On a recent sunny, warm day--one of those fine California afternoons when you're in a t-shirt, and wondering how relatives in the chilly Midwest are enjoying their first snow of the season, I was lazily chatting with a friend and offhandedly pointed ou t several flowering salvias I had planted the previous day, noting the brilliant, sky-blue color of the blossoms. My friend looked at me questioningly. "Yeah, they're pretty Judy, but when are you going to be DONE?"
I suppose that if my friend were a gardener, he would not have posed such a question. I said to him, "gardeners are never done. We garden because we love the process. We don't garden to be DONE."
As the day went on, I thought more about what I had said. I tested myself by imagining being transported from my property to a yard that was considered "DONE." I conjured up a well-manicured lawn, surrounded by perfectly-edged beds of perennials. I saw containers on the front porch, overflowing with ivy I painted in a cool garden of ferns and other shade-loving shrubs, and contained all this perfection within a tidy, fenced boundary.
I then tried to step into this fantasy yard, where no changes needed to be made, everything was exactly in its place, and all that was lacking was some occasional watering and trimming. I could not "see" myself in that picture.
I have to admit, that as the years progress, my image of a garden is gradually changing. The incorporation of drought-tolerant plants into the landscape has brought the joys of low-maintenance gardening sharply into focus. For instance, I am more attra cted to the idea of covering my hillside with low mounding coyote bushes, rather than planting high-maintenace strawberry beds. But finished? DONE? I cannot imagine it.
Gardeners love buying plants, moving plants dividing established perennials, digging new holes, breathing in the scent of the earth while kneeling to weed around a favorite plant.
Gardeners can't resist stopping off a nursery, "just to see what's there." We never leave without buying something and it's often a plant we have never before encountered. A rush of excitement always precedes its planting, "where should I put it? What needs to be moved-I can't wait 'til it blooms!"
Catalogs are perused, fantasy gardens sprout in the mind, filling the senses with imagined fragrances, leaf textures, and the brilliance of blossoms. If the garden were DONE, the fantasies would wither.
We love and nurture our plants with parental passion, but we love the process of gardening as much, if not more. It involves all the senses. The very act of gardening is healing. It relieves tension, helping us to forget our worries, and rekindle our k inship with the earth.
We lose ourselves in the joy of the moment. Puttering in the garden is a form of contemplation which brings a peace and sense of accomplishment. Gardening, with its sense of immediacy, gives us a way of measuring the impact of our efforts on the enviro nment.