The Teenager In My Garden

The back garden turned two years old this month. Experts claim it will be all grown up by this time next year, but I have some legitimate pessimism regarding its path to maturity. In human terms, we could imagine these are the teenage years – those years that never conclude with the parent’s nerve endings fully in tact. It’s the time just before they figure out who they want to be, which goes along the lines of, “maybe I’ll try a little of everything before I decide.” This is my garden.

The back garden last fall.

I’ve spent considerable time over winter contemplating this year’s improvements, including adding annuals for all-summer color and to extend some level of cohesion between the perennials, adding more natives will promote my very own natural ecosystem, a few extraordinarily rare flowers might impress the neighbors, and edibles in the only full sun area may finally yield a victory garden right there in the middle of everything. All combined, it’s a big ask for a teenager.

The problem with the garden at this point in its life is that it’s hard to discern who it really wants to be. Weeds are in abundance (it’s always the bad influences that latch on the best) but everything else is anyone’s guess. As if it teases me, “See, I could be this, or I could be that!” And just as you get your hopes up in one direction or another, they change their minds. The plant dies, the tree falls, Mr. Boggs steps on that tender seedling and smooshes it to smithereens. Something I was sure had taken hold last year has no interest in showing up at all this year.

Mr. Boggs is not particular about where he sits and he is most definitely not gentle with his step.

But see, I have big plans for this garden. Flowers will sway in the breeze all across the slopes. Some will stand tall while others hover near the ground. Scents of lavender, mint, oregano, rosemary and honeysuckle waft through the air. Climbing roses overwhelm the trellis while Black-eyed Susan creeps across the fence. Figs, raspberries, blackberries, herbs and leafy vegetables are there for the taking. Towering trees provide a shady canopy for lovely pathways while ferns, azalea and hydrangea spell out each and every letter of r-o-m-a-n-t-i-c.

Alas, teenagers have a mind of their own despite a parent’s best hopes and dreams. The climbing rose is just getting started. It turns out the raspberry bush is a bully and has taken over an entire section of the small side garden – with no end in sight. The climbing hydrangeas that should be in the ‘leap’ stage are stuck in the ‘sleep and creep’ part of the gardening rhyme.

Indeed, no two cottage gardens are alike, not even from year to year. Some plants are out of control, others need encouragement, and still others require a little patience to see them reach their full potential. In fact, the whole garden requires said patience.

This is the year I may very well drag this uncommitted teenager, kicking and screaming, into the next phase of life where we can finally get down to the business of being all grown up. Then again, we may have a stubborn late bloomer on our hands and I’ll be singing this same old sob story next year.