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.


  1. It is possible to design a garden with no more than one day a season worth of maintenance. Or you can design a garden that will take up every waking instant of your life; waking and sleeping.
    BTW; the Dutch and the Belgians are not good gardeners. They are good plantsmen. They have a landscape issue with focal points; the place being a flat as a pancake. This means they have nothing to draw the eye but infinity at the horizon. Which narrows dramatically the flexibility.
    The method for low maintenance gardening is to work with the place you have. This means look at the wild local area near you. See what plants are growing and Ctrl-C it to your place.

    1. small g would fit us as well...lol...the kind where if something lives it is a miracle...and we can run around the yard excited..lol...

    2. Vince: So they tell me. If only I could only press Ctrl-C and voila! No, compared to what the yard was like when we moved in, we have managed to simplify things quite a bit - heather, lavender, rhodos, cedars, all grow fairly easily without much tending from us. This post was more about just not fighting the limitations of my nature.

      Brian: You have gardens upon gardens in your creative poet's imagination - so that has to count for something :)

  2. I'm the smallest font of small g gardener. I really think there is a gene!

  3. Oh Rebecca, you should start a club!! I could be your vice-prsident:) Pretty sure there are more of "us" than "them" though. Aiming for a few pumpkins, zucchini (they tell me EVEN I can gow those), carrots and potatoes. This skill should be in my genes but perhaps, like other genes, it has skipped a generation. Thanks for the smiles!

    1. I think zucchini has the tendency to grow US, they are so prolific. I wonder if we can get an injection of the Big G gardener gene, just for the season :)

  4. There is nothing like having your own garden and watch the vegetables grow.
    We have one.


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!