When I lived in my third-floor walk-up, I had pots of flowers and herbs on the back stairs, and dreamed of a larger garden.

When I lived in my townhouse, I had a plot roughly 10′ by 10′, plus another bit about 4′ by 3′. I crammed in roses, day lilies, Asiatic lilies, a butterfly bush, iris, spring bulb flowers, hostas, and a clematis. I still dreamed of a larger garden that I could divide into “rooms,” each on a different theme.  I also spent a lot of time drowning beetles that liked to eat the roses.

I now have a larger garden, not the huge one I dreamed of, but normal city-lot sized garden. It was very pretty when we bought the house, color-coordinated in shades of purple and white. Iris, hyssop, nicotiana, roses, ornamental thistles (the goldfinches love them), clematis, assorted other hardy flowers and herbs. Including campanula . . . oh, wait a minute.

I now see the point of lawns: they are a low-maintenance way of providing space between you and your neighbors; you can hire someone to come and cut the lawn and trim the shrubbery and you’re done. You do not have to spend hours ripping out creeping bellflower, and then ripping it out again, and again. I found some tiny little lemon balm plants struggling for survival underneath it. I didn’t think there was anything that could choke out lemon balm. Morning glories have spread from somewhere (those tiny little seeds . . . ) and I’m unpicking them from the roses (ouch).

The hostas are holding their own fairly well against the bellflower. I may try to plant a sentinel ring of hostas around the iris and the roses. But I’m now dreaming of a condo with a balcony where I could grow a few flowers and herbs in pots.


4 thoughts on “A garden is a loathsome thing, God wot

  1. Yes, I love having green and flowery space between me and the neighbors, but I spent hours and hours this weekend doing yard work — in particular, fighting an invasive vine that is trying to take over our part of the state. And some people seem to find puttering in a garden soothing, but I always get hot, sweaty, and covered in dirt and then ache for a couple of days afterward.

  2. Ah, well, I installed a “low maintenance” garden and I still can’t keep up. I’ve never had much luck with campanulas, and creeping bellflower is new to me. Anything that can strangle lemon balm is fearsome. I used to have an ongoing battle with Japanese Barberry, which is truly horrendous, and has thorns… that and wild roses were crazy making.

  3. I love looking at gardens, but I am allergic to just about everything. So in addition to the hard work, I don’t like working outside because it makes me snottily miserable. It’s less bad now that I am on four medications to control allergies and asthma, but the last time I mowed the grass, it took me two days before I was breathing normally. I really need to wear a mask to do that work. 😦

    And of course we’re silly and bought a house with a HUGE yard with tons of landscaping and it’s all completely weedy and awful because we don’t have time to take care of it. It really kind of bothers me.

    1. I’m trying to work through the difference between what I want and what we’re supposed to want. The American dream and all that; and expectations of professors (big old house full of books, where you can entertain generations of students); and what my mother wanted for me. Lots of people do want gardens, and of course if you have kids and a dog, a yard is usually a good thing (though allergies shift that equation). Part of what I’m looking at is the idea that “if a little is good, more is better”—but that’s not actually the case. “A little” seems to be just what I want. Or else the “low maintenance” that depends on someone else doing the maintaining, whether that’s us hiring someone, or going to a condo where fees go toward the landscaping. Hiring a mow-and-blow service is a lot cheaper than hiring a gardener who’s going to spend hours on the kind of intensive weeding and trimming that I’m doing now; hence my sudden understanding of lawns, where I always used to hate them as a waste of water.

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