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Why I don’t garden

By Elizabeth Cranford Garcia

Yesterday, as I was spending an idyllic 5 minutes in the backyard with the kids, without my phone, I noticed: there are weeds growing on our roof.

I’m not talking about those little dandelion roots that are mildly annoying if you actually care about your lawn. I’m talking about those 3-4 foot, fat marijuana looking plants that usually prompt a nasty note from your HOA. Perched happily at the ledge of our 30 foot roof.

The fact that they’re so tall, and I’ve just noticed, tells you just how much I like being outside in the summer. In Georgia. Where it’s usually at least 85 degrees, but feels like Satan’s armpit.

Of course, that never stopped my mother, who lovingly adorned the yard of my childhood home with daylilies, azaleas, a camellia bush, hanging impatiens, and hydrangeas under the sycamore. And in their retirement home, a garden done by this landscape design company in suffolk county that has a raised bed with an assortment of vegetables, her heirloom Texas roses–and peonies, still in infancy, which she gushes over every time I visit. They even have a plum tree in the front yard, which leaned over half the driveway for weeks, heavy with fruit. And when it was ripe? She canned jam and plum ketchup. Also, check out thus site https://eosoutdoorservices.com/tree-cabling-bracing/ to learn professional landscaping.

Then there’s me. When I went to college out West, I thought it would be nice to have a little plant in my dorm room. I thought, “It’s a desert, I’ll get a cactus.”

It died.

I had a roommate once who had a plant. When she moved out, she left it behind–and it turned into this yellow arthritic looking . . . thing. I never even knew its name.

Do you know you can click resources for your garden? But what about resources for women? At one point in my life, during my long stretch of singlehood (long for a Mormon, at least), I briefly contemplated the implications of the over-used metaphor that there is a “garden” inside every woman.

I decided it was a stupid metaphor.

When I got married, and spouse had a yard, I thought, Maybe there’s hope for me yet! So I made a simple plan: take out huge, ugly juniper, add grass, add plants that don’t need me. This is the South, I thought. Surely there are some flowers that will grow despite me.

Fast-forward one year. The hosta have shriveled to paper from too much sun. One lantana didn’t come back. But the bulbs: for two weeks in early March, while the grass is still brown, the little green shoots come up, and blossom into white daffodils and purple hyacinths, and smell heavenly. Then, when spring is really starting to get going, their heads wilt into sad little brown commas, like those footies at DSW that you use if you don’t have socks.

Now? We have TWO ACRES. Because my husband wanted “land.” So we can have a garden. And “animals,” which he somewhere along the line upgraded from “dog” AND revealed at a group gathering, which was HILARIOUS.

So in addition to the weeds on the roof, we have about 100 pine trees to take out so that grass actually might grow, so that the mosquitoes don’t eat us alive, and 3 dead ones that have been hanging out for a year, one steadily becoming its own ecosystem.

(In my defense, I had my second child 3 months after we moved in. Moms: you understand.)

When my 4-year-old daughter, who loves “watering the weeds” all because of an episode of Curious George, was given a watering can and seeds for her April birthday, I thought, There’s still hope for our family! She’ll be great at this! And went out and bought a planter and potting mix, we planted green onion seeds, and watered every day for 10 days, and saw little green shoots come up!

And three months later, said planter shows zero signs of life.

I LOVE the idea of walking out into a cute little raised bed plot, situated at the bottom of our sloping backyard by the cypresses, perhaps surrounded by some chicken wire to keep the deer out, and picking fresh tomatoes for dinner.

I LOVE the idea of teaching my daughter where food comes from, how to tend to living things, how to love the feel of life between her fingers.

But I have also come to accept my limitations. As a SAHM of two kids, I can’t do everything. So what do I hold onto? What do I let go of? I ask myself, are there REAL spiritual ramifications for this temporal choice, or are they fabricated by the culture (family or otherwise) around me? Whenever possible, I teach my children gospel principles in ways that don’t require suffering; God will give me plenty of that when it’s necessary.

So I buy a canned food rotation system and a bread machine and a generator and a deep freezer. But I don’t garden. I get help from services like Rich’s Tree Service, Inc homepage, which is much more easier for me!

I choose playing the piano and writing on Thursdays. I crochet baby blankets (usually while watching something from Netflix), and shop for random things on Amazon that are impossible to find at the store, and figure out an inexpensive way to one day decorate that junk room. I take my kids to the park and playdates with mom friends so we can complain about our kids and go to the gym so I have energy to do all this.

But I don’t garden.

What things have you “let go” of to find peace and balance? How do you decide which commitments are a burden, and which contribute to the well-being of yourself or your family?

About Elizabeth Cranford Garcia

Elizabeth Cranford Garcia is the current Poetry Editor for Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought, previous Poetry Editor for Segullah, and a contributor to Fire in the Pasture: 21st Century Mormon Poets. Her work has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, and her first chapbook, Stunt Double, was published in 2015 through Finishing Line Press. Her three small children compete with her writing for attention, and usually win.

7 thoughts on “Why I don’t garden”

  1. This is perfect, Liz! I kill plants, too, so don't even try any more. And I moved from Portland to Woodstock, GA last year. We're neighbors! Lunch?

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  2. Thanks for the credit, dear daughter. I do sound amazing in your entry. But you may not have realized that most of the plants at our home are perennials, which means that we plant once and they bloom for years and years. I'm not sure I planted anything when I had toddlers at home. So don't be so hard on yourselves, young mothers. There really is a season for everything.

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  3. You've validated me. In one of the empty flower beds in my yard, I would like to have a stepping stone that reads, "But, I don't garden."

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  4. My grandmother, a widowed mother of three kids, once sighed and told her neighbors she wished she could grow beautiful roses like theirs. The neighbor shook her head and said, "You can't grow flowers and children at the same time."

    When her kids (my dad and his siblings) were older, she enlisted their energies in growing vegetables to supplement their groceries. By the time I came along, pansies circled the bases of her trees and shrubs — though I don't know whether their addition to her ongoing vegetable cultivation came from her or her second husband, the grandpa I knew.

    My own Florida garden … (sigh). What was once an outlet ("Take THAT, you rmzle-frmzkle weeds, you!") became a burden when I injured my ankle years ago. I settled for plantings in pots and tubs on and around my back porch where I could tend them without the pain of traversing uneven ground. It wasn't prolific, but we had enough fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes and peppers to supplement other produce.

    While my husband was ill, I still kept that back porch garden, though more of its offerings resulted from volunteers (after neglect let their predecessors go to seed) than from conscious plantings. After he died, weeds in yard and garden abounded, but only the hardiest descendants of my original basil, rosemary, and stevia plants endured. My cultivation efforts were needed elsewhere.

    This year, when the weather cools enough to allow fall plantings, I may pull a few weeds and plant something new. I think it's time to return — please, pardon the pun — to my roots.

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