>Gardening in a Time of Recession


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No New Plants, Period.
By Wickham Boyle ⋅ 3:03 pm July 27, 2009 ⋅ 

Gardening, after storms and the economic downturn, is akin to living with the dogged devotion of a Mets or Red Sox fan. As I wander through the garden and see the places crushed by the ice storm or rotted by the ceaseless rain I say to myself, “Wait until next year.” I say this too as I leaf through garden catalogs and dog-ear the pages. I know I can’t buy anything because I am on a recession diet: NO NEW PLANTS, PERIOD.

The economic downturn hit our house hard when I lost my part time editing job and our health insurance in March 2008. Then the stock market debacle turned our savings into dust. My response was denial; I just refused to open my account statements. It is possible to practice denial in dealing with retirement or college tuition accounts, but I had to walk out my front door and no amount of denial would allow me to over look the havoc wreaked on my garden.

The first thing I had to do was clean up the disaster. Then, since I am known to be a positive, plucky person, I decided to make gardening in a time of recession into a game, a challenge. How to garden when there is no money for plants or accoutrements? Not a penny. Luckily plants divide, unlike stocks of late, and what the economic community call “the green shoots of growth” seem to abound in the garden. I just had to learn to notice.

How to garden when there is no money for plants? Luckily plants divide, unlike stocks of late.

Every autumn I make a list of new year’s resolutions for my garden. In the fall of 2008 I fantasized a new job and a hedge of hydrangeas. Not just for the alliterative effect—though, I love that—but because they are opulent and romantic. I notated the idea in my garden journal. But when I read it this spring I crossed it out and scribbled: ice storm, rain and recession. I still wanted a project, so I settled on another romantic notion I had been incubating: a white garden.

I felt I could muster a white garden because many wild flowers bloom white, and I could toodle around my land culling these and cultivated white flowers too. So in spring I began marshalling the white plants to a western hillside covered in the leavings of a crushed willow tree downed in December.

I walked my property finding Queen Anne’s lace, phlox, a small white lilac strangled by buckthorn, and yarrow amidst the poison ivy. I waited until the lilies popped their heads up showing their colors and I moved the Casa Blanca and alba. I took wild daisies from the side of the highway and asked neighbors for seedpods or cuttings. Slowly my hillside began to fill in with buds, which are now opening in a mostly white profusion.

I am not a perfectionist, to my detriment, I fear, so when an occasional blue bell appears, I leave it. A few errant Halloween orange daylilies bloomed, now that the willow is gone and sunlight streams in. Maybe next year I will move these colorful interlopers, but for now I am celebrating that things are thriving.

The white garden.

I recently returned to take a peek at my portfolio, which had languished unvisited for nearly a year. And lo and behold, some things are coming back there, too. My portfolio and my white garden are making small strides.

I walk along, bending to weed, or examining new shoots and I think, next year, next year there will be white clematis climbing, and my GM stock will no longer be reborn, and they will issue new stock certificates. I will have blowsy hydrangeas grown from the cuttings my neighbor brought me. Next June, the delicate mock orange bushes, rescued from the highway crew, will bloom in the safety of my hillside. Next year, our teams will win, the market will soar and my white garden will be a glorious reminder of what can be culled, saved and nourished even in a time of deep contraction.



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