My Imperfect Garden

And my imperfect self.

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY KATE O'HARA

I am just a half-way, fair-weather, wanna-be gardener. There, I’ve said it. My niece, now she has a beautiful garden. But then she does everything beautifully. Me, I plant in the spring when cool weather invites me outside, but neglect it come Florida’s summer, when the air conditioner invites me inside. I get involved in other projects or go off on a long trip. And pests? Deer eat my daylilies, squirrels chew my vegetables, and armadillos plow up my mulch!

And weeds? Well, actually, weeding’s one of my favorite garden chores. Weeding can be a spur-of-the-moment activity (no advance planning!). It doesn’t require a lot of tools. And I can spend as much, or as little, time as I want on the chore.

Oxalis has to be the envy in my life that I keep trying to eradicate. I’ll never get it under control!

But the best part of weeding is that little plot of cleared out, clean, pure garden that it creates. A spot of promise, of hope—a place where a pretty little flower can bloom and bloom and bloom.

There’s something else, too. Maybe it’s because it’s my garden (or because weeding gives me too much time to think?), but the weeds become my faults, my shortcomings. When I pluck those suckers, right by the roots, I feel I just cleaned out a little spot in my life and made a little piece of me that’s good—for the moment, anyway.

Oh, those weeds are a constant challenge. I can keep most of them under control. Even the nutgrass, those pretty little blades of grass instantly popping up. Underneath, all the while, lurk those menacing little nuts that reproduce the minute I pull out the blades overhead. That must be my selfishness, hiding, ready to pop out anytime.

And the woods grass, that fernlike plant that likes to wander over the whole garden, subtly slipping all around before I even notice. It comes out pretty easily, when I get around to finding it and take the time to thoroughly pick it out of the rest of the plants. I guess that’s my short attention span and my habit of jumping from one project to another.

The wild geranium is a piece of cake. I just slip it up by its base, and it comes right up, without much of an argument, right by its roots, as if it knows that it is not supposed to be where it is. That could be my pride, which is used to getting knocked down a notch, fairly regularly by now.

The chamberbitter is a bit more of a challenge. But at least it has the manners to come out gracefully, with a quick tug. It is easy to keep up with. I don’t know why there’s a problem with it.

Hmmph—could that be my habit of judging other people?

Then there are those stalky pink flowers that run all over the garden. They like to tangle themselves with the azaleas, the pine-cone lilies, and the rosemary. I don’t even know their names. But, hey, they are not my fault—a friend gave them to me!

Could they be my tendency to make excuses?

But my worst enemy is that lovely oxalis—the shamrock plant: beautiful leaves, a dainty pink flower, mounds of the most luscious, sweetest plants you ever saw. I think some people even pay money for that demon. I could handle it if it stayed in one place and behaved. But, no, it wants total control of my garden.

The lovely spiderwort weeds, with their pretty blue-purple flowers, came uninvited, but they don’t try to control my garden. But let me tell you about those oxalis. They spread. And spread. And spread. They pop up where the armadillo parts the card-board and newspaper under the pine straw mulch. They lounge right next to behaving plants. They lurk all over the garden, waiting to create a huge oxalis garden of their own.

And try to dig them out! The bulbs hide, deep in the ground, intertwined with the daylily and iris bulbs and the purple coneflower roots. Oh, I can dig them up. But when I finally do manage to get the bulbs out, each one has a million, yes, a whole million, tiny pinpoint seeds that drop down into the dirt. And each one of the million seeds creates a lush oxalis plant of its own.

That weed has to be the envy in my life that I keep trying to eradicate. I’ll never get it under control! Maybe I’ll take a break and look at my neighbor’s flower garden. Sure wish I could make my garden look as lovely as his does. I sure wish I could do everything beautifully like that niece I told you about. Ah, that niece and her perfect life…

I’d better stay home—and try to weed out my oxalis.


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