Why I gave up gardening

When I was a kid, I found a patch of lady’s slippers growing in the woods.  They looked like fairy shoes, those little pink slippers.  They were the most beautiful flowers I had ever seen.  About the same time, I read The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett and I fell in love with the idea that one day I would have a garden, and it would be magnificent.

I grew up and lived in apartments for a while, so I kept house plants instead.  Now I have a house and a yard.  A good sized yard, in fact.  With lots of trees.  My husband and I began by putting in rhododendron and azaleas and forsythia.  Shortly after that, a gardening friend who was moving gave me clumps of day lilies, lady’s mantle, Japanese irises, shasta daisies, and various herbs: garlic chives, mint, and rosemary.  And it was – if not yet magnificent – at least a lovely start.

Then weeds poked through the wood chips I laid out.  Some were scruffy and sporadic and easy to pull out, but that’s what gardening is about, right?  Being outdoors, getting fresh air and exercise.  I soon found out that there was another kind of weed encroaching on my dream.  It was way more insidious.  Tenacious and woody with roots that spread underground like an alien invasion.  If I didn’t get them soon enough I had to hack the roots apart.  But I persisted.  For several years.  And then, not so much, and the weedy vine took over.  I eventually learned that what our yard was most proficient at producing was Oriental bittersweet, an invasive species that is all but impossible to get rid of short of using napalm.  That was it for me.

Still, throughout this past summer, I occasionally felt pangs of guilt over my poor gone-to-seed garden.  I tried to remember how it used to look.  I think it was because this year I was mostly home-bound without a car, and so many days were sunny and warm.  But, now that October has settled in, and the trees are shedding their leaves all over our lawn, I feel less anxious.  I’m an inside girl, anyways.  There are bugs outside in summer.  And I am fair-skinned and easily burn.

Truth be told, spending time indoors reading, grips my heart more fiercely than the idea of gardening, anyway.  So, when I get a hankering for the serenity of a lovely garden, I will content myself with visiting someone else who is more persistent than myself.

And that will do.

Kensington Gardens in London – perfect example of a far grander garden than mine!

Hostas chewed to nubbins by deer or bunnies. We have wildlife wandering in our yard!

Where my husband likes to park his 1936 Dodge – in the middle of the yard.

Only a couple of stacks of books beside my bed. There are many more stacks in other rooms.

19 thoughts on “Why I gave up gardening

  1. I know my poor uprooted plants gave you their all. Gardening is a tough task mistress, one I threaten to abandon with regularity, but, continue to persist. I have found, though, that as we age, we realize that the most important garden we must tend is that of our own soul. We shed the superfluous chores we took on in younger years and hone the skills of digging the depths of our hearts and watering the flowers of our memories. Don’t mourn the passing of that original garden, rejoice in the appearance of the glorious one that truly is your Secret Garden. Hugs, Mary.


    • A beautiful response, Barb, and so true. Thank you. Incidentally, a few of your plants have hung on, mainly the day lilies and irises. But I have to clear a space around them in order to see them. Every year their persistence in blooming in spite of the damned bittersweet amazes me.


  2. I couldn’t agree more – and you certainly have a perfect excuse. My pile of books is next to the chair in the living room and I am deep into the newest Ann Patchett at the moment.


  3. Last year, I had the brilliant idea of growing all of my own fruit and vegetables & have never been so stressed.. I was working 14 hour days and then coming home to tend to the plants for a couple of hours. I soon realised that a garden is for life, not just for christmas, children!! So this year, I have gone back to buying my fruit and veg from the local market. But at least I can say I came, I saw, I tried it, I went back to the store…..Nice car by the way! 😉


  4. I started gardening by planting on the corner of my lot back in 1995. I gradually increased the number of flower beds in the front of the house over the years and really enjoyed getting out and weeding and planting and looking at the flowers. It was good exercise, and it provided a topic of conversation with people who walked by when I was out there. I got lots of compliments on my flowers.
    This year I stopped and let the whole yard pretty much go to pot. That’s because I have too much arthritis now – can’t push, pull, reach, dig, get up and down, etc. One has to set priorities and now my priorities are self-publishing my books and promoting them. Nobody is going to remember me for the flowers I grew. They might remember me for my writing.


    • I’m sorry about your arthritis, Lorinda. You’d be surprised, though, what people remember someone for. There was a woman in my area who had a pair of stuffed chickens that she kept on a post at the edge of her yard. She dressed them up and changed their clothes to fit the time of year, various holidays, etc. It was fun to drive by her house to see what her chickens were wearing. She died 10 or 12 years ago and I still think about her and the pleasure her chickens gave people.

      Some people will probably remember you for your beautiful flowers, while others will remember you for your books. The best of both!


  5. I. Want. That. Car. We have one kind of like it in or backyard, but it’s a heap o’ rust at this point. I’m pretty sure my last lifetime was in that era, so I’m just dying to have one of those.

    Thankfully our landlord pays some nice ladies to come attend to our garden, because I could definitely not be bothered. I’m not much of a reader of books, but I do prefer to sit around meditating and gazing at people’s soul-colors rather than going outside. And it doesn’t help that it’s been gloomy for days and days here. Oh well. I’m not sorry. 🙂


  6. That car is my husband’s baby. He worked on it for that last 15 years or so to get it looking like that. When he first brought it home it was just a “heap o’ rust.” Do you own the rust bucket in your backyard? Or does it belong to your landlord?

    Reading, for me, is kind of like meditating. I go places that are sooooo wonderful!


    • It is definitely the landlord’s rust bucket. He claims he is going to fix it up, but I’m not convinced. I think it would make a nice planter at this point, though!

      I don’t know what it is about your personality type and reading, but you ALL seem to do it. So interesting. 🙂


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