I remember the sound of gravel groaning underneath my Doc Martins as I dawdled behind my mom. Whether the lady was getting something or not, she enjoyed walking aimlessly up and down the aisles of nurseries. Sometimes we would roam around some stranger’s yard who was selling an abundance of fresh blooms in reused plastic containers and milk jugs. Those I’d like to call the “underground” nurseries. Unknown nurseries except to those who were on the lookout for other enthusiasts, specifically in the PennySaver. I remember how she would stand in the aisle with her curled index finger on her chin, hemming and hawing over a flower. I knew then I should set my expectations low and consider this trip was going to be an extensive one. At times, my mom would casually lean over me and point out to a flower and explain their properties to me. I learned what annuals and perennials were before I knew how to add and subtract properly.
I remember in the beginning, our yard was pure crap. I mean the crappiest. My mom worked hard in her “garden” that was inclusive of the entire perimeter of our house. Planting anything was a challenge. We lived on undeveloped horse land that consisted of rock hard, compact clay, everywhere. If anything grew, it was foxtails and tumbleweeds. Every summer the Fire Marshall would site our property and we were required to have our land cleared from fire hazards. There was no watering system except for the four hose outlets coming out of the ground, in four inconvenient places. My mom frequently asked me to help dig whenever she had to plant something that required a depth of 12” and a diameter of 24.” With a deep sigh, I’d lean on the warped wooden handle of my shovel, and listen to the lady talk on and on about her newest find, or her current idea for the yard as she poured potting mix into the hole. She was determined to make something of her “Tara.” Eventually, each of us slowly got wrapped up in her ideas.
Her plants came and went multiple times throughout the years, and yet she held strong to her belief of attaining an ultimate rose garden. Her ideas were highly influenced by clippings she kept from numerous sources, specifically from Better Homes and Gardens. She would save these pictures and articles of inspiration in her pink binder that had a glossy picture of a yellow rose on the cover. If any of us argued that her newest idea would take a lot of time, she would chime in brightly, “I’ve got time.” Completed with a look that said, “I’m not going anywhere soon.” By this time, I’m in 7th grade, and my entire family was involved in her master plan. My older brother and I spent a couple weeks digging out tiers on the side, of that rock hard slope, so mom could plant her heart's desire of rows upon rows of roses. Next to this, my dad, not a craftsman by trade, built her a wooden arch that she wanted for so long. It took all four of us to set that bulky, 8’ tall arch down into the ground, only after a few obscene words were said under our breaths. By the time I went off to college, my mom successfully grew a glorious trumpet flower on one side and a climbing rose on the other. Her vision was coming to life, and silently, we were just as pleased as she was.
The first year and half of creating a small, dedicated butterfly garden in my own house, was difficult. A plant can bloom one day and then die and give you the middle finger in the same week. I can work so hard, and sweat so good in my garden, and have nothing to show for it. I also didn’t realize how much more involved a garden was, rather than having someone tell me what to do and where to dig. To fly solo rolls in this combination of liberation and the gnawing burden of self doubt. Did I prepare the soil well enough to drain? Did I separate the herbs far enough from each other? Did I mix the right ratio of water to fertilizer? I always ask myself a ton of preparatory questions so I can have a plan for the setback. However, when a delphinium dies when I thought I exhausted every option, I am reminded that I can only fully control my perspective. I’ve always wanted an English garden, complete with a fully blooming rose arch. In my mind, I cling to this image of what I want my end result to be. I learned from my mom’s crappy yard, there is more than one path to create a fulfilling garden. It just needs a bit more work before I get there.
- Melanie Dyogi