A Garden Blog About Saying Goodbye

I'm a gardener in Chicago, IL, and I'm leaving my garden behind at the end of the year - The Last Garden is about my garden's final year. Share & Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The February Philosophy Post

The pace of life in a garden flows like water. You don't realize how slow and elegant the procession is until it's abruptly interrupted. How's that for philosophy?

Like apparently many people, I started this blog without knowing where exactly it was going. All I knew was that it felt like the right thing to do for this year, and that I'd figure it out along the way. Well, I think I've figured it out, at least a little bit.

I want this blog to be a record of my garden's last year, but I also want it to be two other things, but hopefully not more. I'd like to keep a record of my knowledge and of my thoughts here, because, as the saying goes, "Use it or lose it," and I won't be getting the opportunity to use it, so I figure I better store it at least. Even if I'm never able to garden again after this year.... (Oh wow, that's a terrifying though, there.) ...At least other people will be able to draw from my knowledge here, if they feel like it. Can't have too much obscure minutiae floating around the internet, I always say.

At the same time, this is The Last Garden, and the intent behind this blog - to say goodbye - remains unfulfilled. I've noticed that I don't want to be injecting my melancholy realizations that "Oh, I'll probably never prune this Philadelphus ever again" and "I'm going to have to leave some of my houseplants behind" into regular old advice about how to do X, Y, and Z in the garden. So, after a four paragraph introduction, I give you...

The February Philosophy Post

I'll have one around the turn of every month. It'll be sad. It may even be pointless! But I'm going to do it anyway. I'll be talking about my feelings (ick), the seasons, my plans, and if the weather complies I'll even talk about plants.

This month, though, I'm planning. During that awesome thaw we had a couple weeks ago, I wandered around the garden and looked at stuff. I had some realizations. My icky feelings have turned 'round and realized that yes, I won't be around to deadhead, and divide, and mulch and plant and generally fiddle around with the garden. Only with phenomenal effort and motivation could anyone take over this garden and all those duties right off the bat. I now hold out no hope that such effort and motivation will spontaneously emerge. Therefore, I'm going to have to make this garden easier to care for.

I'm going to have to get rid of my plants.

Well, a lot of them. I'll leave a little bed for people to plant annuals if they want, and I'm leaving the peonies and irises since they can take care of themselves, but the roses need to go. The asters need to go. My collection of Dianthus will be halved, at least (also it will no longer be my collection of Dianthus, wow). No one will be saving seed and continuing my strains of annual poppies, zinnias and love-in-a-mist.

I'm going to try and explain all this to the lay person, now. It's a hard thing to do, but I'll try. At least part of these feelings are just materialism. These plants are, in some part, stuff that has been mine and won't be much longer. Much like a small child, I am saddened and angered by this prospect. At the same time, there's a large degree of anthropomorphism here. These plants are living beings that I've known for years, in many cases, and some I've nursed back from the brink of death and grown from the time they were only little tiny things with itty bitty monocotyledons. I learned to love science partly through these plants, and I know their personal histories better than I know those of many of my friends. That probably means I have a problem, but the fact remains. I know these plants, I've learned a lot from them, and I'll miss them. There's probably a less-misanthropic way to put it, but for now it's the best explanation I have.

Anyway, it's all going to go away. My tentative decision is that I'm going to take out most of the perennials and give them away to the gardeners I know. They won't know the plants, but they'll want to know them, at least. (Dang, this is getting creepier by the sentence. Lay people, I promise, most gardeners aren't sociopaths! Promise!) The flowerbeds will be replaced by shrubs, and I think they will be easier for non-gardeners to manage. I'll just have to give a pruning demonstration.

Well, I get the feeling that this is becoming a long and rambling kind of post, but hang in there, here's some more! Just a little bit. You can leave now, if you really want. This part is about everyday life, and we all get enough of that, don't we?

February and March are both months of anticipation. In February we almost always have a hint of thaw - just a couple of days spent at 40ºF weather - that lifts our spirits (yes, a cold grey winter is depressing - who knew?) and injects some excitement into our lives. February is part hope and part monotony.

Glorious rime-encrusted Geum! Also, the header image for March.
March 17, 2010.

March, in contrast, always seems disappointing. It should be over now, right? We're done with feet and feet of snow! Now we get pretty rime-encrusted lawns and patches of snowdrops and crocuses! Witch-hazels blooming! Yes!

No. Right when it seems that the temperature won't dip below 25ºF again, we get a lingering few inches of snow. Not much, but you still have to shovel it away. The temperature drops, and the snowdrops and crocuses stop in their tracks. It starts to rain sometimes, and then you just get black ice everywhere. Sometimes it floods.

Now, if you think about it this way, the month of March almost always exceeds your expectations! Not always, though. Never expect much from March in Chicago. But we'll get through it - we always do. I'll see you sometime this week with a how-to on repotting African Violets into bowls. 'Til then.

Well, we do eventually get the snowdrops. March 21, 2009.

1 comment:

  1. Giving away plants is a wonderful tribute to all your work. And gardeners will appreciate it. So many of the plants in my garden were acquired this way, and I still think of them like that: Dan's sedum and Lynn's rose, Jack's oregano, May's houseplants.