The Imperfect Gardener

This peony plant (genus Paeonia,family Paeoniaceae) suddenly appeared last spring. What an amazing gift.  It is covered in blossoms about to open. Peonies reportedly do not like to be moved. This one traveled.
This peony plant (genus Paeonia,family Paeoniaceae) suddenly appeared last spring. What an amazing gift. It is covered in blossoms about to open. Peonies reportedly do not like to be moved. This one traveled.

Gardening magazines are a snare and a delusion. I once watched photographers and set designers from a magazine set up my boss’s home for a “shoot.” They rearranged furniture, brought in flowers and vases, and put tropical plants just outside the doors and windows to make the rented house and garden look richer and fuller. Lovely yet gone once the people and the plants got in the truck and were driven away.

This spring and early summer have been wetter than normal. Some docks on the lake have floated away. Ours is partially underwater with cattails thrusting up between the planks. The grass grows luxuriantly. The dehumidifiers run nonstop. Things have gone unplanted. The clematis mingles with the strawberry vines because every time the guy who will put up the netting is scheduled to appear, it rains. There’s a truce in the war on the dandelions. No one would pay to come visit our garden. No magazine would feature it in its pages.

This small patch waits the attention of the helper to the imperfect gardener.
This small patch waits the attention of the helper to the imperfect gardener.

At the same time this is a wonderful garden. The peonies are about ready to pop including one that miraculously appeared in a bed devoted to an ornamental grass. While the rains have been beating down I’ve have been reading the daily emailed meditations of Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar behind the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Rohr and St. Francis have provided solace for a gardener feeling less than diligent and dedicated.

All this week Rohr has been writing about perfection and imperfection. Yesterday he said, “If we expect or need things (including ourselves) to be perfect or even “to our liking,” we have created a certain plan for a very unhappy life.” Today he wrote, “Francis of Assisi, like Jesus, refused to exclude things from the garden of grace; there is no exclusionary instinct in either of them–except toward exclusion itself!”

The temptation of striving for perfection is one that calls to me even in the garden. “No weeds,” it says. “Everything neat,” it goes on. “If you only spend more time tidying and feeding and edging and trimming, you will have your perfect garden.” Behind that, of course, is the unspoken, “Beverly, if you only control your actions, eat properly, exercise more, you can be perfect.” Of course, even if I did all that I would still not be perfect because there are always more blanks to fill just as you can always find more work to do in a garden.

The sun is out. No rain in the forecast. Perhaps today the radishes will get thinned, the second group of gladioli planted, and bedding plants put in the window boxes. Maybe not. My imperfect garden will still be loved by its imperfect gardener.

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