I'm sitting outside on the patio. It's one of the first warm days of spring. The sun is shining. The temperature is perfect. Bird song fills the air, and the best of it is that the mosquitoes have not yet arrived. (Shoosh!) I have a cup of coffee and a book. On mornings like these, I'm in love with the world. ...until the leaf blowers arrive.
My sweet little suburban neighborhood is filled with wonderful people, but like everywhere, there's never enough time in a day. If we can, we hire people, (yay!) but these folks are also in a hurry—hence the high-powered gas-fueled leaf blowers. I wonder if leaf blowers have taken over in other countries? Or are we more afflicted with the desire to make things look perfect?
Like the proponents of the slow food movement, I would like to advocate for a slow garden movement. Little by little, could we give over at least some of our lawns to native plants, or at least wildlife-friendly weeds? Could we learn to love a little leaf litter? Could we hire folks who use hand tools instead of noisy gas-powered machines? What if they came to our homes less frequently, so we could pay them more? For sure, raking takes time. But we could do some of it ourselves. That does count as exercise.
My garden journey has been mostly a trial and error experience. My front yard is a small woodland. Blueberry bushes, rhododendrons, coral bells, fight against the invasives for space. For years, I’ve basically given free rein to anything that volunteers to grow in the shade. I'm happy with my lawn for garden trade-off, but like my hair, it has good days and bad days. I'm learning to love it anyway. The trees and plants bring birds, butterflies, and bees to my yard, and I don't have to mow. I have been trying for a couple of years to gain the upper hand over the invasive English ivy, but I'm slower than the weed.
As I watched the spring tendrils of ivy try to climb in through our bathroom window, I knew I needed to take some drastic action. No—not chemicals! My friendly neighborhood gardener and
arborist, Gene McMillen, recently started his own business. I contracted him and his assistant, Josh, to come to my aid. Using only shovels and rakes, they cleared most of the ivy and replaced it with native golden ragwort. They also helped me get rid of the winter leaves that I hadn’t managed to corral. At the end of a single morning, twenty bags of leaves and ivy sat at our curb.
I know I will have to keep up the maintenance. Ivy, like most invasive types, just wants to take over. But I'm determined to find the odd quiet moment to get outside and pull weeds. It's like a meditative exercise—best enjoyed with a bit of time and space.
How does your garden grow?