“Lot of work.”
“This looks like a full-time job.”
“Did you do all this yourself?”
“How long did it take you to do this?”
Every year during Garden Walk I am deluged with expressions of amazement that I have been able to create such a thing as an urban garden of modest size without being completely overwhelmed with the stress and exhaustion of it all.
Right after Garden Walk, Robin/Bumblebee did an Examiner column in which she notes how the term “gardener” is avoided by many in the marketing side of the industry. Then, there’s Garden Design’s avoidance of it in their new PR (“exterior” design is preferred). The idea seems to be that “gardening” implies long, dirty, sweaty hours, and just doesn’t summon up a very attractive image that might inspire people to spend money on stuff.
I’m trying to think if there was ever a time when I really worked long, hard hours for days at a time in the garden. I honestly don’t think there was. Sure, in the beginning I cleared a lot of plants and weeds out, threw some soil around, but mainly I planted. Then, when (most of) those plants died, I planted more plants. And so on, eventually arriving at an equation where fewer and fewer plants needed to be replaced, and the garden seemed to look closer to “good,” thus lessening the work somewhat. In any case, there’s no way I could spend that kind of time in the garden; I have a very demanding full-time job.
I read descriptions of double-digging with horror; even the top-down approach seemed too much work. There had been successful plantings there before, I figured, so I’d probably be OK, if I added a few bags of manure or compost and mulched well. And, for the most part, I have been. The truth is, I mainly got into gardening so I could make a space for what you see above: relaxation, occasionally with other people, most often by myself. Every weekday, I come home and sit in my garden, snipping or staking now and then. There are bursts of work: bulbs must be planted, roses pruned, wisteria whacked back, weeding, mulching, planting, deadheading … but in the end, for me, a garden will always be a place to be. Not a place to work.
And what it gives me is worth way, way more than the work I have to put into it. It would probably be worth paying someone else to do that work if I couldn’t.