Garden Caretakers and Garden Heros

Always good to see bees in the garden
I start off every gardening season intent on being a good caretaker for my garden.

I plan to deadhead spent blooms long before they cast their seeds about the garden.  I envision effortless hours spent spreading the finest mulch in each flower border and along the paths of the vegetable garden so everything looks orderly and well kept, as though a wonderful, attentive caregiver tends the garden.

In my mind as the caretaker, when I pull out weeds, they are small and dainty and willingly let loose from the soil with my slightest tug.  If there are even any weeds at all after the fine job I will have done with mulching.

When I am the caretaker all the plants in the garden will naturally have water when they need it, which will fall gently from the heavens onto the garden, precisely when the garden needs it.  Of course, I stand at the ready to also provide water with a garden hose that never kinks.

No plants wither and die without a good reason on my caretaking watch. Diseases and insects stop just on the other side of the fence and admire the garden from afar, side by side with the rabbits, raccoons, and meadow voles.

Who wouldn't want to be the garden caretaker I imagine myself to be?

Then on "day two" of the gardening season, I look about and realize there are some problems in the garden.

It is then that I cast off the "I love to garden" apron that I wear as a caretaker and switch to the cape and leotard of a garden hero.

I am in full rescue mode. I begin flinging mulch from one bed to another and hope, by some miracle it will actually cause now-full-grown weeds to wither and die while the plants I planted flourish.  Since this is never the case, I drag out a variety of weeding tools and begin the battle.

I cut back, pull out, hoe down and otherwise exert all my energies on weeding.

Then I notice it hasn't rained for some time and plants are beginning to wilt, especially those still in the containers they came home from the garden center in, weeks after I purchased them.  I grab the hose, which immediately senses my touch and kinks in three places and stubbornly refuses to deliver more than a trickle of water until I say the magic words and make offerings to the goddesses of the garden hoses in exchange for more water.

I've never quite figured out the magic words to unkink the hoses, though I know those magic words don't start with D or S and definitely not F,  and my offerings are apparently insufficient, so there I stand for what seems like hours, but it is probably just minutes, trickling water on each plant, hoping it is enough to revive them until I can slay the kinks of the garden hoses for good.

By the way, the F word is Frass, which, of course, is insect poop and the gardener's secret cuss word.

But there is no time to just be a hero with weeding and watering.  I must heroically deadhead, prune, tie up, and somehow get all the garden plants to behave because by day two in the garden they are spewing seeds, growing in the wrong direction or not growing at all, and in some cases, reaching out to attack one another.

Just what is this wisteria going to do with its captured zinnia?
I'm always a little surprised by the hooligan behavior of plants that while in the garden center looked so well-behaved.  Oh yes, many a plant has fooled me once I brought it home. Fooled or surprised, either way, I am the hero, rescuing one plant from another. I am also the disciplinarian, pulling plants apart, cutting off their seed heads and otherwise using a variety of pruners and occasionally even saws, to bring order out of the chaos my mis-behaving plants have created.

And while I am in full garden hero mode, with my cape flapping in the wind as I am attacking weeds, pleading with the goddesses of the water hoses and disciplining the misbehaving plants, those insects, plant diseases, rabbits, raccoons and meadow voles are coming in from all directions, ready to party in my garden and leave their messes for me to clean up.

Of course I'm not invited to their parties or know in advance when they are happeming. They are like those midnight raves that just pop up.  By morning, I can see the damage and add "clean up the mess made by fill-in-the-blank"  to my ever growing list of things to do as the garden hero who is going to save her garden and once again restore order and peace throughout the borders and beds.

For it is the hope of order and peace in the garden, the dream of returning to the quiet life of a garden caretaker, that keeps me going from one day to the next, from one season to the next, year in and year out.

I suppose I'll never be able to fully retire my garden hero cape, but it would be nice to occasionally be able to rightfully wear the "I love to garden" apron, to be caught up on weeding, watering, and plant disciplining, to be just be a caretaker for awhile.

A gardener can dream...


  1. I often wish I were a true garden hero. I shiver to think what I'm coming home to.~~Dee

  2. This is a lovely posting full of garden news and notes! I enjoyed reading it!

  3. This put a big ole smile on my face this morning. My Caretaker self felt vindicated for her valiant efforts, my Super Gardener self felt better knowing my super powers are not being dissed for the efforts expended and my Own Self feels reassured that even tho I try I am not the only one that has to struggle through the heat of summer. Cheers.

  4. I'd love to see a pic of the cape and leotard!!
    As you say, it's a never ending labor, but always (almost) a labor of love.


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