It is dark and I am working by the spotlight that shines out over our back yard. It is raining lightly and I am down on my knees, digging in the dirt with my bare hands, throwing the pieces of glass that I dig out of the soil into the plastic bucket at the end of the row, so I can plant the last of the lettuce. Shannon and John are inside, waiting to start dinner. I know I should go in, but I want to wrest every last possible moment out of my gardening time.
The long strip of land behind our house stretches to the school at the other end of the long block; the back yards of the houses on either side of the strip line the long grassy expanse. The white-haired gentleman who lives in one of the houses that abuts our back yard told me that this span of land had once been a dumping ground and at another time, during the war, a victory garden. I often find clay pipes and little figurines and other little treasures when I dig in the spring. When the broken pieces of ceramic, glass, and metal are really rampant in the soil, I plant flowers rather than vegetables.
That was then. For many years now, I have not had a garden. I made occasional forays into the gardening world at our house in Maine, but, since I was back and forth to the Big City, I couldn’t indulge in gardens that required real attention to weeding, watering, and tending. One year, about twelve years ago, my friend Gail helped me plant perennials–echinacea, hosta, astilbe, yarrow– and we made a shady little kitchen garden, which I joyfully cleaned each spring. Our neighbor gave me a piece of her wisteria plant, which took over the garden in the front of the house along the lake, but never blossomed. Mostly, I filled the window box, planted bulbs here and there, and put in shrubs when the new stone wall was built–none of the down-on-my-knees, fingernails splitting kind of gardening in which I had indulged in younger years.
This year, at our condo on the Connecticut shore, Rosemary had the idea that I might enjoy growing some flowers in planters on our patio. Another chance at gardening! I could weed and water without kneeling, and the limited tending would not tax my arthritic hands. I was thrilled. We send away for some planters; they come, four of them, long, on wheels, and very white, almost too pristine to fill with soil. I spend afternoons online studying deer-resistant, sun-loving plants that can grow in containers. I down-load photos and make charts. We ask our neighbor with the amazing patio garden for advice.
I wander with Rosemary through the white agricultural tents at the garden center, smelling the herbs, bathing in the colors, and reading the labels. Annuals between the stone wall and in the tents, perennials on the other side. We fill our wagon with the help of one of the garden center workers, whose name, auspiciously, is also Rosemary. Choices are overwhelming. “It’s your garden,” my Rosemary says, “you decide.” I choose to do three planters of flowers, each with rosemary in the corners and one planter of just herbs. This, to me, is spring.
This Friday, the handsome young man I hired to deliver the dirt and the plants will help me fill the white planters.
My own little victory garden!