CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)



There's one thing that can be said for certain about gardening: once you get the bug, it's hard to get rid of it. And in the two years that we've been in this house, I've learned two other things about gardening. First, you must learn from your mistakes. Second, gardening is much more than sticking pretty flowers in the ground and watching them grow.

Last summer - our first summer in our first house - I had a very clear idea of what I wanted our front yard to look like: a bevy of brightly colored impatiens lining the driveway, marigolds around the front porch to complement rose bushes and a bed of cascading petunias.

And so I began. I barely scratched the dirt to dig holes for the impatiens, which I planted in almost direct sunlight. The rose bushes were situated so that they sat in the shade of the front porch most of the day and the marigolds went straight into the ground with no fertilizer or mulch. The petunias were planted in the only well-tilled bed in the yard and hence immediately went to work climbing right out of their bed and into the grass.

If you know anything at all about gardening, you can imagine what my front yard looked like. The impatiens wilted daily and finally dried up, the rose bushes didn't produce blooms, the marigolds' heads snapped off and the petunias spilling into the yard never even had a fighting chance against the lawn mower.

And so I began my homework. Gardening magazines found their way into my grocery cart every week. I went back through the half dozen or so gardening books I found on our bookshelf at home (this time I read them). I went with my sister to plant nurseries, watched what she picked out and listened when she asked questions.

When winter came around, I knew what I had to do. I headed to a local nursery and bought red and yellow tulip and daffodil bulbs to get in the now well-tilled ground before Christmas. The rose bushes Charlie moved along the inside of our picket fence and into the bright sunshine.

By spring, when the bulbs were in full glory and pink azaleas framed the front of the house, it was time to get the other beds ready for planting. Because I was now pregnant, the manual labor of breaking up the soil in the bed by the driveway fell to Charlie. Together we planted red salvia, which thrives in the sun, and Charlie added mulch to the bed to preserve moisture.

Where the cascading petunias had been the summer before, I planted a cutting garden: multicolored dahlias in front, blue salvia behind them, marigolds to the side and snapdragons along the back for height. The pink and purple cascading petunias I love so much went where they belong - into barrels and wooden planters where they drip over the sides naturally.

Now it was time to tackle the back yard. Remembering how well Mama's impatiens do in a damp, shaded bed with lightly filtered sunlight, I selected a large area under a large leafy tree and Charlie tilled the soil. There we planted five flats of impatiens: light coral, bright orange, cranberry red, deep purple, hot pink and light pink.

But as much as I love color, one of the areas of my sister's yard in Corinth I like most is her "white garden" set in the shade. So this summer, I planted one of my own: green- and white-striped hostas, a variety of ferns, white impatiens, white caladium plants and white begonias.

Slowly, but surely, we're getting the knack of gardening, learning from our mistakes and trying out different things. This weekend while in Jackson, we bought our first tree, a white crape myrtle, to plant in the back yard for shade. May it be the first of many trees, and many years, to be enjoyed in our back yard.

Ginna Parsons is Daily Journal news editor.

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