Tom says I can write for you today. (And you thought Tom liked you.) I’ve chosen for my topic the feeling we call disappointment, which, I have noticed, is much-neglected in the Gardening Literature.
You simply won’t find chapters called “Begonia Varieties That Never Fail to Fail” or “Try This Utterly Hopeless Border Plan.” But while books and magazines do not mention the feeling of garden disappointment it is jolly well there in our experiences, and I would bet a cookie it’s there at least once a season or --in places-- once a day.
We all have truly lovely visionary ideas about our garden efforts. And small wonder, with all the gorgeous magazines and seed catalogs and books and rich relatives and liars out there. Not that I am bitter! I am simply laying out the terrain we must travel as gardeners, now and then.
Let us just, for a random example, delve into another as yet unprinted chapter, “Sunflowers for Dazzling Summer Disappointment.” Boy could I write that one.
Because the truth is, as a serious and devoted gardener you can knock yourself out to do everything right… You can buy fresh seeds, you can germinate them in the greenhouse, you can plant them out BEFORE they have secondary leaves which is to say BEFORE the miserable tap root has shot down 20 feet to the water supply, you can put them in the only sunny exposure left in the garden, you can water, mulch, pray (isn’t that a book title: Water Mulch Pray?) and STILL end up with short, deformed, one-bloomed, bird-eaten, bent-over sunflowers. It is at that point when you experience at least a minor feeling of Disappointment.
There are gardeners out there who will tell you that their gardens bring them joy, great joy, and only joy, always always always. But those people are, as the politicians say, disingenuous. Because every garden eventually suffers “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…”
We just have to tell ourselves not to care that the cantaloupe vine had no fruit, or that the deer ate the roses down to sticks while the raccoon took the one ripe tomato. Or even that the “mixed-color” asters grown from seed ALL produced blooms that were hot pink. Just breathe in the fresh outdoor air (what is that farmer across there spraying, it smells terrible --is it herbicide? is it drifting toward my beautiful lettuce?) and be thankful that you have that one bed full of mint plants growing, bigger every year, but very dependable and probably they won’t reach the house for maybe two more summers…
Then be comforted that soon it will be lovely fall, and time to collect seeds and cut away the dead stems and divide some of the perennials, and then to watch for the beautiful new garden catalogs in the mail. I am honestly getting excited about planning for next year’s beds. Why is that? Because, for better or worse, disappointment is nowhere near as powerful as a gardener’s creative, happy hope.
I've started a collection of these posts over on The Guest Bed page, so to get Sophie (@tastebudgardens) take on Love, click here and keep an eye out for the next installment...