A list of learnings from the EcoWonder...
5. Don't micro-manage! Those prickly, purplish shrubs I can't stand, refuse to water, whack mercilessly with the trimmers and secretly hope will die? They grow wildly, while the tender loving care I give the lilies, the azalea and the Japanese maple has only succeeded in smothering them into their compost pile grave. Lesson learned - a little water, the appropriately dug hole and mother nature is the best recipe for success.
4. Friends are the best garden center a girl can hope for! My favorite plants, flowers and perennials have been given to me by family, neighbors and friends - not purchased from a market or garden center. The black-eyed Susan's appeared in a plastic bag, dirt, roots and all, underneath my desk in my office, borage seeds were found in my mailbox, a gift from a good friend that I've never met in person, the chili pepper plants tucked into my landscaping that fed us Kung Pao chicken last fall were left over plants that didn't fit into my neighbor's garden. The tens of thousands of white daisies that cover the hill in our backyard were a surprise gift from the homeowners who planted them over 50 years ago.
3. Gloves, gear and gadgets are for sissies! Really, they are. The best gardening I've ever done was with my bare hands, dirt under my fingernails, sweat pouring down my face and a sense of accomplishment like no other. Yes, there are specified dung forks, perennial hoes, aerators, spades and weeding tools, but nothing beats good 'ol elbow grease and determination. I have the rock garden to prove it!
2. Don't even try to force me into a budget! Not my time, not my bank account or even my dedication. While I am more than willing to buy a $3 shirt at the thrift store, I have been known to part with $50 on single tree / shrub / plant at the Farmer's Market, local nursery or farm. I might be too cheap to splurge on highlights at the salon, but when that Japanese Maple is calling my name, I have no will power.
1. A family that gardens together eats together! Each year I swear I won't add any more pots, containers, landscape beds or perennial gardens. And then, my 4-year old begs for more "mato" plant or my 13-year old brings home a fledgling pea plant from science class and I cave. I rush out to the thrift store, pick up yet another mis-matched ceramic container and fill it with compost and soil, water it all summer long and then?
I catch my husband plucking cherry tomatoes off the vine as he pushes the mower back and forth beside the veggie garden containers. My preschooler and I shell peas for our Sunday dinner on the patio. My teenage boys dare each other to eat a jalapeno straight off the plant during their afternoon garden watering chores. We sit down, all six of us in the evening, and eat and talk about how cool it was that just 30 minutes prior our dinner was growing just around the corner from our patio.
I've learned much from my garden, it teaches me something new every day. Hope when I plant something new, sadness when I find my sugar maple lost branches during a wicked winter storm, determination when the rocks are too heavy to haul up the hill and humiliation when I realize my neighbor saw me watering my hanging baskets in my pajamas. You can learn a lot, when you're willing to let your garden teach you.