Category Archives: gardens

>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.


>I Spawn Spoiled

>I Spawn Spoiled, Except in the Garden
July 13 2009

It must be me. I see that all around me there is a trail of spoiled. My cats, my kids, my co-workers and friends; all often seem too coddled and catered to. It has to be me. I must spawn a kind of spoiled hierarchy that I seem incapable of escaping, except in the garden.

I didn’t start gardening with a vengeance until I was 55 years old and by then I had learned a thing or two about boundaries. I had left a bad, abusive marriage; I had started my own consulting business and had plodded through oodles of therapy. Most of this “think and talk work” as my son called it when he was younger, taught me that I had to value myself and shower a little of the love and affection that seems to veritably ooze from my pores for progeny, pets and people onto me.

My big Maine coon cat will only eat white meat chicken and if it is steak he has to have all the fat rimmed and the pieces need to be bite-sized. My son is equally fussy in his carnivore tastes and my daughter wants everything local and organic. My husband will eat preservatives and fatty cuts of meat as he is the youngest from a big Southern family, but he doesn’t like to experiment as much as I do with cuisine and so I hold myself back even when it is just the two of us.

One of my co-workers doesn’t like to write grants unless they are 100% true, meaning she doesn’t do creative wiggling to fit into the mold the donor wants. So I get to do all of those. Hell I do not mean to imply that I am applying for salsa lesson money when we help mothers and kids born in prison. But I am willing to bend the rules a tad. She isn’t. It is a convenient way of getting out of things and not a route I know.

I am the one who say SURE, LET’S GO, I’LL HELP. What do you need? Another blanket, extra food, a ride to the store, help carting a couch up six flights of stairs. None of these is a frivolous example; all emanate from my I am here to help life. But I put my foot down with my garden.

I have half dozen separate gardens in the Hudson Valley and not one of them is high maintenance. Even the roses have to fend, flourish or perish. I love it. Why didn’t I think of this as a mantra when raising kids, picking mates or spoiling felines? The gardens are beautiful and they do spawn new blooms every year, which astound me with their grace and opulence. But there are also some lost by the wayside. The lilies seem to need protection from the deer; the roses need protection from the beetles and the black berries seem to be about to take over the world. Daises, mint, herbs, foxgloves and bee balm sprout in profusion. When it floods they thrive. And when the drought came last year they hunkered down and waited.

OK . . . I weed, I cut grass back, but not often and I water on very rare occasions. Most of my friends are slaves to their quite spoiled gardens and I am happy to report that my plucky garden gives me hope that my cat might live just fine on cat food and my tall, muscled son will continue to grow on a dinner not his number one choice. My daughter will not dwindle and die from inorganic 2% milk and my husband, sweet as he is, can with stand an experiment or two. After all, pizza abounds, so you won’t starve, no matter how spoiled you are.