Wednesday, March 27, 2019

But let us cultivate our garden


Today a tree was delivered to my front door. I bought it online for 24 euros and had it shipped to me from across France for an additional 27 euros. You might be thinking, “Wait, you paid more in shipping than you did for the tree? Are you some kind of moron?” To which I would reply, “Perhaps I’m a moron, but I’m a moron with a pretty bitchin’ tree.”

Let me back up about 40 years. I was raised in a house with a garden. I fully expected to one day have a house with a garden of my own. But then I moved to Paris, and began a long period of renting decidedly garden-less apartments. I thus contented myself with decorating the balconies of my various abodes with potted plants, realizing along the way that I’m pretty bad at keeping green things alive. Huh.

Many years later, when I had acquired a husband and birthed a couple of tiny people, the day came when we decided to empty our bank accounts into a place of our very own—obviously an apartment, because this is the Paris region and we are not Bill Gates. But apartment or not, I wanted a real garden. First, a garden means that one is on the ground floor, and that means no balconies or windows to worry about one’s children falling off/out/through. Second, a garden means outdoor space for one’s children to ram around in without the risk of getting lost/kidnapped/run over. (I’m not unnecessarily anxious; YOU’RE unnecessarily anxious.)

A garden is also an end in itself—a garden! Yay! At last a chance to plant more exciting things than doomed-to-die-in-August €3.99 specials! I made lists of plants, did sketches (indeed), and read up on local species. We hired a gardener, for Pete’s sake. He came this close to covering half the surface area in gravel, but we don’t talk about that.

With time, effort, and many trips to nurseries across the northwest Ile-de-France, we now have quite a cute little garden. I have managed to cram every kind of pretty flowering plant I can think of into it somewhere, while leaving enough grass for our kids and the occasional hedgehog to scamper about in.

Also, and this is very exciting: I haven’t really killed anything so far. I was semi-convinced after years of desiccating/drowning vast quantities of potted plants that I was hopeless as a gardener. I remember saying as much to a few people I’d just met at an expat gathering a few years back. I believe my exact words were, “I don’t have a green thumb; I have a black thumb!” One of the folks I was talking to happened to be African American. She gave me an odd look; I turned beet red. And that is another reason to have a garden, i.e. a hiding place for the socially inept.

It being March now, our garden is beginning to awaken. This makes me happy. I spent all last Tuesday yanking out weeds, snipping dead branches, planting seeds, and lobbing snail shells as far as I could get them. You might say, “That’s cruel!” To which I would reply, “No; eating my plants is cruel.” I’m a pacifist, except when it comes to nasty little creatures nibbling on my plants or on my children—then I am merciless. Show me a slug sliming its way toward my tender green shoots and I will show you a kitchen knife that has no moral compass.

My new tree is a Coralcole dwarf ornamental crab apple. You heard me. Finding it was a pain in the ass, which is why I ultimately shrugged at that hefty delivery fee. I mean, I could have DRIVEN for several hours to the like one place in France that seems to stock these things, but would that have been time, energy, or cost-efficient? Clearly not. Anyway, it is now here, and I will plant it this weekend, and my husband will eye me warily and wonder why I’m so hell bent on filling up the garden with such highly specific plant life.

WHY? Because God is in the details, damn it, which is about as close to my entire life philosophy as one pithy saying can get.


Watercolor by yours truly.

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