardening by the Braille Method

Today I did a short tour of my front yard, and like God resting after seven days, I was well pleased. 

I gave up gardening–or more properly, landscaping–in 2003, after a very unfortunate encounter with fire ants.  I can’t avoid fire ants, but I can avoid gardening.  At the time of the unfortunate encounter, I was transplanting a bamboo plant (the clumping kind, not the running kind).  I know better than to saddle my neighbors with an unwanted bamboo forest.  But the neighbors, or at least the neighbor’s house, was kind of the problem.  I wanted something to screen my side door from their back door.  I did a lot of research to figure out how to do that best.  Now, almost eight years later, the bamboo is doing its job.  It has lovely close-growing canes which provide a screen, and its upper leafy sections provide shade for the driveway where I park my car.  Bonus points for me. 

At the time, I was entirely aggravated at giving up gardening.  I could have kept it up with certain precautions.  I tried that for a while, but it was too much trouble and I was too scared, also.  But the Law of Unintended Consequences means that sometimes the outcome is bad, but sometimes it’s good.  In this case, it means that I’ve left things alone for a long while and they have grown and matured and filled out and filled their space the way they should.  I’m no longer so driven to fill in that space that looks too empty to me.  Now I can just admire what’s there, and say, “I planted that!”

Back when I was in a fever of gardening, I really hated winter even more than I always have, because in winter, you can’t plant anything.  I would use the time to make elaborate plans about how I would transform this or that area.  I’d make lists and diagrams, and research plants and have a grand scheme for spring. 

And then there was reality.  I would go to Home Depot or Tallahassee Nurseries (which is like an amusement park for gardeners) and say, I want one of those!  Then I would get home and say, Hmmm.  Where am I going to put it?  Also there were the ill-fated houseplant experiments.  I would THINK I wanted some indoor live decoration, but inevitably I would say, I wonder if this could live outside?  Usual answer:  No.  With houseplants, I’m like some people are with dogs.  You’re too big now, I’m tired of feeding and watering you, so out you go.  Sink or swim.  Needless to say, that works about as well as it does with dogs. 

But in at least one case, it turned out to be a Good Idea. My Chinese fan palm:This one seems to be growing in a cardboard file forest, but mine is outside under a tree, and has been for years now. 

My real purpose for the tour today was to check on how the gardenia is progressing, and whether it’s time to take a picture yet.  It’s blooming, but it’s about to explode.  The gardenia bush is next to the leatherleaf mahonia, which still has its gorgeous blue berries.  The mahonia is next to the fatsia, which is next to the odd variety of crepe myrtle I have.   (Note to self:  don’t forget that July is coming, when the banana spiders will string their webs from the crepe myrtle to the nearest pine.  Then it will be dangerous to do yard tours.)

Around the eastside corner from the front yard, the split-leaf philodendrons have recovered marvelously from their winter freeze, and the butterfly ginger plants have sprouted. 

Back to the front:  I have a sort of hillock with a giant pine tree in the front.  Some years ago, I removed all the grass there, put down landscape cloth, and planted pink jasmine.  This did not turn out to be one of my Good Ideas.  After a slow start, which included fighting the then-Yard-Guys, who kept cutting it down, it has become weedlike and strangles everything in its path.  Surviving so far are a few daffodils, one heirloom lily, and eight Gloriosa lilies (which started with two bulbs).

And then there is the west side of the front of the house, where…stuff is missing.  I’m beginning to feel that itch to DO SOMETHING.  Fire ants be damned. 

But to sum up…my yard is lush.  In some cases, perhaps too lush.  It has something to commemorate every season.  And I made that.  My working theory was, I may have to live in suburbia for several reasons, but I don’t have to look like it.  Not withstanding a few mistakes here and there, I am…well pleased.

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