A Gardening Slice of Life

slice of life

Today I’m inspired by Linda’s post about gardening and her lovely photos.

It’s finally spring in South Dakota. At least I think it is. It did snow just a week ago, so you can’t ever quite be sure. I thought I would be spending this week reading and writing, but instead I’ve spent long hours each day in my garden. Gardening is an exercise in patience and stamina for me, in quieting the mind, in focusing on one task. I’m finding it especially satisfying this year. There is so much to do in spring, but a few hours of hard work can transform how things look.

This is the first flower bed I created after I moved in seven years ago.


It’s full of mature plants and–miracle of miracles!–nearly weed-free.


The peony is covered in blooms this year.



The workhorse of my garden, catmint, is just beginning to bloom.

The cooler-than-usual spring means the daffodils have lasted forever.


The double daffodils are quite showy, but these short cups are my absolute favorite. They’re so perky and full of verve.



And yes, that is grass that’s gone to seed around the daffodil. I have bitten off a little more–ok, a lot more–than I can chew in my garden. But isn’t that the nature of gardening? Knowing I wouldn’t be able to mow around the daffodils, I had this wonderful plan of hand weeding the gigantic space where I planted 400 bulbs last fall.

I still have that wonderful plan. It just hasn’t happened yet.


Gardening is a lot like writing for me. Plans don’t ever entirely come to fruition in the way I’d envisioned. If I focus on the product, I’m unhappy, because the reality of what I can achieve as a gardener never comes close to my ambition. (Think Sissinghurst in South Dakota, okay? That’s my ambition. In two hours a day. Why not dream big?) I tell myself the same myths about gardening that I sometimes tell myself about writing, even though I know better. I always think that my garden is somehow harder work than other people’s gardens. I just know they’ve figured it all out and know what they’re doing and do it right the first time. They don’t write shitty first drafts. I always think that if I can just get it done–fully weeded, fully planted, fully designed–it’s going to be less work. I always think I’m going to get it right–the right plant for that troublesome spot, the right pairing for those iris, the right mulch.


The truth is that gardening, like writing, is all about the process. So it’s good discipline for this product-focused, perfectionist control freak.

I have multiple “problem” beds, but this is the one I’ve been attacking this week:


I didn’t prepare the soil as thoroughly as I should have before creating it five years ago, and the bed is now full of weeds: tumbleweed, bindweed, and many other things I don’t know the names for. Cleaning out one type of weed completely only seems to make room for something new that I haven’t seen before. Sometimes I fool myself into thinking that some new sprout I don’t recognize is going to grow up to be a beautiful flower. But it never does. It always turns into a weed.

But the weeds aren’t even the biggest problem. The salvia is the biggest problem. My new #1 rule of gardening: do not plant salvia if you want any other plant to grow in your flower bed. My salvia is rampantly self-sowing. In good news, it’s choking out all of the weeds. Also in good news, bees love it so once it warms up a bit, this flower bed is constantly abuzz and ahum.

In bad news, well, it’s a flower bed full of salvia. Salvia, salvia, and more salvia. I dug up huge clumps last fall and replanted them in an area along the street where nothing wants to grow. But the big empty spaces I created for other plants have ALREADY BEEN FILLED WITH MORE SALVIA.


The other half of that bed (well, third) is thankfully salvia-free.

garden9There are a few empty spots now that I’ve weeded, which I’ve filled with poppies. I am hoping for rampantly self-sowing poppies.


Today, the spirea began to open, as did the iris.



If I look at the big picture, the whole garden, I am disappointed. I see only the weeds I haven’t pulled yet, the grass that’s working its way into the back of the bed, the forsythia that’s totally in the wrong place, the spirea that’s choking out the iris.

But if I take my camera out and look for small pockets of beauty, they’re everywhere.

9 responses to “A Gardening Slice of Life”

  1. I’m in Maryland; I am amazed to see many of the same blooms in your garden! I would have expected such a different climate. But, like you, the Siberian irises are in gorgeous bloom and the peonies are on the way! (Though my daffodils are gone already.) Love the gardening is like writing metaphor, and this line especially – “Gardening is an exercise in patience and stamina for me, in quieting the mind, in focusing on one task”

    • I’m surprised too! Have you had a cooler spring than usual? Gardening in South Dakota is definitely a challenge–lots of wind, lots of drought, lots of hail, lots of wild temperature fluctuations.

  2. Linda inspires us all, doesn’t she?! Gardening is just good for the soul – and yours looks lovely already (especially those brilliant irises).

    • Thanks, Tara! You are right: gardening IS good for the soul! I can’t wait for the rest of my iris to open. My mother moved last summer, and we dug up many of her iris and transplanted them into my garden as their temporary home until she can get flower beds going at her new house. I intend to enjoy every moment of them!

    • I have yet to keep a houseplant alive! I try to incorporate a lot of hardier plants in my garden, plants that can take a bit of neglect. I always admire people’s gardens that are full of delicate plants, but give me daylilies any day! I know I won’t kill them!

  3. I caught the summer gardening but the first week of May. However, that turned out to be a huge mistake!!!! I lost many of my plants right after graduation due to a HUGE spring snow storm. (I live in Wyoming.) And to beat all… we had hail and flooding last night as well. So… the plants that survived the first storm aren’t looking so good now.

    • I caught the bug too–but I didn’t plant anything. I coddled my plants, bringing them inside at night–and during the snowstorm! Good grief! We’ve avoided the hail so far, but we always end up getting a few hail storms every spring/summer. I just hope things are established and it’s not too bad. Our climates are certainly challenging for gardening!

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