How Does Your Garden Grow?

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row

–Old English nursery rhyme

I would be lying to you all if I let you think for a minute that my garden was all orderly, planned and laid out in neat rows. Not at all. I leave that for folks like my good friend Marsha who is so good at that sort of thing. You know. Raised beds. Compost. The lettuce with the lettuces. And tomatoes in her hothouse (which she and her husband built themselves). You know people like Marsha. You might be one yourself. She once cut willow branches and tucked them in the earth in arches and they sprouted into a lovely fence.

I am not like that at all.

No. My vege garden is a hodgepodge of experimentation. It is patchworked and random and, well, interesting. Oh, I suppose I had some kind of master plan. The flowers are with the flowers (mostly). And the greens do face up to other greens, eventually. But I must confess to hollyhocks bolting among the arugula,
all red and pink volunteers, and who am I to interfere? So in the Flower Row
you will find tall pastel snapdragons; a single magenta cloverlike creation, and a sole marigold that caught my eye at a Farmer’s Market one late morning; and many many, oh so many pansies and violas, which I religiously deadheaded all summer long, and you know how much work that is, don’t you? And hiding within the pansies is a green painted goddess of the moon, a Mexican ceramic creation of which I am fond. She’s quite content to live among the flowers and be watered all the time.

And then a row (oh, I do have proper rows) of tomatoes: five kinds, with basil sandwiched in between. That sounds good, does it not? And then it really honestly deteriorates into kind of a hilly area where four kind of lettuces, two kinds of chard and arugula abound. So much arugula I will never run out, oh lucky me. It’s my greatest vegetable pleasure. And I would be remiss if I did not mention that in the midst of the thickest and tallest growth of arugula has emerged a rose. Volunteer roses I find so unusual. Who would pull one up? So I gingerly skirt its thorns as I harvest my favorite sandwich green, occasionally forgeting and emerging with a scratch or two, but always ultimately deferring.

Then ’round the edges I thought to stick nasturtium seeds, remembering they are good “companion plants”, so those are bordering two sides of the garden,
clambering up what was orginally “puppy fencing”, meant to keep puppies in, and now keeping them out; and the morning glories make the third side (entwined in tomato vines, and neither minds at all). So it’s a happy affair all around.

And the piece de resistance is (ta da) a very large round red clay bowl that holds all my herbs. This foot-deep container lives in the corner of my garden closest to the back steps (see? planning!), so fresh lively parsley, thyme, oregano and cilantro are always readily available. The rosemary lives further away, at the far end of the garden, beyond the enclosing fence, at the end of a long row of California poppies. A reluctant, and yet-to-bloom volunteer hollyhock sidled up to it all summer long, threatening to overshadow it, but we negotiated the space with some sheers, and it didn’t much care.

Pondering, I’d have to think there is some part of me that leans toward obscurity, that there is some safety in not having clean edges where everything is so obvious and orderly. No. I prefer the eclecticism of the unexpected, the random here and there, capturing my imagination. Perhaps this unstructured arrangement also panders to my deep sense of wonder and discovery and to my love of hidden treasures. I’d say likely so. Whatever, the garden remains a constant state of discovery, of creation, a palette that continually changes, not just year to year, but season to season, garden to garden. Within my rich treasure trove of memory the experience compounds beyond what any casual observer might claim to see, for my vision exceeds the obvious and includes the notation that the California poppy row was last year’s tomato row; that this year’s tomato row was last year’s sunflower row; that the arugula now lives in the home of the previous year’s pumpkin row, which is ridiculous in itself because everyone knows a pumpkin doesn’t ever confine itself to any row. And so the experience deepens with each season and the mirror image of that life experience takes root within the life and heart of the gardener, not just the garden. And what has heart and meaning equals joy.

One Response to “How Does Your Garden Grow?”

  1. Tres entertaining!!!

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