I don’t garden. Some people love it — my wife does. When we built our present home the concept was that it would be low maintenance so we could leave for extended periods of time if we chose. But you know, that garden just kept growing.
Gardeners are like people who can’t stop getting tattoos: just one more. But I will acknowledge (not to her) that as gardens go, ours if pretty manageable. There is low and slow growing ground cover of various sorts, some huge stands of ornamental grass that grow seven feet or more as the season progresses, and a chaotic wildflower patch with an added row of sunflowers. Most of the things I think of as flowers are in in pots or containers and change over the summer. It’s the newly added raspberry bushes I have concern about. But it’s not my problem — until she leaves to go on a trip.
She did that recently. Before she left she gave the garden the kind of adoring attention she would a child who she was leaving. She watered and trimmed and plucked and left me written instructions about how to take care of it. As I read the instructions I wondered if anyone had invented a Rumba for the garden. You know, those robots that wander the house vacuuming? Well, what about a garden robot that can water and pull weeds?
Seriously though, our property is mostly mulched with a patch of grass smaller than many bedrooms. It is designed to feel lush and slightly random without huge amounts of work (easy for me to say). Back in the day, when we were first married and living in a church-owned house, we had a huge garden. The house sat on an acre or more and my immediate predecessor had developed a garden with rows and rows of vegetables in a plot about the size of half a basketball court. It included a mature patch of slow to cultivate asparagus and even potatoes. Brilliant orange poppies lined one side of the house and even a small bed of wild onions. We were so excited to become gardeners until we were.
I was in my late twenties in my first congregation as the solo pastor. I was ready to work like a dog to grow that little church and I did — both grew it and worked like a dog. A huge garden requires time. My wife was finishing a degree and then beginning a career. We struggled with the garden. Actually, we failed the garden. By the time we had our first child that big old garden had been roto-tilled away to become part of the grassy expanse.
I still harbor a vestige of guilt four decades later about failing that garden. I marvel at avid gardeners. It isn’t just the amount of daily labor required to have beautiful flowers or thriving vegetables, it is also how gardeners bless what grows with their patience. It requires a quiet tenacity to go along with the knee-back-and-neck bending stiffness, and patience.
Nurturing always involves patience now that I am thinking about it. My dog is easy to nurture because she insists upon it, placing her wet proboscis in my lap if I haven’t petted her lately. The flowers don’t do that, they just wilt. I better go water them.