Another Lesson from Mother Earth

My little garden seems determined to impart as many life lessons as possible to me this summer, which would be fantastic if they weren't all things I already know. Some people have epiphanies. I get gentle reminders. Of course, that's not to say these reminders don't serve a purpose. I got a couple of much-needed gentle reminders this week. The rain has put a damper on my social life (shut up! I have one!) but it has everything in the yard looking lush and green and full of life. Unfortunately, it's also been tough on some of the less sturdy plants. My bluebell wildflowers have adopted an almost horizontal stance, and the ornamental grass looks like a very drunk alien decided to make crop circles here on the West Side. The wildflowers are sad, because they're pretty and I like them, but the ornamental grass is positively tragic. It was slumped all across my already narrow sidewalk, making the short journey from house to car a snake like obstacle course. It's also covering about 50% of the yard so pretty much half the yard started to look like crap overnight. I started pulling up some of the stray shoots and one thing led to another and by the time I paused for a drink I had pulled up a whole section. Suddenly the astilbe had some breathing room and I could see the ivy I planted two years ago and promptly forgot. It looked odd, because I'd become so used to the massive tufts of grass, but it looked kind of nice. I kept pulling. When I was done, I'd completely ripped up two of the three large bunches of grass (the one by the driveway is more sheltered from wind and rain, and so it still looks nice). Up close, it was horrifying. The muddy ground looked naked where the grass had been, and a few of the neighboring plants that had depended on the dense grass for strength seemed dangerously droopy all of a sudden. What had I done? But when I stepped back and looked at the scene from a few feet away. It looked kind of nice. Smaller, yes, but simpler, less overgrown, more interesting, prettier. I decided that Mies van der Rohe was right: less really is more. And then the reminder hit. My short gardening career has been hit and miss. For every astilbe that thrives under my care there has been a silver mound or coreopsis that didn't. But I'm becoming confident enough in my ability that I no longer have to be grateful simply that something grew. I don't have to wait until the ornamental grass (which I like but don't exactly love) covers half the yard before editing, simply because I'm afraid that nothing else will grow there. I don't have to settle because I'm afraid I can't do any better. Today I went to Urban Roots with no plan other than to let inspiration strike, and it did. A brand new shipment of chocolate snakeroot stood on the rack; big plants with leaves of that purplish green color that gets me every time. Just the thing to replace a tuft of ornamental grass, and a bargain at $12.99. Life lessons may be cheap but they're not free.

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