The other day I posted the above image, a photo of the garden as it was at that very moment. I’ve been swinging back and forth lately between satisfaction with the garden’s progress, and frustration with the weather and the feeling of being behind. Or if it’s not that it’s a nagging dissatisfaction that it hasn’t come far enough and is not enough… yet. And then I find joy in a new flowering bulb that emerges, that fresh look that the soil has after it rains, and the relief in finally having laid down a new layer of mulch and I come back full circle to satisfied again.
It was that seesaw of ambivalence that held me back from pressing the post button for a minute before I got over it and let the image go live. Despite my own uncertainty and/or insecurities I am not Better Homes & Gardens and I have never aspired to be. We’ll leave that to those who are better suited to it. I have intentionally rejected that path as a gardener, and thwarted that role as a garden writer for all sorts of reasons, the most basic being that it’s not me. As a result, I feel a commitment to showing my gardens as they are, as never-ending projects that are always in progress. I don’t stage them for photos or wait for that final moment of “doneness” because in truth that moment will never come.
My gardens are working spaces where I grow food, test plants, experiment, and satisfy my botanical whims. The moment the garden feels done is the moment that I dig it all up and start again. When it comes to design, I know that growing in groupings of three or five is more aesthetically pleasing, but I tend to grow only one of many things because that’s either all I need, or because I am saving the space for something else that I must have OMG YES PLEASE! I’ll start gardening the “right way” when I give up on life in the city and move out to that multi-acre farm (never).
Shortly after posting that picture I took a quick look through old photos to remind myself of where the garden was at exactly one year ago. Thank god for photo documentation because when it comes to my work my memory is not always as kind as the truth. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was no garden at this time last year. We had only just returned from Thailand, were thrust back into full throttle producing the last book, and I had to learn how to sleep again like a thirtysomething infant (I know I harp on about this but my god, I will never forget that experience) all the while trying to get some sleep so that I could speak in full sentence on camera for a demo that was being shot. I never did get that sleep and I swear to you I am still catching up a year later.
Somewhere in there I managed to sneak in time to dig up the yard, piece-by-piece, using a shovel and any remaining strength that I had left in my body. As I’ve said before, I’m on the fence about tillers and I was stubbornly determined to do it without a machine. When I have the full picture in my mind and I look back at the photographic evidence and see how far the garden has come in a year, on a non-existant budget, with the labor of just two people… I can’t believe it.
Will this garden be featured in Better Homes & Gardens? Not likely, but since that has never been the goal it’s not exactly a standard worth holding it up against. Is it something to be proud of? Is it enough? Hell, yes!
More on the Evolution of the Orto Garden Thus Far:
- Here’s a shot of the garden midway through May last year. Still a total mess and barely existing as much more than an excavation site. Fortunately there were no bodies. Unfortunately there were no buried riches either.
- The garden timelapse.
- July 2011
- My Agave Collection
- Winter 2011