My Love/Hate Relationship with a Garden
Author: Mark Cole
July 28, 2020
has become a major part of my life during these past eight years. I relocated
to the “Garden State” from Central Pennsylvania with a vision of hopes, dreams,
and high expectations. Little did I know that no matter the best laid
plans…life doesn’t always turn out the way we hope it will.
days during the summer, you can find me in my garden located in Cinnaminson. I
am usually covered in dirt from head to toe, dripping in sweat, and looking
like a wreck. That is the best part: I really don’t care. The neighbors look at
me like I have lost my mind. I like to believe I’m the entertainment for the
neighborhood! Leonberg Nursery, Moorestown, and I were best friends for about
five years. I have lost count of the amount of dirt that has been delivered to
my garden. My development was built on wetlands. Houses should never be built
on such swamps! The clay soil is not conducive to growing a flourishing garden.
It actually is the worst soil you can have. Hard work adding fertile soil and
compost has paid off. Eight years later, the soil has improved to a rich
workable medium. Don’t kid yourself…the weeds work overtime. No, mulch helps
keep the weeds down, but does not stop them.
made the conscious decision not to use weed killers or insecticides in my
garden. Yes, it makes everything harder to control. I have taken an organic
approach to weed and pest control. Lady bugs, and praying mantis are my best
friends in the garden. They eat the “bad bugs.” I pull weeds by hand from March
till the first frost in autumn. Honey bees, bumble bees, robins, catbirds,
mourning doves, cardinals, blue jays, goldfinches, red-headed woodpeckers,
northern flickers, dragon flies, lightening bugs, a resident pair of cooper
hawks, yellow swallow tail butterflies, squirrels, and a wood chuck “Woodrow” who
lives under the neighbor’s shed are all part of my everyday. If I used weed
killers and insecticides, none of these creatures would be present.
warming is REAL. I never used to think much about it. I do now. Its effects are
felt right here in south western New Jersey. Abnormally hot summers, drenching
downpours, destructive winds that rip trees down, and a growing season that
lasts almost nine months are all signs of climate change. This past winter,
there was no killing first autumn frost or measurable snow recorded. Let us not
forget that the leaves do not drop now till December. I have witnessed this
right in front of my own eyes. Global warming is a major threat to all of us.
the years I have learned what flourishes and what will not grow in my garden. Trial
and error have been my best teachers in growing plants. Roses happen to be my all-time
favorite flower. Unfortunately, roses don’t do well in South Jersey without
tons of spraying and chemicals. Blackspot, mold, and mildew are the top three
issues. So…after years of trying unsuccessfully to grow roses, I have removed
almost all of my roses from the garden. I still have a few knockout roses, but
my dream of lush roses just won’t happen here. I have made peace with it. I
have developed a love affair with pots. Pots come in all shapes, sizes, and
colors…a gardener’s dream. I now have enough pots to stretch the length of the
driveway, planted with a riotous mix of annuals in an explosion of color. It is
a feast for the eyes.
gardening style tends to lean towards the English cottage style. Some of my
garden heroes are Gertrude Jekyll, Graham Stuart Thomas, Christopher Lloyd, Penelope
Hobhouse, Claude Monet, Martha Stewart, Russell Page, Anna Pavord, Margaret
Roach, Bunny Williams, Sarah Raven, Vita Sackville-West, and Adam Nicolson. I
have read volumes of books written by the above mentioned. I am addicted to
gardening books. I have run out of room for my gardening books.
Looking back on the
past eight years, I have been blest beyond belief. There have been days I
wanted to set fire to the whole garden. Other days I have been ready to cry at
the amount of work and the tenacious ever-growing pile of weeds. To have a
garden of one’s own is a gift from God. As the years roll by, I find it’s
getting harder to do some of the more strenuous work of maintaining my garden. But,
through all the blood, sweat, tears, sunburn, scrapped, and scratched arms and
legs, I wouldn’t change a moment of my life in my garden. My garden is my
refuge from the rest of the world. Especially now in these strange times we are
living. In some odd way, gardening has grounded me to the earth in an
unimaginable way. I can escape and dig in the dirt. I hope my garden brings the
neighborhood and others as much joy as it brings to me.