Step by Step, Room by Room

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I have been away from my garden for some time.

The process of reclaiming my outside space after weeks away takes a strong stomach and a sharp pair of pruners; and though I have both, I’m nowhere near finished with the carnage and bloodshed. Truth be told, I have been wandering around in a bit of a daze, gobsmacked by the rampant growth of weeds and invasive vines contrasting sharply with the puny habits of plants I naively thought might possess a bit of backbone.

Still, these are the moments in life that separate the men from the boys. I can either cry and wait for the first frost to wipe out those who threaten my sovereignty, or each and every day I can take a few steps further towards the military dictatorship that has always characterized this peaceful, insurgent-free land.

Reclamation by stages is made easier because of the structure of my garden. For better or worse, it is separated into many different sections – sections that those with a HGTV show and fat book contracts would term ‘garden rooms.’ This is a great way to garden for three reasons:

1)   When you’ve killed yourself in a six hour marathon of weeding, pruning and maintaining a ‘room,’ you can enjoy the fruits of your labor in a section that has a beginning and an end – in short, its own character.

2)   Just as we all tend to do inside the house, you can take all the rubbish from one room and pile it in another, and then close the door. That door can remain closed for years, or at least until your in-laws come to visit.

3)   The garden is visually enlarged as one’s eye travels from space to space – seeking hidden corners and unexpected surprises around the next bend. Thus a tiny garden is a tiny garden only on paper.

However, it is equally a terrible way to garden for three other reasons:

There's a fence under there somewhere

1)   Very rarely can you get the entire house…er…garden tidy at the same time because there are so many details to fuss over. Unfortunately it is not a question of ‘mow an acre of lawn and break out the iced tea.’ For those of us with…ahem…OCD tendencies, the idea of jobs left undone can affect the amazing progress we were making in our Monday night twelve-step programs.

2)   Some rooms become favored at the expense of others, which creates a lack of visual continuity for your visitors – particularly the president of your garden club and your mother-in-law.

3)   Children tend to gravitate to other people’s gardens where large expanses of lawn fringed with the occasional azalea cry out for cartwheels at dusk and Nerf gun armageddon.

On second thought, let’s move this last point back under ‘pros.’

If you are gardening extensively with acreage in your back pocket, you may be doing the very same thing those of us with small plots are doing – except you are referring to these rooms as separate gardens: i.e. “Now we are entering the Rose Garden;” or, “Shall we have breakfast in the Jewel Garden?” or, “Let’s have the 250-person-fully-catered-summer-party-with-marquee-and-live-music in the Shakespeare Garden.”

I’m not bitter you understand.

Although there are many who enjoy the wide open spaces of a garden without walls and boundaries, for someone like me – forced by a riding accident to take an extended absence from her garden – a structure of rooms has certainly made it easier to slip back into the saddle (at least this one). I will fight battles on many fields, but there will always be at least one to which I can retreat with a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio – firmly closing the door upon the rest of the world.

By | 2018-02-20T20:41:31+00:00 August 27th, 2011|

About the Author:

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Marianne is the mother of two, wife of one and the voice of The Small Town Gardener. She gardens and writes from her home in the scenic (and exceptionally convenient) heart of Virginia's wine country.

One Comment

  1. The Sage Butterfly August 27, 2011 at 10:51 am - Reply

    Finding the balance is always a challenge for me. I get into a rhythm of regular maintenance, and then something else in my life whispers in my ear for more attention…and there goes the balance. I eventually get back on track, but I suppose it is the way of the garden…and life. 🙂

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