Confessions of a Perennialaholic

None of my parents or grandparents were farmers. And I was a city kid, with little exposure to the great outdoors. Perhaps my deep, abiding love of working the good earth stems from a recessive gene, masked since the first farmers began tilling the earth. Perhaps all of us, deep down, have a need to work the soil, to reconnect to our planet.

Athletes speak of the Zen-like state they enter with peak performance. I wonder how – if?- this differs from the state of tranquility I enter when my hands are deep in the dirt, pulling rocks and weeds, and immersing new plants deep into rich soil.

I moved recently. After working for nearly a decade to develop a lovely perennial garden for my shady, rolling yard, I find myself surrounded by a flat, broad, sunny expanse. The time-consuming research and planning that went into finding deer-resistant, shade-loving plants is now obsolete.

My first spring in this house, I was intimidated by the magnitude of starting a new garden. I recalled the amount of work demanded by last one. To get my gotta-work-in-the-dirt fix, I planted some broccoli, tomatoes, and potatoes.

The deer found the broccoli to be delightful hors d’oeuvres, the tomatoes were tiny and wormy, and I thought I lost all of the potatoes to a blight. In October, on one of the last warm days of the fall, I took a shovel and went out to the little patch of earth to turn the soil in preparation for the following spring.

Imagine my glee in finding that rather than being diseased, I had dozens of healthy Yukon Gold and Russet potatoes to harvest. Despite my neglect, so many had grown I gave bucket-fulls away to neighbors.

Motivated by the unexpected harvest, I planted 5 dozen cloves of garlic. I’m anticipating a bumper crop.

It’s verging on spring, and I will again go out into my garden and plant more vegetables. This year, they’ll be behind a fence. And I’ve pulled out graph paper and my gardening books to begin mapping my sun-rich perennial garden.

The kick-off for hands on work begins the first week in May, when the local garden club has an amazing plant sale. Annuals, bushes, vegetables, vines, grasses, perennials — nearly anything you can imagine is available. Remembering that my desire is generally far more abundant than my time, I’ll carefully select a few healthy plants. These will be the foundation of my new Sun Garden.

Spring! It’s time to start planting. And I can’t wait.

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