I’ve always been a fairly regimented, Type A personality. Although my standards have lowered considerably, especially in the wake of divorce, parenting, working, teacher training and home maintenance, I’ve managed to maintain at least a semblance of order in most aspects of my life.
I let loose in my garden.
My garden is tiny, limited to planter boxes and a small area beneath my window. But in my garden, my plantings run rampant. Nothing matches. Nothing makes cohesive sense. There are no neat rows or perfect clusters or solid blocks of color. Reds bump against purples which tumble into oranges that meld into blues. Herbs coexist with pentas. Lettuce nestles next to salvia.
And I am reckless, perhaps unwise, with my choice of plants. I love richly-hued blooms; I often choose flowers simply because their aesthetics attract me, even if they’re not really feasible in the hot sub-tropics. Today I planted velvety red and burnt orange snapdragons, visualizing them growing tall, laden with bell-shaped flowers, swaying in the breeze. I’m sorely tempted to find a spot for another of my favorite spiky flowers, the beautiful bearded iris, even though they, too, are not ideal for this climate. I can picture dark purple irises rising stately from the cool green artillery ferns, a linear, graceful counterpoint to the fluffiness underneath, and I want, I want, I want.
I didn’t completely forsake the practical: I also planted pentas in purples and whites and pinks, more herbs, more grasses.
How I cultivate my garden is, perhaps, a window into how I wish to cultivate my life: wild, jumbled, untamed, somewhat impractical, but filled with juicy color. And it’s a hopeful garden, one that exudes optimism. Plants that don’t belong in this climate and shouldn’t thrive somehow manage to grow. Even plants that seemed to be mistakes – the ones that died almost immediately – are suddenly, unexpectedly springing back to life. The daisies that I thought were done are shaking off their shagginess and unfurling new flowers. The Mexican heather is following suit: shiny dark green leaves, topped with tiny purple flowers, are returning after browning, crackly-crisp, the point where I thought it was time to pull them out. Marigolds are sprouting indiscriminately, rising from the ashes of dead and scattered buds.
But my favorite of all is my basil plant, bravely growing, tall and scraggly, through a crack in my patio steps, the offspring of an errant seed.
My garden is an exercise in patience, too; I’ve tried to hold back, to not to overtend it, giving it a chance to settle in, the time to find its rhythm. Plants that appear dead are allowed to linger, gathering their strength, perhaps to rise again. Ruella, once my bane, has earned my admiration for its fierce tenacity; it has been allowed to remain in measured doses.
At night, I’ll sit on my patio steps, surveying my garden, breathing in the night air, scanning the sky for stars and always the moon. No matter how sad or worried or pessimistic I feel, being surrounded by my crazy colorful plants always lifts my spirits, gives me hope, reminds me of all that is good and beautiful.
My garden is a respite from a world that sometimes seems drab and gray. It is a reminder that a colorful life isn’t predictable, regimented or linear.
It is, quite simply, my Eden.