April 13, 2012
Gardening with a Small 'g'
I am what I call a small 'g' gardener living in a town full of Big 'G' gardeners. Agriculture is one of the mainstays of our community and the evidence is to be found in the home gardens, the community gardens and the parks all around me. When we'd first moved here from the wilds of Vancouver Island, I phoned my mother and cried, "Mom, I'm living in a place where everyone seems mainly to care about their lawns being perfect. What am I going to do here?" She assured me I would find my kind, and I did, but in the meantime I had to pull up my socks in the lawncare department. At least it gave me something to do before I found employment.
Just what defines the small 'g' gardener? The small 'g' gardener thrills to see the bulbs she planted haphazardly around the place flowering in March and April, but by mid-April she notices the weeds springing up in the cracks of the driveway and in every bare place in the garden. She focusses on the daffodils and tulip buds and thinks 'success!' But when her Big 'G' gardener friend points out the buttercup and dandelions and says, 'You'd better get to those before they take over,' she sighs, 'I know' before she goes inside and finds something more attractive to do.
The small 'g' gardener loves the idea of gardening. She even likes to work outside in the blossoming fragrant months of April and May, and enjoys picking rhubarb and raspberries in the early hours of sunlit dewy summer mornings. Picking slugs, however? Far less appealing. She is motivated enough to plant and weed the garlic patch and harvest the mint for drying, but it is her husband who babies the raspberry canes which thrive under his care. Working together, the small 'g' gardener and her husband plant their few containers of tomatoes, cucumbers, flowers and herbs on the south facing deck off the kitchen. This is the co-operative gardening she doesn't mind. Left to herself, she's not sure those containers would make their way out of the shed year after year.
The small 'g' gardener wishes, truly, that she cared more. She wishes it meant everything to her to grow her own food, but she has to face facts: unless the produce shop shuts down and the farmers market ceases to exist she will just not see the point. Why grow her own food when all those other people, those Big 'G' gardeners, do it so much better than she ever could? She knows people who, as winter comes to a close, just cannot wait to get their hands in the earth. Somehow the small 'g' gardener has been born without that gene. Every day when she walks her daughter to school she passes the impeccable garden of the Dutch-born couple around the corner. That couple are out there every chance they get, pruning, weeding, planting, mowing, trimming, harvesting, dead-heading, manicuring, and smiling their beautiful Big 'G' gardener smiles. Little 'g' smiles back, eternally humbled but ever admiring their handiwork - because she loves pretty gardens planted with the skill of an artist painting a picture, or an architect designing a cathedral. She reveres people who are born with the enviable green thumb. If gardening had a varsity squad, she'd be its cheerleader. "Go team go!" she'd shout from the sidelines waving her tri-coloured pom-poms. "2,4,6,8, who do we appreciate? Gardeners, gardeners, rah, rah, rah!"
Somehow, however, the enthusiasm of the small 'g' gardener is not enough to turn her thumb from the dullest, quietest shade of green. She simply hasn't got the talent for the big leagues, nor the necessary drive. Small 'g' will carry on, however, keeping up appearances for the sake of peace in the neighbourhood and her own self-respect. She will get out there with her trowel and her weed bucket, her gloves and hat, and wage war on the driveway invaders. She will trim the cedar shrubs and give the boxwoods their biannual haircut. She will plant the front flowerbed with impatiens because the slugs leave those alone and they do look very pretty. She will make somewhat of an effort with the buttercup because, let's face it, they are winning, and water the container garden when needed (although it will be her husband who remembers to water twice on hot days). And she will not hate working in the garden, no, but she will also not absolutely love it.
Such is the fate of the small 'g' gardener. I've learned to live with it.
The photo above is of the last of our 2011 Roma tomatoes. They were quite respectable.
Happy weekend to all you gardeners, big and small.