Thursday, June 02, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow?

By Paula Matter

I’m good at three things and one of them is illegal in 27 states.* So that leaves me with: 1) giving excellent customer service and 2) making people laugh. That second one is still out for a vote by the people who don’t get me. Or maybe the ones who do are simply used to me. Oh, and I can whip up really good White Russians and Creamsicles. (Dammit, Word, that is so how you spell creamsicle. I am not changing it.)

When I want to improve on areas in which I suck, I seek help from the experts.

Since early April I’ve been planning and designing my landscaping. I do this every year, and each year I become a little better. Better at knowing what to plant where and when, better at identifying plants, better at removing what isn’t working. But I’m still not good enough on my own. Time to go to the professionals.

I start by poring over Internet sites where I look at before and after photos. I drool over gardens, decks and patios, Rate My Space. I create a list of the kinds of plants, flowers, shrubs I like.

I walk drive around my neighborhood looking at front yards for ideas. Some are gorgeous gardens, others are plain, and then there are the ones that have too much. Too many plants/shrubs/trees/accessories. I know exactly what to do if it were my yard. That sixth gnome you got there? Pluck. And his little brother and sister, too. Trim that shrub, pull up those weeds, mulch that side. Huh. Funny how I know what to do to fix other people’s yards. (You writers out there know where this is going, don’t you?)

I spent a couple of hours Tuesday morning at my favorite nursery going over my list. Judy, the wonderful gardening expert, told me to bring in more photos of my yard, said I had good taste, and that we’d come up with a good plan. She also told me that I knew more than I thought I did. I’m looking forward to having a nice garden for a change. I’m eager to get digging and planting. A lot of hard work is ahead, and I’m excited.

Gardening, for me, is much like writing. I want to be better at both. I know that I improve the more I garden. I’m told I’m better that I think I am. I know what needs to be pulled out. I know what needs to go in. I ask the right people for help.

On good writing days, I even remember some of this. On bad writing days, I want to go out to the garden and eat worms. Which I have learned are good for gardens.

I’ll be taking before and after garden photos of my progress. Maybe it’ll help keep up my current level of confidence. When I need proof that I’m capable of gardening, I’ll look at the photos.

And when I lose confidence in my writing ability, I’ll look at one of the anthologies I’m in as proof that I can do that, too.

*I made up that number. . . I’ve no idea if it’s still illegal anywhere.


Annette said...

Oh, I'm pretty sure it's illegal in at least that many states. ;-)

Love the comparison of gardening to writing. But in my case, I really hope my writing skills far outweigh my gardening skills. Can you say "brown thumb?"

Joyce said...

Paula, we'll have to compare gardens one of these days! We keep replacing grass and adding gardens. The front yard and a small stretch on a terrace in the back are the only patches of grass we have left.

As for comparing gardening to writing? At least the plants don't argue with me the way my characters do sometimes.

Ramona said...

Paula, I find gardening really therapeutic.

Also, gardeners are generous. I don't know how many plants in my yard are hand-outs from neighbors, or strangers whose gardens I admire while walking by. Just a simple, "What beautiful [name of plant]!" and you walk away with a bundle. I do it, too. I've split so many hostas, irises and succulents with my neighbors, none of us remember who had the original plants.

Of course, no one will stop your car and demand you accept free plants. Just saying. ;-)

PatRemick said...

I liked the comparison, too, but since I have a black thumb, it does make me a bit nervous!! But I get the being excited even though you know there's lots of work ahead!

Jenna said...

I'm with PatR. Don't have the green thumb. Don't enjoy digging in the dirt. I like to look at a nice yard, but beyond that, the garden is hubby's job. And since he likes it, why not, right?

Working Stiffs said...

Annette, I checked and it's still illegal in eleven states! Who knew?

I can definitely say "brown thumb."
But I'm gonna start calling myself a serious gardener and see what happens. My stories started getting pubbed when I became a serious writer.


Working Stiffs said...

Yes, Joyce! Oh, but my plants become unhappy when I neglect them, if I don't treat that right.

Ramona, how about I park my car halfway down the block, then walk up to the yard? That way I can carry more plants away. Just kidding. I think. Gardening is very therapeutic, I agree.

Working Stiffs said...

Pat, yep! We all know how hard writing is, how much work is involved. Lots of times it's worth it.

Jenna, I'm forcing myself to do this 'cause otherwise it won't get done. Much like I'm the only one who can write the stories. It wouldn't make sense to pay someone to write them.

Susan said...

I went about my garden the same way I did writing. Trial and Error.

It took me 6 years to get published.

So rather than do that with my poor flowers I think I'll take your suggestion and consult some experts!


Patg said...

No yard, no garden, yes I can say brown thumb. However, my trees in pots thrive.
Looking at gardens, though, is a fun activity. No not in land neighborhoods, those scare me. No, I walk my moorage and see what everyone does 'on decks'. Always surprises me. I live next door to the head of our landscaping committee and her abilities on land or in pots is unbelievable.
The secret to great potted displays is to pack in large numbers. If you think 4 or 5 will look nice use 8 or 9.
Jenna, I answered you question about Mars in an email to you.

Jenna said...

Got the email, thanks, Pat! And in case anyone else was interested in the answer to why a person can't open a door while looking over her shoulder and talking to another person on Mars... the answer, in a word, is domes. So there.