I like to garden. Sometimes, it can be difficult, since I live in a studio apartment in the middle of downtown Raleigh, but I manage. My church is in rural northern Chatham county, so, being on the unofficial landscaping committee, I get to play in the dirt on a regular basis. There's plenty of space to experiment with flowers and shrubs, and nobody seems to care what you do as long as it's not invasive. (Uh, well, let's not mention the St. John's Wort that almost took over an entire bed and was eyeing the lawn. I won't, if you won't, okay?) Since I don't live near the property, I have to be careful not to plant anything that needs major amounts of water or attention. We're not in the desert here, but there's long enough between rain storms that you want to plant drought resistant greenery any time you can.
We have a really nice landscape going this year. The rudbeckia (black eyed susans) have self-seeded into several beds other than the one they were originally planted, but seem to be happy. Likewise, several purple coneflowers, some lambs ears, and two surprisingly big crepe myrtles. After trying to dig one of them out and having it resprout, I've decided to live with it in its current bed and enjoy the shocking pink blooms. The flower in the picture is lantana, which is in two of the beds and doesn't seem to mind heat and humidity. Oh, and the deer don't eat it. Did I mention the herd that occasionally grazes the flower beds? Oh, my.
You can learn a lot from being a gardener, and some of it I've even managed to apply in other parts of my life.....
1. Watch what you're doing.
The property here has more than its share of things you don't want to accidentally touch. In thirteen years, I have rarely managed to go through a gardening season without being thorned (jerusalem cherry, holly bushes), bitten (fire ants, yellow jackets), or touched by poison ivy.
In the same way, there's stuff in my day to day life I need to watch out for. If I know there are situations where I tend to slip up, or things that tempt me, then I need to avoid them. Some things I've gotten into over the years have had consequences worse than poison ivy, so learning to watch out for them is important!
2. Weed regularly.
Most of us hate to weed. It's a lot more fun putting in flowers and dreaming of how good everything is going to look when we're finished. But when you don't weed very often, it can get ahead of you. WAY ahead of you. There's an old gardener's saying: "one year of seeding is worth seven years of weeding". Pull weeds while they're small and few, and you'll save yourself many hours trying to save your overwhelmed petunias from the crabgrass, believe me!
Habits can be the same, in some ways. There are times when my habit of spending a lot of time online, or drinking a lot of diet Pepsi, or not paying attention to my finances has come back to bite me! So, I need to pay attention to my habits while they're minor, before they have a major affect on my study time, my waistline or my finances. If I don't, they can get bigger than I can handle without help.
3. Don't forget to water!
When you put a plant in a bed, it's under stress. It needs plenty of water to start establishing a new root system and to be healthy and happy in the location you've chosen for it. If you get distracted and forget to give it regular drinks, especially when it is getting settled in, you can find yourself with a dead plant, or at least one that you'll be lucky to manage to nurse back to health.
We need water, too. We need to be aware of what we need, both physically and spiritually. When I neglect to eat healthy, to get enough water to drink, to exercise, I feel it. I get tired and sluggish, and it makes it harder for me to get everything done. When I neglect to spend time in the scriptures, in prayer, or in worship with my church family, I feel it too. It becomes more difficult to handle my everyday stresses, and I feel more distant from God and my friends. Seek out water, don't wait till you start feeling wilted.
4. Live and learn.
No matter how long you've gardened, you can always learn something new. Over the years, I've managed to plant things in wrong places, forgot to water, had my plants frozen, had my plants eaten by deer, dug up by squirrels, or in some cases just decide they didn't like where they were and die on me. I have managed to hurt myself in various and sundry ways, and on occasion managed to find myself in a doctor's office trying to explain just how I managed to get hurt!
If I was easy to discourage, I'd think this was an awful hobby. But I've learned so much in the meantime. I know more about what will grow here, what will thrive on heat and (some) neglect. I've found out what the deer won't eat, and where to plant what the deer like so that they don't immediately graze it to the ground. I've learned to ask my friends for help, so that someone can come in and water plants from time to time, or so that someone can cover the plantings when there's going to be a late frost. And I've learned to identify and avoid (most of the time!) the poison ivy, fire ants, and jerusalem cherry so that I don't end up back at the doctor's office. I've also learned about patience, endurance, persistence, and having a sense of humor. I've learned that being transplanted won't kill you, whether it is from one bed to another or one city to another. And in spite of weeds, drought, and hungry deer, (or whatever circumstances I'm thrown into in my life), it's possible to thrive.
So, if you're up this way, come garden with me. I'll share my tools and my water bottle. Oh, and I'll show you what a fire ant nest looks like, before you pull up a clump of crabgrass and disturb them. It'll be fun, really! And think of all the things we can learn.
Your sunburned sis,