The grafted cactus is a bewildering but charming touch for Southern Ontario. Zone 5b. Or 6. Or whatever they’re saying our zone is this week.
Yesterday afternoon. I am standing over a table of zucchini transplants contemplating a purchase. This is a yellow variety that looks to have the interesting mottled leaf pattern I like. I am holding a tentative purchase in one hand while I scan the table, holding out for the healthiest looking plant in the bunch. I find one that looks to be just a bit nicer than the one I am currently holding and as I reach to replace the old choice with the new choice a thought suddenly and very unexpectedly enters my mind.
I feel sorry for the plant I am putting back! I am not giving it a home, a nice place to grow and flourish. What if no one buys it? What if it sits on that table for weeks waiting to spread its roots into some good earth and I had lead it on to a sense of false hope during those few fleeting moments that I held it in my hand and now that hope is crushed because I chose something “slightly better.” And what if the plant was just having a bad day? Last night was hard! What if we had some kind of bond, a plant-to-human connection that I tossed away so cavalierly simply because its’ leaves weren’t as large as the other plant’s leaves!
And as I stand there paralyzed with this sudden and completely nut-so guilt, I am struck even deeper by the horror that I have seriously gone over the edge and become the plant version of the crazy cat lady or the sculpturist who believes that the clay speaks to her.
And then it happens again at another store, this time over a lavender plant.
This is how they will look for the next few months — there’s no fighting it. I must have washed my hands about a thousand times in the last week alone. Just as soon as I get them reasonably clean they’re back in the soil again to put in a new plant or fix a little something. I just can’t get with glove-wearing and only force myself to wear them in the street garden. What can I say? I just prefer to feel my hands working through the soil and touching plants, the dirt worn like a badge of honor pressing from underneath my nails.
I’ve long held the belief that there are no green thumbs or black thumbs and that gardening is a process of learning and discovery with no peak or end goal. You can garden like a maniac your entire life and never know everything there is to be known. In fact I would say that the more I learn the less I realize I know. That sounds intimidating but it’s one aspect of this hobby/lifestyle that is most rewarding and optimistic. And knowing that you can’t possibly know everything there is to know should help to take some of the pressure off.
That said, I can say with absolute certainty that all gardeners have their weaknesses — there is always that one plant, that dirty little secret whose riddle just can’t be cracked. Mine used to be radishes. I know exactly how to grow them and if you had asked me I would have been able to explain exactly what they need without flinching. But when it came down to it I grew a pretty awful radish. I wrote about my radish problem in the You Grow Girl book because I wanted people to know that they should not give up on those embarassing failures and that it is sometimes one thing to understand what a plant needs on an intellectual level and another thing to apply that knowledge to a real plant.
And then low and behold, just last year I managed to grow my first crop of good container-grown radishes! And today, for a second year running, I have harvested my first tasty, crisp, not-at-all-woody container-grown radishes of the season. Woot! I’ve come to think that my radish mistake probably came down to my own insanely stubborn insistance on growing a variety that just couldn’t take the extra heat and drought on the deck. Again this was one of those instances where I KNEW what I should have been growing and had even appropriately advised many aspiring radish growers while stubbornly soldiering on in the wrong direction in my own garden.
I was stopped by these tulips while out walking with my camera recently. I love the way the petals have rolled down as the flowers die. Nature sure is neat.