The Unruly Gardener Conveys Information

As unusual as it is for me to stick with a resolution for more than one day, here I am again, toiling away at the “20 Types of Blog Posts” listed in some guy’s blog post. Tedium may ensue. You’d better hope things really start popping outside now that spring has officially arrived. (Or is that tomorrow?)Blog Post Type #2: Informational

You are now reading words typed out by someone who claims to be a gardener but whoDSC_0106 does not know for sure whether March 20th is the first day of spring. At least, I think it’s March 20th. Proceed at your own risk.

If I could convey any information to you today, it would be this: it is a beautiful day in central Texas – blue sky, warm sun, a breeze that is cheerful without being maniacal. The air around most of the trees is that hazy green that signals new leaves unfurling. Around here we have to enjoy that quickly, because it seems like everything goes fully foliated overnight.

Although some of the residents of the sidewalk garden continue to appear quite sincerely dead, and although I like to tell people that hope is the plutonium of relationships, I refuse to give up on them. I also struggle to avoid feeling envious of neighbors’ trees that are making enthusiastic comebacks.

Patience is not generally one of the top characteristics of Unruly Gardeners. If we were patient, we would color between the lines and grow things like bonsai. It takes all the restraint I can muster to wait another few days before hacking away at the poor seemingly dead members of the foliage family. I’m thinking now of the pomegranate in the sidewalk garden. Still, hope.

Other, more resilient residents have begun to create small green leaves, which is encouraging. I especially celebrate the ones appearing at the bases of the native lantana, because those plants even planted themselves in our landscape. It is one of the main tenets of Unruly Gardening that the less work we have to do to make the world beautiful, the better.

Oh, but information. What does everyone who aspires to Unruly Gardening need to know?

1.) Perfectionism has no place in the Unruly Garden. I know a woman who will spend an entire weekend on her hands and knees weeding, in the vain but persistent hope that she will achieve a perfectly weedless lawn.

How many things are wrong with that? First of all, what is she doing with a lawn? Then there’s the problem with spending a weekend in pitched battle with weeds. While it’s true that even native and well-adapted gardens need weeding, I just cannot see theWhat's Up? June. obsession with perfection.

Let’s all face it: the weeds will be back tomorrow. But look at it this way: some of them might be wildflowers. Some of them will launch a takeover of your patio.

I prefer a more zen approach, weeding a small area at a time so that I can immerse myself in the blankness of the task. I can think or not think, sing or not sing, take time out to have some fetch with Travis or just encourage him to lie in the shade.

An Unruly Garden will never be perfectly weed-free, or perfect in any way. Perfection is a wrong-headed goal.

2. There are good garden implements and garden implements whose degree of nefariousness cannot adequately be expressed in polite language. The Unruly Gardener will perforce be in possession of both at any given time, with the predictable outcome of occasional bursts of profanity. Parents may wish to keep their children at some distance when the Unruly Gardener is grappling with the hose, for example.

One of my favorite characteristics of a native central Texas landscapeDSC_0031 is its low water requirement. Once plants are established, many are highly drought-tolerant. Some, like agave and cactus, are literally drought-demanding.

This is good because hoses are the true enemy of all gardeners. In fact I have been trying to re-post a piece I wrote entitled “I Hate Hoses Most of All,” but since the task is beyond my technical ability, you’ll just have to trust me when I say it was a pretty good little piece. Besides, anyone who has ever had to deal with the snagging, kinking, leaking, face-spraying, plant-smashing tendencies of hoses knows exactly what I’m talking about here.

And don’t get me started on garden clippers of any kind. The tiny ones inevitably have one evil trait or another: some lock shut with a little loop-and-hook arrangement that loves to lock itself mid-clip. Others have spring mechanisms that delight in pinching innocent fingers. Many are so efficiently sharp and pointy that you can both slice and stab yourself with them.

Larger clippers have their own bad habits. For example, they love to stick shut. Clippers that fail to spring open when you stop squeezing are not clippers, they are scissors. Clipper blades also refuse to stay reasonably sharp for any stretch of time. I could go on, but the very topic gives me a headache. I like to punish recalcitrant clippers by sallying forth into the yard with a pair of kitchen shears. Anything that can cut through bones can do most of what I need to do short of the jobs that require loppers or the saws-all.

The best I can offer is, remember the #1 Rule of Shopping: Expensive Is Better. Go for the highest quality implements you can afford, and try to express your Unruly Self in ways other than leaving your garden tools outside in the rain.

Except for hoses, of course. Those I prefer to leave out at the curb in hopes that they will be stolen. They never are.

3. As my friend Mary used to say – especially in her bygone roses era – A garden will break your heart. I hate that this is true, but it is unavoidable. Bugs thrive, plants die, freezes kill, DSC_0006badly-thrown footballs smash tender stems. A couple of years ago Floyd was playing chase with Travis in the side yard and he plunged headlong through a holly and literally headlong into the side of the house. I do not like to have to confess that my first reaction was annoyance about a broken shrub, but such is life with an Unruly Gardener.

We live in a neighborhood alongside an extensive greenbelt, so visits from deer and other creatures are to be expected. While many of our plants are touted as being “deer resistant,” I don’t lose much sleep over it because they don’t visit our yard all that often. Every now and again, however, I’ll walk out of a morning and find rosebuds chomped off, or Texas hibiscus buds gone suddenly missing. Last week it was some tender new daylily greenery.

However, elsewhere in our neighborhood it isn’t all that unusual to walk out and find a rattlesnake coiled on the porch. Makes me hesitate to complain too much about the occasional deer.

Wherever you live on this planet, nature sucks. Live with it.

4. Do not be a slave to your landscape plants; it is not the Unruly way. I don’t go with that sing to them nonsense. I don’t play Mozart to them. One of the reasons why I am terrible at growing food is that I prefer to plant things and forget them. I don’t care to argue with insects for my food. I feel I should be the only high-maintenance creature at our address.

In general, I like to prepare the soil reasonably well, plop plants into DSC_0031nice cozy holes, pat them in well to eliminate air pockets around the roots, and give them a nice gentle slow drink of water to get started. At that point I wish them well and remind them firmly, You can be easily replaced.

5. An Unruly Gardener’s fingernails are perpetually dirty and ragged, her or his hands frequently compost-stained. This is partly because Unruly Gardeners do not always slow down enough to pull on their gloves, which in turn is partly because garden gloves quickly reach a point in the growing season at which they smell like something has died in them.

Look at it this way: all the money you save on manicures can be spent at the nursery. ‘Nuff said.

6. It seems as good a time as any to impart this information: whichever day it happened, spring arrived. I started this post two days ago, and it’s only being finished now. My next post will fill you in on what I’ve been up to, but from now until Thanksgiving, timelines will be determined by the weather.

When spring arrives, Unruly Gardeners aren’t indoors typing.

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