Last fall my husband and a friend of his cut the dead junipers that lined the front our house down to small trunks. All winter when I pulled in the driveway I noted that empty front wall of the house and the garden that begged to be replanted with something new, fresh and yes, living. Since I am not a gardener, I used my Chapters gift card to purchase a book entitled learn to garden; a practical introduction to gardening and began dreaming about creating a rock garden. I think I chose this Dorling Kindersley “DK” book because when I worked at the library I found there was something about the layout, the combination of pictures, captions, and text with different font sizes that tempted me to steal them. I could picture myself like a dog that finds something smelly and rolls around on it, rubbing my cheeks, shoulders and back on the pages. P.S. For those of you who are concerned, I never did help myself to books off the shelf.
It turns out that learning to garden requires lots of knowledge. At first it is a little overwhelming to consider soil types, sunlight, colour and height combinations, watering and layout. So I decided to take it one step at a time. Since we live on a country road, obtaining rocks wasn’t an issue. Here, farmers plow up their fields and toss the rocks they dig up in the ditches. My husband and I ventured out and collected enough rocks to fill our 5 x 18 foot garden. My goal here was to fill up much of the garden with rocks to cut down on weeding. We weren’t particular in our collection. I sensed that the variety of sizes and colours would add to the overall appeal.
For almost two months the garden was truly a rock garden. It had no plants. While I waited for the fear of frost to past, I read about types of plants, picked up seeds, carefully read the planting instructions and planted some seeds to sprout in our greenhouse kitchen window. I also started a garden journal carefully noting the dates I planted and gluing the seed packages to the pages.
However, when it came time to plant these flowers I found myself ignoring all of the instructions and choosing locations on my sense of where to place them. As these plants grew I encountered a problem in being unable to determine which plants were actually flowers and which were weeds. Never being really sure I utilized the” guess and by golly” methodology of gardening. I guess this is a weed, by golly I hope it is.
Throughout the spring and early summer I increasingly found myself stopping at gardening centres. Not one or, two or even three, but every gardening centre from Ajax to Baltimore (north of Cobourg). I felt proud of myself when I purchased wilted perennials for a quarter and delighted in selecting just the right location to plant it and nurture it to health. And I no longer glue the flower labels into my gardening scrapbook. I am lucky to get the label tossed into it. While my flowers take some time to settle in and blossom, I wait.
Often I find my approach to rock gardening a little like my approach to writing. I read about learning to write, collect tips from workshops on writing from across the Durham Region (in Toronto, Uxbridge, Peterborough and Port Hope) and collect word snippets in a notebook. I practice write, often ignoring all the instructions. When I edit, I guess which words need weeding from the page hoping that I am not pulling Thyme or Showy Lady Slippers. I ask others for feedback and I rearrange. Then, I hope, that one day all this word collecting, digging around in the earth, planting ideas, watering and weeding words and rearranging will eventually create a beautiful story to share with other people.