Finito la Commedia


Didn’t realize gardening involved so much killing
June 27, 2009, 6:53 pm
Filed under: Comment, Commentary

When I first was looking to buy a home, I tried to buy a condo so I could avoid all this gardening, snow shoveling and other maintenance. Alas, the dream of affordable homeownership without any hassle has gone the way of the dodo, and for much the same reason.

So here I am in my beautiful 1939 bungalow, which is great. Interior decorating? I’m all over it. Gardening? Wow. Not so much. Still, there are things to be learned in life, and gardening is as good a place as any to learn them.

Growing up in Colorado, I watched my mom spend hours at the back-breaking, sweaty labor of preparing the ground, planting annuals (which, although they were pretty, always struck me as a monumental waste), tending the roses, and weeding, weeding, weeding. Her gardens were beautiful every year, and she claims to have loved all that gardening.

I have always lived much in my head, so I wasn’t the little girl who wanted to help mommy with the weeding. (My mom didn’t win the “little helper” lottery.) Still, I did want to talk to mommy, and I watched and watched and watched.

In Colorado, it’s a challenge to get anything to grow at all. It’s dry as dust and your top soil is likely to be clay. You have to bring in arable top soil. Identifying weeds is easy — they’re big and ugly and probably have stickers. It’s rare to find a flowering “weed” in Colorado — except, of course, for dandelions.

Historically, there were virtually no trees on the plains. Trees need water, so on the grasslands of the great American desert, travelers kept an eye out for trees because they indicated a water source relatively close to the surface. You’d see the occasional cottonwood stand; not a dense tangle of old growth and underbrush.

I love trees. I love forests. I love leaf mold and the smell of mushrooms.

Here in Minnesota, the ground is damp and loamy and the soil is black. I’ve spent the spring watching my home’s previous owners’ gardens appear, green up, and bloom. As I’ve watched, the gardens have thickened with a proliferation of green life, much of it unknown to a grass-desert native. Some of these plants are clearly intentional; neatly set in rows, or showing signs of pruning. Others are perhaps not, but are often just as beautiful.

Weeds are just plants you don’t want in your garden, so I guess I can choose what to keep and what to pull out. Kill.

More troubling to this Colorado girl are the trees that seem to grow with the lightest touch of animas. Not that they do, but that I have to kill them.

They grow in cracks in my garage foundation. They grow where they will eventually undermine my garage or house. They grow where they will undermine my neighbors’ garage. Beautiful baby maple trees, and I have to yank them out.

So, gardening, fairly enough, involves killing. Killing weeds. It’s still sad, though, when your weeds are maple trees.

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