This was a big summer for me. A huge summer. I had a blow out garden dinner party with a bunch of illustrious horticultural guests scheduled for the end of August. Panic inducing enough already, right? But I also had numerous big, ugly, yard projects to finish. Yet, all through May, June, July, and August, I had many commitments at work and with family, and several other things that required a considerable amount of time away.
Consequently, what gardening I could squeeze in was never, ever when I wanted to work in the garden. Nope. It was only when I could work in the garden. And in what turned out to be the most brutally hot summer on record, it all had to be done fast.
Turned out, I got most of what I needed to do done, and that damned prolonged heat and periodic droughts gave me a plausible excuse as to why the garden, and I, looked so frayed. And fraught. And failed. Nevertheless, the strain took its toll and after the party my garden and I decided to separate for a little while and give each other some space to see if time apart might give us some perspective. The rule was that I was allowed to go out and look, but couldn’t touch. I’m happy to report that the time away actually worked and today I was back in the garden trying to find places to plant a number of plants that had accrued during the year. I have to say, it was a very, very different experience from the gardening I did throughout the summer and I thought it might be valuable to share with you how much gardening when you want to differs from gardening when you must.
Gardening when you want to: It’s relaxing!
Gardening when you have to: It’s like the protest turned into a riot.
When you want to: You hum a tuneful melody.
When you have to: Your cursing makes sailors cry out for their mothers.
When you want to: Tossing a chunk of rubbish into the garbage can is a 30’ swish. And the crowd goes wild!
When you have to: The chunk of garbage hits the rim causing the can to fall over and spill whatever filth and industrial waste all over your driveway.
When you want to: A butterfly lands on your arm and delightfully partakes of some of the salt from your sweat.
When you have to: A yellow jacket flies out of its hole and chases you around the yard before eventually stinging you on the lip.
When you want to: The holes practically dig themselves.
When you have to: You get arrested for trying to buy plastic explosives online.
When you want to: The plants fit into their holes perfectly.
When you have to: They don’t and when you’ve finally decided you’re going to need a bigger shovel, you accidentally step in the hole and sprain your ankle.
When you want to: You discover a favorite plant that you thought was lost is still living in your garden.
When you have to: You discover that new exotic, invasive insect you saw on a USDA alert.
When you want to: Your truck, mower, chainsaw, blower, and string trimmer all start.
When you have to: All but one won’t, and the one that does sounds like it’s going to blow up.
When you want to: There is nothing else you’d rather be doing.
When you have to: All your Facebook friends are posting photos of cookouts, parades, parties, festivals, fairs, circuses, ballroom dances, once in a lifetime concerts, and/or fancy cocktails on the beaches of tropical resorts.
When you want to: Your political party is leading in the polls.
When you have to: Your political party is embroiled in a scandal.
When you want to: The garden center has everything you need in stock.
When you have to: Everything you need is in a shipping container misplaced somewhere in the port of Los Angeles or aground in the Suez Canal.
When you want to: You stay hydrated.
When you have to: You dehydrate like an MD-11 dumping water on a forest fire.
When you want to: You serendipitously find a long lost tool.
When you have to: You can’t find any tools.
When you want to: You dig up a beautiful and valuable antique marble.
When you have to: You chink the underground gas line and six of your neighbors are still missing from the ensuing blast.
When you want to: You savor three freshly ripe raspberries.
When you have to: You accidentally swallow a bug and spend all night violently throwing up.
When you want to: There’s nothing worth watching on television.
When you have to: The weatherman is raving like a lunatic about an approaching tornado.
When you want to: People passing by smile and wave hello.
When you have to: People scurry past, shielding their children.
When you want to: A cold beer is delightfully refreshing and provides a gentle boost.
When you have to: Your fifth vodka tonic leads to you throwing your digging knife at a rabbit but it misses and slices through your neighbor’s above ground pool, causing it to burst and spill a million gallons of water and all three of their fat kids into the woods.
When you want to: The birds sing.
When you have to: They poop on the sandwich your spouse just brought you.
When you want to: You spot the patch of poison ivy just before accidentally touching it.
When you have to: You fall out of a tree into the patch of poison ivy.
When you want to: Your floppy hat gives you soothing relief from the sun.
When you have to: Your floppy hat blocked you from seeing the low branch which you then walked into. Staggered from the blow, you proceed to wander into traffic and the cops arrest you yet again for public intoxication.
When you want to: You witness an annoying fly get caught in a spider’s web.
When you have to: You get caught in the spider’s web.
When you want to: Your spouse comes out and lovingly scratches your back.
When you have to: A squirrel falls down the back of your shirt.
I trust that you all saw the difference. Perhaps you have some examples of your own? The important lesson here, I think, is that so much comes down to your frame of mind. If you can avoid putting yourself in situations where you have to do anything, then, my friend, you truly have it going on. And I also probably hate you. Anyway, happy Labor Day people! Another season is almost gone. Do something great with what remains!
Upped my mood this rainy labor day when I have family coming and I will have to figure out how to have everything inside. I’m approaching it with a better attitude now.
Favorite ‘Your cursing make sailors cry out for their mother’s.”
Stilling snorting.. Thanks Scott!
Thanks! I hope everyone stayed dry and your family dinner never descended to fisticuffs.
Thank you for this!!!….I think you covered it ALL….My Mantra today..”I am not ALONE” as I rip out and rip out and rip out weeds which have been unattended to for so long that they have all gone to seed >:(…..
When I love gardening its when it has rained so much they all pull up like magic!!…
.I did have the fun Yellowjacket experience recently….It wasn’t ONE however….luckily I have a pool and I jumped in fully clothed …and took a benedryl immediately before my body went into complete 5 alarm fire mode)…I didn’t go back out into the yard, for any reason, for about a week…My nails looked lovely for once….hahhahaha…
Photos of the nails, please. And video of the jump into the pool, if you’ve got it
When you want to: your garden is full of ladybugs. When you have to: your garden is full of voracious, merciless, Asian tiger mosquitoes, which have multiplied by the millions due to frequent, violent rainstorms and ensuing humidity. Speaking from painful personal experience …
Oh, yeah, mosquitos!
Thank you for this rant! I’m in a long drought of “gardening because I have to,” trying to maintain our garden after an injury with a long recovery. (It wasn’t stepping in a hole I’d just dug, though I have done that before!) This horribly dry and hot summer certainly didn’t help. Your rant reminds me that even professional gardeners can have dry spells. But dead plants turn into compost, and there’s always another spring to plan for.
Hope your recovery marches on!
Thank you for another entertaining AND absolutely TRUE article! I really missed being able to attend the PPA Symposium, and crossing paths with you.
Missed you too! You were my favorite Chicago bus ride companion! Next year?
Scott , You are a delight and so real! The garden has a mind of its own…I am convinced of that. Garden walks visitors seem to hone in on beds or collections that I take for granted . Often they ignore areas I have worked my butt off on. I am glad by the way that the picture at the beginning of your rant is a setup and not really what happened to you. Right???
Nah, it was all set up. That time.
Sympathy inducing featured image. Clever…so so clever. I bit. I read. I laughed. Commiserated too. – MW
Laughing so we don’t cry, that’s what we do, you and I.
What treat! Enjoyed from begonning to end.
Scott, you are hilarious. Thanks for the belly laughs.
Cynthia and Cindi, could you both get your comments notarized and send me copies?
Saw the picture and thought ‘Oh no’, you’d done a number on yourself in the garden again. So glad you didn’t but I sympathize with how your summer went but I laughed all the way through the when you want/ when you have to. Thanks for this.
Thank you, Elaine!
Very funny; brought a smile to my face and more than a few chuckles!
When you want to: The birds, frogs and cicadas join together to sing the Hallelujah Chorus in perfect harmony to entertain you while you plant the perfect garden in cake-like soft soil.
When you have to: The neighbors all join together to play their hideous music so loud it makes your windows rattle and your eardrums bleed while you dig, hack and curse at the Ruellia roots that spider and delve into the deepest realms of the hardened, baked clay that only Ruellia roots can penetrate.
“Delve into the deepest realms of the hardened, baked clay that only Ruellia roots can penetrate.” Almost spiritual in a Dante kind of way!
I too was fooled by your picture!! Thought oh no what happened! Then started reading and laughed all the way to the end!!!! Great post!!
My chuckle turned into a laugh-out-loud when I pictured you “drunkenly” walking into traffic. Whew. Thanks for that!
Sometimes I have to remind myself that I DON’T host garden tours, I live alone, I literally do not have to garden if I don’t feel like it. Sometimes that leads to weeds going to seed…we pay for our choices.
I read some of these to the nongardener husband. He came up with when you want to trim , you lop of the branches at just the right place. When you don’t want to, you cut a conduit, take a chunk out of your loppers and 1/2 the town looses power. No one lost power.