Move over Billy Shears
It's Sgt. Sarah's Lonely Plants Club Band
Shears are scissors, much the way a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
I thought a lot about this challenge, and quickly came to realize that writing about my amazing craft capabilities would simply be out of the question because I have absolutely none. That isn't a bold statement to get sympathy, just a real and honest appraisal of my (in)abilities! But upon deeper contemplation, it occurred to me that I do have some burgeoning, all be them meager, talents in the garden. And with this thought, I decided there was hope for me yet. I took creative liberties and veered away from crafts such as sewing, knitting, and painting, to instead focus on my penchant for small scale gardening.
My Father was an amazing Architect and there are very few places I can go in my city where I don't run into one of his buildings. I have his artwork on my walls at home and fond memories of learning about Frank Lloyd Wright and Japanese joinery from him in my youth. My Mother was, and continues to be, the Queen of stick people. I got a different smiley faced stick person on my brown paper lunch bag every day of my entire school career, from Grade 1 all the way through to Graduation. And if that isn't a serious commitment to your Art, then I don't know what is!
Sadly, it gets much worse. My sister is amazing at any form of creative expression she attempts. From drawing to painting, fibre arts to floral design and everything in-between. She makes bunting - yes, old school, sewn from scratch - and frequently decorates her street level residential community book library (which of course, she built) with balloon garlands, colour coordinated for every holiday and event, with seasonally appropriate music piped in from a concealed outdoor speaker! I might as well just through in the towel, but wait, there's more. If my brother puts his mind to it, it would seem he too excels at all he tries. Shadow boxes of carefully curated, discontinued 1970's through 1980's electronic accessories in the form of installation art is his current theme de jour.
I alone seem to struggle with the limited fine motor skills, dexterity, and raw talent to create anything visually appealing. Instead, I write. Sometimes, the end results aren't too shabby; other attempts are a little more questionable. But since visual art was never my forte, using words became the focus of my artistic prowess. Until ..... I tentatively forayed into the garden.
"All gardens are a form of autobiography." – Robert Dash
If this is true, then my autobiography started off as a horror story. A down and out true crime number, with all the grit and hardship that accompany it. Truth is, I am not a strong gardener. I love the idea of it and have loosely formed visions (hallucinations?) of what I want to create. I try to realize my plans, in small bursts, with vim and vigour, until I get really tired and give up. I am not naturally cut out for digging in the Earth, but I have persisted and much to my own surprise, I am enjoying the results.
And this is how you find me, the stage is set, and now I shall begin to weave my story with shears (Fiskars not Billy) in hand.
It has been several years now, and I have tried out this form of self expression on the front porch, on the back deck, in the vegetable garden, and amidst the thriving jungle that is currently my living room. I snip and dig and water and try my hand at an artform I can actually get my head around. And here is the secret, the most important part of the tale; it is something I truly like despite my serious lack of natural ability!
"The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses." – Hanna Rion
Lavender, rosemary, thyme, and mint. The delicious smell of tomato leaves rubbed between your fingers. The heady evening aromas of wisteria and fragrant jasmine wafting in through my back door. The riot of colours exploding from daffodils and peonies. The bird songs, the thrum of hummingbird wings at the feeder. All my senses are satiated after a few hours in the garden. I snip and cut and plant and water, and I feel instantly clearer, lighter, happier. Now enter the serenity of my outdoor pond (a giant bowl of water on my back deck with a bamboo pump) where I have lily pads and floating plants to attend to, and I feel like I have been whisked away to my happy place.
Saying hello to my plants brings me joy. Watching a new leaf slowly unfurl is like seeing new life for the first time. The moment when my tulips finally decided to do what everyone else's on the block do, (basically just grow and flower) I felt a pride that rivaled that of seeing my children take their first steps. Snipping off cuttings and watching them grow roots in a mason jar of water brings tears to my eyes.
If I were a doctor the odds of surviving my care would be questionable, but as a plant Mama I am actually doing pretty well. I have sorted out all the indoor plants and have even mastered reblooming orchids, which just isn't as easy as one would think. I now feel like I have enough practice under my belt to take on 'the project'!
"My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece" – Claude Monet
For a long time now, I have wanted to take on the mud patch at the front of my house. Virtually no sun hits this spot. Over the years there have been attempts to tame it with grass, moss, and ivy; all efforts to cover up what seems to inevitably return to a heap of dirt and weeds. This job would take muscle and vision. I have neither ... but was willing to try! So came the moment to snip and slash, cut back weeds, dig out roots, level the area, lay landscaping fabric, maneuver stones and shovel pea gravel. The goal was to create a shady sitting area at the front of the house to enjoy on hot summer nights. I wanted to have a clean, simple, and low maintenance shady summer refuge that was the talk of the town (or maybe just of the 7 people who live in my house).
I am not a very patient person so when I decide to do something, it usually has to be done right then and there. I am also not great at planning ahead or taking things step by step, but I realized that jumping right into this project won't work well if I want a solid surface to sit on when all is said and done. So, fighting my nature to just start and see where it takes me, I try to plan it out. I drew little diagrams that were ridiculously out of scale. I lay the tape measure down to make it seem like I was doing the math to correctly Tetris my concrete slabs into perfect position. I moved about and looked from different angles. Onlookers would believe there was method to my madness. I think the more accurate version would be that I was trying to convince myself I knew what I was doing.
After a few weekends of grunt work, it was time to give the final push and get it done. The gravel had been delivered, and the landscape fabric was laid out to stop those ever-present weeds from rearing their eager heads up through all my hard work again. I started by placing the concrete slabs and making sure they were level, adjusting here and there to get it all balanced. I tested my main sitting area to make sure the two chairs would fit nicely and started to bring wheelbarrows of gravel in from the back lane. My daughter even made an appearance at this stage to help with the some of the scooping and dumping ....a rare event in and of itself!
I had been on the lookout for plants that do well with very limited sunlight. There is one triangle patch that gets a few hours of light each day, but for the most part the whole area is in shadow. The drainage is also very poor which is why I decided to go with potted plants, in the hope that I can keep them alive and happy. I managed to dig up and separate some bigger plants in my back garden and stumbled across a give away Hosta that a neighbour was done with. I spent a lot of time clipping and snipping away at the ivy on the side of the house, and trying to train it to cover up the empty spots and to wrap around the big concrete planter at the foot of the stairs.
"Gardens are the result of a collaboration between art and nature." – Penelope Hobhouse
In this case, a collaboration between art, nature and my limiting beliefs that being creative needs to look one particular way. This project was about me digging deep into my creative abyss (and trust me, that is one deep and cavernous chasm) and believing that I could realize an idea I have had brewing for years. This little shady spot will be my quiet place to reflect for many summers to come, and I will sit there knowing that I created this spot from myself, by myself.
The moral of this story is: if you too are someone who can't draw or paint, do not despair! Dig deep and find your creative outlets elsewhere... I think you will be as pleasantly surprised as I have been.