Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A gardener's week - #15: The happy gardener

One of my very favorite garden blogs is May Dreams Gardens, which is written by an Indiana gardener named Carol. She is an extremely talented and creative writer and her blog entries are never dull and are often very informative. Even though I've never met Carol, I feel quite sure that she is also an extremely talented and creative gardener.

This week, Carol has been exploring the secrets of achieving happiness in your garden and reading her thoughts on the subject has had me thinking about what makes me happy in my garden. Admittedly, there are things in my garden that make me unhappy, but there must be something about it that gives me satisfaction because I keep going out there every day.

As I was puttering around the garden yesterday - dividing and moving some perennials, planning how to lay out the new pond, and, of course, watering - I made a mental list of some of the things that make me happy in the garden and that keep me coming back for more.

1. Plans that turn out right. Every once in a long while, I do actually get it right! For example, my renovated front yard beds next to the driveway. I took everything out except 'Otahal' salvia and added yuccas, Gulf Coast muhly, red ruellia, bulbine, and rosemary, all tough plants, and now, several weeks later, the beds are actually looking good and I think they should hold up well even as our drought continues.

2. Plans that don't really turn out like you expected but still manage to look good anyway. I have a lot of examples of this in my garden! It's called serendipity, I think, and the moral, I guess, is that it is better to be lucky than good.

3. Discovering new plants. By this I mean learning about new plants that will work well in my yard. I often learn these things from my fellow bloggers or other gardeners. But, also, I include here finding plants in the yard that have reseeded or have come back from the roots when I thought they were gone forever. There were quite a few of these this year. For a time, it seemed like every time I went into the garden this spring, I encountered another old friend that I thought I had lost to the winter freezes. Every day was like my birthday, as I was given another great gift.

4. Getting my hands dirty. There's just nothing like actually sticking your hands into the soil, getting dirt under your fingernails, and setting a new plant into its hole and tucking the soil in around it. I always take my gloves off when I'm doing this because I want that tactile sensation and I want to "feel" the happiness of the plant as it settles into its new home.

5. Finding earthworms. There was a time when my garden didn't have many earthworms. Now, most every time I turn up a shovelful of soil, there will be several earthworms in it. Wonderful creatures!

6. Watching the garden processes, e.g., dead leaves and garden waste becoming compost. I don't do anything special to create compost. I essentially just dump all the brown and green stuff into one of my three bins, in no particular order or ratio, and leave it there until Nature (with some help from those earthworms) turns it into dark brown, crumbly stuff that the plants love. It takes a long time using this method and I could speed it up if I paid more attention to formulas and turned the stuff, maybe adding water, once in a while. But it works and I'm really in no hurry.

7. Letting go. Real gardens can't be perfect - at least, my real garden can't. There will always be weeds that sneak in. There will always be squash borers and tomato hornworms and leaf-footed stink bugs - at least there will be if you refuse to use pesticides. So, sometimes we just have to learn to live with imperfection. We have to let go of our high expectations of ourselves and our gardens and learn to live with the possible, the real.

8. Critters. The critters in my garden make me happy. Of course, they are one of the main reasons why I garden. Creating a habitat that provides a balanced and safe environment for them is one of my greatest joys, and when I find a new critter in my garden, it puts me on cloud nine for days. Like the Sickle-Winged Skipper that I found earlier this week. That was certainly one of the high points of my week, as was finding several Monarch eggs and caterpillars.

9. Cleaning up. Yes, a messy, weedy garden is a discouraging sight, but when I wade right in with my favorite tools and get the mess cleared away, what a great satisfaction it is to look around me and see everything neat once again.

10. Sitting in my backyard at the end of a long day, watching the birds come to the feeders. The end of the day is just about my favorite time of day, and if it has been a productive day in the garden, that makes it even better. But the icing on the cake for me is watching the late feeders among the birds as they come in for their suppers. The Northern Cardinals are always there and the shy Mourning Doves love this time of day because there is less competition at the feeders. Occasionally, other birds will drop in for a few minutes, too, but watching these two favorites of mine as they feed peacefully together is the perfect ending of many perfect (and some imperfect) days for me.

I could go on, but I'd like to hear from you. What brings you happiness in your garden?

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