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–by Mary Helen Darah

PUBLICATION DATE: May 15, 2018

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Green is everywhere, blossoms are bountiful and I am once again filled with hope that this is the year that I am going to have a spectacular, enviable garden. I am a neophyte in the world of horticulture. I still blush when recalling my inappropriate response to a male who came up to me at a garden center and told me I had a beautiful Mandeville. I had no idea he was referring to the vining plant in my cart. On average, I annually kill one fern, two hanging planters and anything that requires daily watering. I vow that this year will be different and I can’t help but compare how life imitates not only art but your garden as well. Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of “The Secret Garden,” once wrote, “If you look the right way, you can see the whole world is a garden.” I believe she has a point.

Dig in
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I have spoken with many a master gardener and the first thing they say is that “it’s all about the dirt.” Just like in life, preparing your soil and having a good foundation is vital and will affect your ability to grow. The foundations of faith, family and friends will keep you blooming even if your wisteria withers or your daisies dry up. A friend and graduate of The Ohio State University told me that his four years of horticulture education can be summed up in three words­—thrill, fill and spill. He plants tall, visually stimulating flowers in the back of his flower beds and containers, plants something dependable and solid in the center and finally, something that will spread or “spill out” beyond its borders. In life we need the “thrill” of memory-making moments, the “fill” of meaningful work and solid relationships and to “spill” love and compassion beyond our confined containers.

Weed out the negative
None of the “good stuff” can grow if it is choked out by weeds. The same holds true in life. Why is it that nasty weeds of negativity love to take root and wrap themselves around healthy, beautiful plants? Trim back your interaction with people who are trying to strangle your happiness and steal your sunshine.

Diversity is a beautiful thing
Gardens are as diverse as their caretakers. You can tell a great deal about an individual if you peek over his or her fence. I know someone (who will remain anonymous to protect a certain anal-retentive perfectionist) whose garden is as OCD as he is. Every year he chooses a day to plant annuals. One year I made the mistake of helping him. Even though freezing rain was beginning to cling to my eyebrows, we kept planting. I put the plants in the soil (he didn’t want to get dirty) and he followed behind me with a ruler to make certain I was planting his precious impatiens (which I was experiencing at an accelerated pace) precisely six inches apart.

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Not my garden.

The complete dichotomy of this garden is the one owned by the professor down my street, which is as free-spirited and rumpled as its owner. Another neighbor has a highly pruned garden that looks as if she hired Edward Scissorhands to tend to it.

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My kind of topiary!

I’m not a fan, but keep in mind this comes from a woman who owns a fluffy golden retriever and not a high-coiffed poodle. I like my garden, and my life, to be low maintenance. Don’t be envious of other people’s gardens. As my Gram would say, “The grass may look greener on the other side, but it still needs to be mowed.”

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Unexpected obstacles

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Snek!

Unexpected things pop up in life. Find pleasure in the unexpected. Change is inevitable. Learn to adapt if the perennial you confined to the boundaries of the flowerbed bursts forth in the middle of the yard. It had the power to make a break and you have the power to dig that baby up and relocate it. One of the reasons I attempt gardening is that I love the feeling you get conquering obstacles. Gardening is like an Olympic event at my home in Canada. Pests, weeds, rodents are for amateurs. I have to contend with blueberry-loving bears, finding ANY soil among the rocks and the unexpected such as a four-foot snakeskin among my day lilies and geraniums. I think the garden is a way to meet Mother Nature half way.

Of course, she will always win, but in one designated spot, you have the false sense of being in control and conquering your world.

The root of it all
I have learned many life lessons from my ever-changing garden. I relax. Nature doesn’t hurry. Everything blooms in its own time. I remember that growth, however small, is still growth. I have also learned that what gets watered the most thrives. I’m still striving to be like one of those 360-degree sprinklers, so I can tend to my family, friends and career evenly. Gardening has also taught me to enjoy the NOW. That beautiful planter you received for Mother’s Day could be a goner by the time we celebrate our dads. Maybe the importance of gardening isn’t growing perfect plants, but how it reminds you, even after a loss or disappointment, to keep on digging.

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Like your plants, get plenty of water, put your face in the sun, remember your roots, be content with your beauty, open up and BLOOM.