Christopherson Column: Love the garden, don’t like to garden
"Garden": Better as a noun than a verb.
Let me ‘splain...
"Oh, you have a garden!" someone says.
It’s all happy, positive and good.
"Oh, do you garden?" someone inquires.
It’s all sad, negative and bad.
It was something we considered an amenity when we bought our house around 18 years ago. It wasn't just a garden, it was a garden beautifully tucked in the corner of the backyard with a picket fence around it. And it wasn't just a picket fence, it was a picket fence with an archway sort of thing that you walked under in order to enter the garden. It was like you were entering a special place, where magical things happened.
Those first few summers, we planted things in our garden. Notice this is the noun form of the word. We planted what one might expect, things like tomatoes, various peppers and some onions. We planted a zucchini and squash plant or two as well, and as every gardener knows, by fall we were eating nothing but zucchini/squash soup, zucchini/squash casserole, zucchini/squash hotdish, zucchini/squash nachos, zucchini/squash goulash, zucchini/squash tacos, zucchini/squash tetrazzini, zucchini/squash chili and, of course, zucchini/squash SURPRISE!
We tended to our garden. While "tended" is a verb that indicates we put forth some degree of effort, "garden" is still a noun at this point. It still carries a pleasant, pleasing vibe.
We turned on the sprinkler. We applied Miracle-Gro. We kept our eyes peeled for ravenous rabbits.
But your "garden" - still safely in noun territory - needs more from you. It needs you to "garden."
Which brings us to another word that can be used as both a noun and a verb, but unlike garden, in both instances this word - marijuana slang reference aside - brings up negative connotations.
"Oh, look, there's a weed." Noun.
But if you're going to pick the "weed" - still a noun - it requires you to "weed," and now you're in verb territory. And if you have a garden and it's midsummer, you have weeds and you're weeding.
We lacked dedication, to put it kindly. There's a reason people say things "grow like a weed." It's because they're weeds, and weeds grow like weeds, and soon they're smothering and dwarfing in size the things you actually planted and the things you hope to eventually pick and eat.
So, for lack of a better word, we let our garden go to absolute hell for a few summers. Every few weeks, I’d walk under the archway to, with lunatic-fringe arm swaying back and forth, weed-whack waist-high buckthorn and thistle, etc.
Until this year. Motivated by cooped-up feelings brought on by the pandemic, we tried to give renewed life to our yard’s theoretical little corner of heaven.
We split some of our massive hastas and planted them in two rows. We planted two rows of sunflowers (which the rabbits devoured with jaw-dropping precision when they were barely six inches tall). In the rest of the space, with utopian visions of a wildflower pollinator paradise, we spread all kinds of packets of seeds.
As summer waned, it was clear, as my wife likes to say to our sons now and then, we got out of it what we put into it.
Which wasn’t much. We didn’t weed (verb), so the weeds (noun) eventually took over. Even the hastas, which practically grow like weeds, in late August were like, “Hello!? Can we get a little help here?”
Who knew, when it was time to attack it all with our weed-whacker again to prepare for winter, the most enjoyable moment of the entire experience would be the realization that all of those wildflowers emanated an aroma that combined marijuana and catnip, and when I went inside our two cats lost their minds attacking my legs. I kicked off my socks and they flopped and rolled all over them for 20 minutes, until they couldn’t see straight.
Oh, and did I mention we also planted, for some unknown reason, four purple cabbage plants? I think my wife thought they’d look pretty, and they certainly did. But it’s not like we were going to stock up for winter by filling Tupperware containers with coleslaw.
So, while enjoying a nice fall bonfire last week, I casually tossed the four heads of purple cabbage that we’d for some reason left sitting on the ground in the garden.
Have you ever smelled cooked cabbage? How about fire-roasted cabbage? How about charred-beyond-belief cabbage that is most likely rotten? There was no escaping it; no matter where we repositioned our chairs around the fire, it enveloped us as we thrashed our heads about, trying to avoid the stench. We had to go inside.
Cabbage. Noun. But still bad.