The Gardens - In the Beginning

Monday, October 1, 2012

Confessions of a Gardening Misfit

 takes moxie to be an activist, to be ostracized, to be alone in one's way of thinking, and to be without the support of the community.  I grew up shy.  Any opinions I had stayed inside my head.  If my opinions were disagreeable, I suffered.  If I had no opinions I was always 'loved'.  How does a wallflower peel herself off that wall of indifference, and plant herself out there like a lighthouse beacon for a cause she embraces?  I haven't a clue.  It just happened, but it happened way late in my life.  The generic version of myself is long gone, and not everyone out there terrifically likes me; but, in my opinion, life's much better this way.   

"Hey, you!  Just had to stop and let you know how much I like your gardens."  I smile with a warmed heart, and take a break to answer the questions of curiosity.  Fifteen years ago I never thought I would ever hear these words being spoken my way.  The usual was more in the direction of "Why don't you just cut all that messy crap down..."  Never perfecting the art of being a toughed skinned person, yard work by the street was the least favorite of my places to be.

Once I had to prepare, with the help of a state arborist friend, to go to environmental court; but my panic slowly eased as that complaint eventually evaporated into thin air.  It was news to me that there was even such a place as an environmental court.  I felt like I was surrounded by totalitarian politics, and if I didn't find a way to fit in, my way of gardening on my own property was going to be squashed out of existence.  I had to fight back.  A feeling of helplessness, and the fear that feeling created was then an annoying part of my life.

The knowledge that the city could have my yard mowed flat and send me the bill was an eye opener.  I was at the mercy of others with the property that was supposed to be mine.  The health department gave me a once over.  It was acknowledged that everything looked like it was put where it was by wasn't just a mess of weeds; so at a loss to tell me what to do to appease any complaints, 'too much vegetation' was written on the paperwork, and I was advised to cut down the coneflower seed heads come winter.  Of course, I didn't.     

Dealing with prejudice is a hard road to travel.  I was beginning to realize the power of the belief that nature is not a partner with man in the city, and that I was perceived as sleeping with the enemy when I brought it into my yard.  In order to neutralize the fear people felt when threatened by a different way of thinking other than their own, I had to change the concept of my gardens.  I had to spend money I really couldn't afford to part with to fill the grounds with rock pathways, sculptures, arbors, trellises, benches, and a little fluff of exotic flowers to fit in with the neighborhood that was filled with yards that looked like nothing but scalped lawns. 

I had to become a little city park, so a little city park I became.  I had to create the persona that I was in control of my universe...not nature, so I did.  I eventually was the recipient of a nicer yell-it-out-the-car-window phrase, when two teenagers driving by yelled "ouch!  OUCH!!! You're killing me" as I was pruning some shrubs.  Priceless.


I didn't become an activist for the natural landscaping movement, because I wanted to force others to garden a certain way; I became an activist for the natural landscaping movement , because I didn't want others forcing me to garden a certain way...but, if you really are a native plant gardener, YOU ROCK!


  1. Well, you know I could almost have written your words...except I don't do much gardening. I used to have such a green thumb. I really do not get why almost everything I touch shrivels up and dies on me. Once we get a fence around our yard, I plan to do more though.

  2. I happen to think green lawns is a waste of good space for other plants. Of course, our subdivision does not seem to believe that but I have hopes that our plan of tearing up the front lawn to replace with plants will be approved. You are an inspiration!


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