One of the things Jenny liked about me before she even met me was that I bragged that I was a gardener. She thought she had found a kindred spirit.
Now, 13 years later, she says I can’t tell a weed from a flower, or at least I can’t when it’s time to pull weeds out of the flower beds. In fact, she says I don’t know very much about gardening at all.
I admit that pulling weeds is not my best thing. My solution is to hit them with a little Roundup, hoping that I’m spraying the weeds and not the flowers. That, of course, is not Jenny’s solution.
That’s why it’s my job to prune the roses and trim the shrubs. She doesn’t think I can get into much trouble doing that. She doesn’t even complain that I do it in January.
There I was, on a warm Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, cutting back the dozen rose bushes that border our patio, and running the electric hedge trimmer over the front shrubs, as though I knew what I was doing.
The first rose bushes I ever planted were in San Diego, and a friend suggested that Christmas week was the perfect time to prune them. The last 25 years I’ve lived in the South, but I still prune roses about the same time.
My gardening knowledge (or lack of it) stems from living in San Diego during the 1980s. My late-wife Janette (before Jenny) and I had bought a house in a new subdivision and the yard was entirely dirt.
The developer didn’t even plant grass; it was daunting.
The basic rules of southern California landscaping are that nothing grows that you don’t plant, and nothing survives that you don’t water, usually by underground sprinklers.
To save money, we decided to install our own sprinklers and do our own landscaping. But we were clueless, so we hired a landscape architect to draw up a plan for lots of flower beds, trees, shrubs and flowers and sprinkler lines to serve them.
Then we went to work, carefully following the paper drawings. A few months later, we had laid plastic pipe for six sprinkler lines, installed the sprinkler heads, put in brick-and-mortar edging around flower beds and planted lots of trees, shrubs, flowers and grass.
I even installed a rose garden with 26 bushes, and an individual little bubbler sprinkler head for each one.
When we were done, the place looked professionally landscaped. No one was more amazed than me.
It prompted me to start telling people that gardening was a hobby. When Jenny and I got married in 1999, she thought she was getting a gardener.
A year later, she had concluded that I didn’t know much about plants and my idea of gardening was to mow the yard once a week.
She suggested I must have made up the gardening story so it would look like I had some hobby outside of work.
A couple of years later on a vacation to San Diego, I drove her by my old house. The trees and shrubs in the brick-lined beds still looked nice. There were oranges hanging on the fruit trees I had planted in the back yard. It made me tired just to look at it.
Ten years later, I think she wonders if I drove her by the wrong house.
T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.