Taking Risks

This weekend we planted lilies: thirty-six to be precise, in shades of pink,

Pecan Mulch, Cobbles, and Gargoyle

 white, and yellow.

It’s an experiment. Along the sidewalk leading to our front door is a narrow bed that, until this weekend, was occupied by some really shabby creeping juniper. That juniper would never quite die, but no matter what I did it never quite thrived either. In fact, its main purpose in life seemed to be collecting wind-blown leaves.

Well, the juniper is gone now and in its place will hopefully be a cascade of color and tall stalks covered with frilly leaves. And if it doesn’t work? Well, we’ll have learned something.

(Oh! We couldn’t fit all thirty-six bulbs along the sidewalk. The extras are now in the bed backing our little pond, where they’ll get to share space with herbs and string beans.)

Yes. Spring is blowing its way into northern New Mexico. When the winds take a break, Jim and I are outside, clipping, raking, grooming, and digging compost into the soil of the garden beds.

When I moved from south-central Virginia to New Mexico (first Santa Fe, then Albuquerque), I had to learn to garden all over again. A friend (who had grown up in the Baltimore area) said to me: “You’re used to putting your plants up on little hills so they won’t get rotted out by too much rain. Here you’ve got to plant in little hollows so the water will flow to the plant.”

I nodded, then did things as I always had. Within a few weeks – you’ve guessed it – I was putting the plants into hollows to collect the moisture. I’ve learned a lot in my fifteen or so years of gardening in New Mexico, enough so that I’m one of the people folks come to for advice. That doesn’t mean I know it all. Every year is different.

This year we’re watching anxiously to see what damage our perennials took from the record cold levels. So far it’s been interesting. Plants we were sure we’d lose are back. However, our beloved apricot failed to put on its usually magnificent display of blossoms. We don’t always get fruit, but we’ve never failed to have flowers. It’s starting to leaf out, so we didn’t lose the tree, but why no flowers?

Every day we walk slowly around the yard, inspecting what’s coming up, clipping a bit here, weeding a touch there. We have an unusually intimate relationship with our garden. When I bought this house in late 1995, the only things (other than goatheads – a particularly vicious weed) growing in our back yard were two dying rose bushes and a battered juniper.

We saved the juniper, but other than that we can honestly say that everything growing in our yard we put in: every tree, shrub, vine, and herb. Even the wild plants are cultivated in a sense, since we choose to let globe mallow, asters, and various wild grasses and flowers grow, while weeding out pretty much everything else.

Last week, my wander was into the subject of whether literature changes anything. This mutated in the Comments section into a thoughtful discussion of how a book or poem – or even a balanced non-fiction treatment of some issue – can lead to personal change by exposing the reader to something new and different.

Taking risks seems to be important to personal growth (as well as garden growth). When I started this piece, I thought how different these two wanderings were. Looking back, maybe that’s not so much the case after all.

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5 Responses to “Taking Risks”

  1. Katie Says:

    …it never even occurred to me that maybe I shouldn’t plant plants in hollows in Tulsa the way I did in Albuquerque. This explains a lot.

    Thanks, Jane, though for something completely unexpected!

    • janelindskold Says:

      Katie —

      One of the worst rainfalls I ever experienced was in Tulsa in the spring…

      Saw something I’ve never seen before (and hope not to see again). Rain overflowing the storm sewers and actually pushing up the “manhole” covers so they were held up on the water.

      (I think the politically correct term for “manhole cover” is now “personal access cover,” but would anyone know what that is?

  2. Paul Says:

    Ah, connections. As Katie points out, it is often surprising where you find useful help. Maybe that’s why it’s always good to explore beyond our comfort zones.

  3. Ann M Nalley Says:

    I never enjoyed gardening… the dirt and grit getting under my fingers and into my skin made me grind my teeth… I loved seeing the improvement in the yard and how happy the plants looked, though! Then my older sister offered the common sense advice of wearing gardening gloves. What a difference! My hand got dirty, but not filthy or gritty or scratched. Now I’m the primary lawn care person in our family. We have some road lillies on one side of the house and some bright yellow day lillies on the other. Our hostas are starting to come up, and the ornamental cherry in the front is trying to push out her blossoms despite the cold. Oh spring! Come soon!

  4. janelindskold Says:

    Ann’s comment made me grin, since it actually ties in very nicely to the theme (which Paul noted) about going beyond your comfort zones.

    Sometimes the right tool helps. Sometimes the right person.

    I probably should have asked what things have made you push your limits and take risks, but I dread sounding as if I’m quizzing, rather than what I really am, insatiably curious!

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