Get out the scissors. You’ll be clipping this one, silently slipping it onto the kitchen table, slapping it up on the kitchen fridge, or depending on your level of spring angst—flapping this column in front of a loved one’s face.
How does one best support a gardener? my husband asked. (True love I tell you, right there.)
What does it take to support someone who shuffles around, bent in silence, contemplation or simply bad posture—a person who eschews social contact for the company of plants?
In my experience it takes a lot of patience.
One best supports a gardener by letting them garden. That means no errands, no interruptions. It means hours of unstructured time. Think of it as an unfurling, the way a leaf stretches open to the sun. Last week was my final week of teaching at UVic and I left campus tightly coiled, so full of words and chatter I couldn’t think. I stripped off my dress, donned my ratty work clothes and went outside to sink into the green. I’m not too sure what I did, but two hours later I came back to life refreshed.
Time and silence: they’re rarer than we think.
Supporting a gardener also means accepting a level of dirt and debris in the house because it’s almost impossible to not walk inside clothed or booted and not make a mess. Emergencies come up: phones ring, one makes a dash, or maybe a covert tiptoe for a glass of…and clods of earth stick to the floor.
Your options: blind eye or broom.
A couple of years ago, I was dead set on being tidier/saving time and so reasoned that converting my office into a scullery/mud room was a perfect way to cover my tracks. Once two walls had been taken down, I’d have a clear path to the bathroom from outdoors, a boot/coat storage area and a dog zone, a transitional space between outside and in. I could wear my muddy boots inside! The dog could be rubbed down, and when I harvested flowers or vegetables, there would be a compost and sink to process them right there. Oh, how that scullery sang to me. It intoned deep soapstone and old England and canning jars and shunning suburban modernism for a more grounded life. So we had an architect come over to measure and plot. We got drawings. And for a hundred thousand dollars, I reasoned I could occasionally pee outside.
Supporting a gardener does mean money: there are plants to buy or propagate, occasional hands to hire. For some, there are designers and rarities and budgets to be addressed. Money is time: if you don’t have the former, you can do a heck of a lot with the latter. Support your gardener by tending to the lawn, cutting a clean edge along their borders. Rent a chainsaw. Repair irrigation. Make fencing your game. Cook the dinner and drive the kids.
Know your limits. My husband has sworn off tangles of netting: we are deer-proofed now, but he won’t touch plastic anymore. This spring, when I tore off a section of our back deck to make room for, um…more garden, he got out his power tools and stepped in. Truly I gave him no choice, but I think he recognizes the obsession for what it is—healthy.
For it’s not just beauty that calls gardeners, gardening is also an environmental plea. Yes: I want to grow. Yes: I can make a difference. Yes: I thank you for supporting me.