I did not grow up gardening. I always joked about my brown thumb. I could never keep a house plant, they always died immediately upon entering my space. I just resigned myself to that idea. (just as I resigned myself to being unable to bake, and am still quite happily resigned to that)
When Tom and I bought our house the yard was very lush and green and needed no gardening other than the paid mow and blow and keeping the hedges in some sort of respectable overgrown order. At one point, however, we had to take out several trees. There was one pine that grew directly in front of our house in a small triangle plot that was among those that had to go. With that tree gone the little triangle looked very sad and I had the idea that maybe, just maybe, I could plant there.
And so I did. Enthusiastically, with great love and joy and no little trepidation.
At first I looked for plants I liked, with no thought to whether there was the proper light or shade or whatever…I just planted. I had to learn that some plants couldn’t live in that plot because of the sun or lack thereof, and so I branched out to pots, and there were pots filled with different shade plants on the front stoops and the back covered porch area. I really loved it. I never had much of a plan other than oh Tom likes Snapdragons and I like Sunflowers and the kid can plant these and that was about as big as my plan ever got. I remember my friends reactions, it was so unlike of me. Supportive and skeptical. My friend Cheri, at a poker game ( which was more my speed) one night laughed hysterically as I described my day “deadheading” plants . The idea that I would use a “tech” term such as deadheading was pretty funny at the time.
I did find myself as the years went by making the plantings a bit purposeful, symmetrical. But the flowers, annuals, were always were switched out based on whim and for how they looked, their colors, the weather,and the ways in which they made me happy. I tried doing some bulb planting one year when I was bequeathed a few iris bulbs from a dear friend who died. I believe I started with 3 bulbs, and by the time I sold my house last year there had to have been 20 Iris that bloomed every year, actually taking up most of the plot and making it hard for me to sprinkle others in. They were Margaret’s Iris and I loved them. ( A weird aside about those Iris, they bloomed purple/blue every year and then one year, there was an orange one and then another…how did that happen? I never googled it or even asked. It is one of those mysteries that I am sure has a logical explanation but I don’t care. I always thought of it as Margaret keeping me on my toes, giving me a giggle.)
Right before my open house last June I attacked the plot, which, except for the Iris, was a mess of neglect and sorrow. I went out and bought a bunch of plants to pot and to plant. The back looked nice, the front porch had some beautiful Hydrangea and the little triangle had blooming Iris and all sorts of other plants….Gerbera Daisy, Ranunculus , Zinnias among whatever I else I could throw in there for random, vibrant, “curb appeal” color. I had thought to make it more sensible for the open house, but I also knew that it was going to be the last time I would plant there and so I just had fun. It looked great and cheery and “staged” the front yard nicely.
And then I moved to my current apartment. I have a little balcony, a place that I can plant a few pots, not a real garden but something. It was a selling point for the place (made up 10 times over for the fact that I have to go downstairs and share a washing machine and dryer!). Anyway, I had brought some pots and some Iris, but then kind of forgot about it. I would sit out there on a hot night and wish for plants but I didn’t have the energy and I also knew they wouldn’t last well in the heat, so I didn’t plant anything new. I looked forward to planting some pots in the spring, and hoped the Iris would bloom (that’s not looking good, just not enough sun for them. Sorry Margaret!)
Spring is here now and the other day I went to Target and bought some potting soil. I also stopped at the gardening center and bought a few plants, some that I know from experience would do well in the shade. I used this time as my “artist date” for my work in The Artist Way, the 12 week program I am still doing diligently (haven’t written much about it…gotta say it’s good and interesting but a little meh..).
Here’s the thing I wanted to write about. And yes, it’s grief again, but it’s a bit different.
As I walked through Target and into the gardening section, past all of the patio furniture and the pots and the things needed for planting I just got so sad. Crying sad. The crying in public sad, where you bite your lip and breathe hard and tear up but do not allow the deep sobs to come because WTF would that mean? I pictured my triangle. I pictured all the pots I left behind with my dear neighbor Carole, that I hope she’s using. I pictured the Iris bulbs blooming in the little plot of earth for someone else, and those on my balcony that are not getting enough sun and will certainly never bloom. I pictured my back patio and the pots lined up with Impatiens and Begonias and how sweet it was to look out the back window while sitting at my table . I remembered the way I felt after planting, which was generally the need for 4 advils and a heating pad, but I didn’t care, not at all, not a whit. Because…. my triangle, my pots, my planting, my little beauty. And it made me really sad and made me miss my house and the way I had learned to plant there.
The thing I didn’t think of? Tom, our life, what I lost there. Obviously I think of that plenty, but this was another loss…a loss of the years that it was MY house only, MY garden only. I missed MY house, not ours. I missed My garden and my space to plant.
It felt like some kind of shift, or at least another way of looking at things. I lived in that house for almost 22 years, but only 14 with Tom. While that is a chilling thought it also allows me to miss my house. A place I hated for a long time, was so sad in, drank away demons in and ignored a lot…but it was mine. And I do miss it.
Especially my triangle, my experiment in gardening, my little plot of land that really was all mine, even when it was ours.
And now I am off to find some more plants. The Begonia and Impatiens are lovely, but the balcony definitely needs some Hydrangea. Not “the balcony”. My balcony, my new triangle garden.