Monday, August 8, 2011

The Constant (Wannabe) Gardener

I want to be the eccentric old writer who lives in the rambling, ancient house covered in vines blooming with heavy purple flowers and surrounded by gardens covering every square inch of my property. I want to rock on the porch swing and look out over the lush landscape, mildly ordered and carefully unstructured. I want hydrandrea blooms the size of my head, and peonies of every color, and vividly verdant evergreen plants that offer tiny red berries against the white blanket of winter.

All through the spring, summer, and into fall, I want to fill my home with flowers, brilliant pops of color that brighten my mood and my life whenever I look at them. I want my husband to roll his eyes and chuckle when I exclaim over a perfect new rose bush, or declare that a particular bloom has the finest scent ever to touch my nose.

I hope that the neighborhood children peer through the slats of my vine-covered picket fence and make up stories about the strange old couple within. They’ll whisper of walls covered in actual books—the kind you actually have to hold in your hand and turn each and every page—and notebooks filled with the curling, uneven stokes of a type of writing called cursive. Through the swaying branches of the weeping willows standing guard in the front yard, they’ll catch fleeting glimpses of the stately old house. Every now and again I’ll look furtively out the window and swish the drapes closed dramatically, if only to give them further fodder for their gossip.

Behind our house, fountains will gurgle, whirly gigs will turn, and birdhouses adorned with copper roofs and tiny shutters will be home to happy songbirds of every color. Kirk will tinker in the quaint shed out back, biding his time in whatever way that pleases him. Our dogs will sun like lions on the grass, moving every so often to keep up with the slow spin of the earth beneath their lazy bones.

At mealtime, my table will be heavy with the bounty of my gardens. Bright red tomatoes and emerald leaves of lettuce, crisp, cool cucumbers and the sweetest sugar snap peas ever grown will fill our salad bowls, our crisper, and our bellies. Dried herbs will hang from the cupboards while fresh ones crowd my windowsills, their fragrance mingling pleasantly with the fresh flowers filling glass bowls on the kitchen table.

Yes, my future will be filled with gardens, and sunshine, and flowers, and neatly pebbled paths. And in the meantime, I will ignore the sparse, spindly branches of my much-tended tomato plants, forgiving them once again for stubbornly refusing to produce so much as a single tomato. (Yes, somehow this year managed to be even worse than last year, though I wouldn’t have thought it possible). I’ll chalk up the cost of their organic soil and fertilizer to my continued learning experience in how not to grow a garden. I’ll overlook the sagging retaining wall, barren grounds, and wholly uninspired box-hedges and think of how glorious things will be when I finally grow that green thumb.

I would say I don’t know why I try, but I do. I want a garden. I want to look out with pride at the things that I grew. Why nature keeps thwarting me so thoroughly, I can’t imagine. Alas, I can already tell you that I will try again next year (this time with more squirrel-proofing, if the rascally fellows are indeed my saboteurs, as I suspect). And the next year, and the next. I‘m going to keep trying until I succeed, by jove, and when I do, I will shout it from the rooftops that I have at last tamed nature, and have brought food to my table through the sweat of my brow.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to run to the grocery store for the ingredients for today’s recipe.

:) Please tell me I am not the only one who lacks the tomato-growing gene. Have you tried and failed to grow something? If you’ve succeeded, I don’t want to hear from you. All right, you can post, but I will NOT be smiling when I respond, lol. All I have to say is thank goodness for grocery stores, because without them, I’d truly be up a creek!

Below is one of my very favorite recipes, made by my husband from the freshest of ingredients. For now, the veggies are store bought, but someday…

Garden Delight

-2 pounds tomatoes (fresh or canned) chopped

-1 carrot, chopped

-1 stalk celery, chopped

-1 small zucchini, chopped

-1 small squash, chopped

-1 medium onion, chopped

-1 clove garlic, crushed

5 Tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

a few leaves of basil to taste

Place all ingredients together in a large saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes. Puree the sauce in a food processor. I like mine to have a slightly grainy texture so that I have a little something to bite into, but you can puree as smooth as you like. Either serve hot over pasta or cold as a soup. Enjoy!!


  1. I have grown a vegetable garden. Including helping my parents grow tomatoes. Although I've always had more problems growing green peppers.

    At my current house we have chosen not to have a vegy garden. Instead there are roses. And weeds. And crabgrass. Lots of crabgrass this year.

    Happy gardening and may you have little weeds and lots of fruit on the vine.

  2. On the success of growing something ... no, absolutely not. I fail miserable. Not the present tense. I have even managed to kill an 'unkillable' houseplant (or so my mom said when she gave it to me since I'd killed everything else already). :) I am the ungreen thumb. ;)

    Happy gardening! (And cooking!)

  3. All I'm saying is that I'll bring you our semi-famous salsa. ;)

  4. I tried roses too, Beth. Poor, poor things. Now I just leave them be, and am grateful for the 5 o 6 blooms I get each year :) Yep, happiness all about lowing ones expectations, lol!

    And I'll take your wishes, thank you very much :)

  5. Aimee, my ungreen thumb sister! Thank goodness there's another one out there. I will say, however, that I have had exactly ONE plant thrive in my home. I've had it since freshman year of college!! The thing must have the genes of Genghis Khan to have survived all these years of hardship, lol.

  6. Marquita, you are a garden goddess, and I am eternally grateful for your salsa generosity. I will say I am feeling particularly sniffly about my failed garden this year, and may require multiple jars to salve my sadness ;)

  7. Oh, Erin- you really are the sister of my soul, lol! You just described my idea of a PERFECT house. I want it so badly, if I squint hard enough, I can see it. This year my DH built an enclosed garden on our 1/2 acre that houses all kinds of veggies and fruit. It looked so promising this Spring, and I was so excited. We were harvesting pole beans, English peas, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, honey dew and cantaloupe. The tomatoes and broccoli was coming along nicely. And then...summer and mutant wolverine bunnies happened. The heat of summer dried up and killed off what the bunnies didn't destroy. I was so sad I almost cried. We have some nice tomatoes, though... The lavender and rosemary bushes out front are hanging on, so I have hope for next year. :)

  8. Ack! Olivia, that's terrible!! (And eerily like what happened to me last year.) Darn mother nature and her mutant army of veggie eaters! We do at least have a nice basil bush going, so that's something. I may decided to grow mint next year just because I know it will go crazy and make me feel like I've accomplished something, lol.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  9. I love the way you describe that dream for your future...that's my dream too! I'm reading a beautiful book called THE WILD BRAID: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden. It was written when the poet Stanley Kunitz was 98 years old and talks all about what he's learned from gardening his whole life. The main thing is to keep at it! It seems we grow with our gardens as we figure out what (and more often what NOT) to do. Our veggies didn't really make it this year either...but the herbs are very happy, so that's something! Thanks for the perfect summer recipe:)

  10. Erin, this is one of the best posts I have read. I visualized everything as you described your perfect green sanctuary. Your language is so descriptive and full of humor.

    Aunt Char

  11. I'm so glad you liked it, Aunt Char!! Thank you for the kind words. And it is an absolute delight to hear from you, my dear :)