Creaking through my Garden - Carol Wallace
Sometime this weekend, I shall reach the dreaded half-century mark. To my husband this is such an occasion that he probably would have given me anything I asked for as a gift - the moon, the stars, a lap top computer with modem. . .
What I asked for was a new Japanese digging knife.
I don't feel half a century old. It may be because I live in a town with the second oldest population in the US. Walking through the grocery store on a Tuesday (senior citizen's day) I feel like a veritable infant. I am usually quite surprised to meet my own reflection in the plate glass windows of the store. I have this theory that in our mind's eye we see ourselves at that age when we were most comfortable with what we see. In my mind's eye, I am 26 years old.
But in reality, when I kneel down to garden these days, my knees creak, and my wrists no longer have the stamina to pry up the rocks that grow more abundantly than even the weeds in our yard. That Japanese digging knife was a real fooler - I thought I could move mountains with it. Strong, heavy duty metal - the blade would pry out rocks with ease, then turn over and saw through heavy roots with its serrated edge. With it, I was invincible.When I lost it and went back to trying to plant bulbs with my trowel, I began to put more credence into the fact that I am half a century old.
Good, strong and effective tools are a must as we grow older. Often they can make up for our own failing strength. And fortunately, the garden industry, realizing that we baby boomers are not such babes any longer, are creating tools that they call "enabling tools" because they do enable us to garden with unreliable backs and stiffening joints. The longer handles and ergonomic designs of many of the new tools make gardening more comfortable - and so it remains enjoyable.
It helps, too, if the garden itself is easy to care for. I realized a few years back that my original garden, stuffed with every kind of plant I fell in love with, just wouldn't do when i got older - and it must have been 10 years ago that I started researching for ways to plant that would insure that I wouldn't have to give up my gardens because of my inescapable march into old age. If you're going to have a large garden - or, in my case, a lot of large gardens - they have to be simple.Most of the fussy little plants that required a lot of pampering have left the premises. I don't have time (or perhaps I no longer have the mental acuity) to keep track of things like "water this one a lot and go light on the one next to it," or "add lime to this one twice a year."
Of course, after many years of gardening, I've found favorite plants that thrive without pampering, look good and don't require a flowchart to keep me posted on their special requirements. My plant orders these days are very different from those in days of olde. It used to be one of this, one of that, ad infinitum. Now it's more likely to be a dozen of this and a flat of that. I have learned to rely on tried and true plants that I love, that look great, and that don't ask too much of me. I've especially learned to love those that look good even if I don't have the strength to drag 200 feet of hose over to then on a regular basis. I may feel 26 today - but who knows about tomorrow?
The bonus to this is that using multiples of a plant makes for easier and more coherent garden design. I don't need to play musical plants as often as I used to because the current planting naturally creates large drifts of color and texture. I use lots of native plants and those recommended for xeriscaping, because neither require much in the way of extra watering or tending - and the xeriscapic plants tend to come in silvery foliage that creates the dreamy effect that I love in a garden bed. It also helps to create a garden of high contrast - something I seem to be slowly sliding toward as I become both more nearsighted and farsighted at once - an interesting paradox I am still trying to adjust to! Where I once found silver with palest pink a pleasing sight, now I may pair it with bright cobalt or even the despised magenta.
I probably have at least a couple good decades left in me - and I plan to spend a great portion of those decades gardening. So I am planning with an eye to the future. Flat beds are being replaced with more easily accessible raised bed gardens. My knees, already creaky, will appreciate the shorter distance to a landing point and a place to rest as I weed.
We're slowly but surely paving the now-slippery sloping grass paths with pavement that is not only more visible and level, but offers some traction. Many of the tender plants that I formerly put into the ground and then dug up in fall are becoming container plants that can be loaded into the tractor's trailer at season's end and tucked up inside for the winter. We're also installing easy irrigation systems with either soaker hoses or wide-area in-ground sprinklers to reduce the hose-hauling chores.
Once everything is in place, I'll feel better
about the second half of my personal century. I plan to tend with joy
and comfort until one day I am found, nose down in the nasturtiums, my
Japanese digging knife in hand and a blissful smile on my face.
through my Garden is a copyrighted article by the author, Carol
Wallace, who has kindly given Garden Forever permission to publish it on
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