From my office window, I can see three flowerpots in my backyard. The two large ones have smears of pink, Dianthus, growing near a smudge of white, Vinca, and the tiny clay pot is topped by a tall yellow hat of Kalanchoe. I gaze out at them as I write, and though their blooms are rather paltry, they still give me a strangely large sense of happiness.
Elsewhere, curving along the front of our rental home, is a strip of garden I’ve dotted with purple and red Salvia and pink and white Impatiens. Near the end of that garden, under an overgrown bush, there’s a neat little army of red Polka-Dot Plants, taking their leave in the nearly-constant shade.
I remember beautiful gardens bursting with color in the suburban Cleveland yard of my German grandparents. My grandpa would hum as he stood with the garden hose each evening, a habit I was charmed to see my father inherited, the notes barely audible as he stood watering his own lovely flowers. Both my parents have always planted and tended flowers, and sometimes vegetables, but I’ve only recently started checking to see if my own thumb is any shade of green.
I’ve yet to own a house, so the lack of a garden in my past doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of interest. I tried, a little, in the yard of our home in England, but the small space was mainly bricked and the meager strip of soil next to the back wall proved inhospitable to the seeds I did plant. I could have planted a few pots for the balcony of our last apartment, but a container or two so far above the ground did not hold the appeal of an actual stretch of land.
But here, in this home, the dirt has beckoned. The front garden is lightly landscaped and a few plants and bushes have bloomed all on their own. I especially enjoyed the daffodils that danced there this Eastertime. On the side of the house, we have a few thistles growing – near and dear to my love of Scotland – and a large bush that graced us with surprise peonies a couple of weeks ago. I’m painfully ignorant when it comes to what’s growing right here under my nose, but perhaps that’s why I get all the more satisfaction when something I suspected was a weed reveals itself to be a ravishingly beautiful flower.
As the weather warmed, I found myself itchy to give the front garden — and the pots the homeowner left behind — a bit of life. I set myself a budget, buckled the wee one into a shopping cart, and gathered together an assortment of flowers from the BX, educating myself primarily by reading the little info sticks poked into the flats. Grows in sun? Good. I’ll put it in front of the porch. Shade? Over by the rock path on the far end of the house. We came home, and my toddler flitted around me with his plastic trowel while I wielded my new metal one, and within a few hours, voila, we had a garden.
It’s not exactly the glorious displays I remember at my grandparents’ home. It’s not nearly as nice as what many of my neighbors here have in their own front yards. I’m quite envious of what other gardeners have achieved and find myself studying their handiwork when I’m out for walks or drives. I’m realistic, though. Despite the roots I’m putting down here, this home is still only a temporary one for me – the Air Force will move us on in a couple of years — and I may never achieve a jaw-dropping garden in this yard.
But still, I like seeing the small pops of color when I pull into my driveway and take pride that it was my own hands that nestled each one into our rocky soil. They make the front of our house feel more like, well, less like a house and more like a home. In the evenings, I like to fill my new watering can to the brim and take stock of what I’ve wrought, gently showering each plant, willing it to grow. Listen closely, and you just might hear me humming along as the water pitter patters down to the earth.
As much as it pains me to say it, watch out for those thistles, if they’re the kind that grows tall … they spread like the plague.
Uh oh! They are quite tall. I guess if they grow like mad, it will be one more surprise for me!
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