Monday, March 11, 2013

Golf, Gardening, and Other Failures

I am the kind of person who likes to be perfect at everything from the very start. It is a character flaw, I've now decided. At first, I convinced myself that it was an asset. After all, who doesn't like someone who strives for perfection? The not achieving perfection, however, causes me undue frustration. In fact, at times, it makes me want to just give up and move on to something else. This explains why I no longer play golf. I cannot fathom, then, why I love gardening so much when I know that it will take me years to move out of the category of "novice." I guess like many golfers, there is just something that makes me want to continue trying--a birdie here, a flower there.

I hope that when you've read my previous posts and seen the photos of my garden you've thought that I have a rather nice one. Maybe you've even thought it was a little pretty (fingers crossed). But I've been keeping something from you all. There are some decidedly ugly bits. I have some visible deficiencies around the garden, some of them downright failures.

Take, for example, my blueberry bush. It has not performed quite as I had hoped. What's worse is that I began with two blueberry bushes, but a person coming to service the yard killed the first one. The recently planted seedling was there when I left for work in the morning, and when I returned home, I found it snapped in half. I nursed it as best as I could, hoping that it would revive, but it transformed into a dry stick within a week. Now all I have is the other plant, which really looks like little more than two sticks, although not dry like its sibling. Those two sticks actually have a surprising number of blueberries on them, but the plant falls far short of expectations. In fact, I wonder if it isn't smaller than it was when it arrived here. It is ultimately supposed to be 4 feet tall, but right now, I'd just be happy with it scaling to heights as meager as 10 inches. I am embarrassed to tell people what it is when they ask.

The sad blueberry...perhaps it misses its mate?
If the blueberry bushes don't scream failure to you, perhaps this fine specimen below will. That's a Petrovskia, or it was, before it became this ghostly figure. The source of its demise is still under investigation. Presently, though, the only suspect in the case is me.
A shadow of its former self
I honestly don't know what to think about my attempts at espaliering apple trees. I diligently researched whether I could even grow apples here in Orlando, but it turns out that there are 5 varieties of apple trees that require very low chill hours. The ones most recommended are "Anna," "Dorsett Golden," and "Ein Shemer." I liked the sound of Anna and Dorsett, so that's what I chose. Very scientific, indeed. I won't even show you photos of Anna right now. She is distressed and has been since she arrived. The Dorsett seemed perfectly happy, though. I had to trim it frequently throughout last summer to keep it in check, but now it looks a little less than impressive. I'm hoping that this is just its winter look, but given my novice gardener status, I'm just not sure.
The struggling Dorsett apple tree
My strawberry-growing attempts have not gone according to plan, either. I was a little short on space for them, so I decided to use hanging planters. I thought they would provide some visual interest at the mid-level across the back fence in addition to being a space-saver. The strawberry plants beautifully grew to fill the planters, and when they began to bloom, the white flowers added another point of interest. Next came the first fruits. I would check on my little white strawberries and make grand pronouncements. "Oh, it will be just a few days before they're ripe and red. We'll be popping juicy strawberries in our mouths in no time." I neglected to consider a potential problem, though. You see, squirrels run back and forth across the top of our fence. It's a veritable squirrel highway, in fact. And though I worried that squirrels might be counting down the days to red, ripe fruits, I did not consider that they may like unripe strawberries. Seems they do because they pillaged every one of my planters.

I like to think that I'm smarter than squirrels. I was certain that I could deter them with my wits. I went to the fabric store and bought some netting, the kind used to puff up prom dress skirts. I sewed the netting into cone shapes and slipped them over the hangers and planters. The squirrels seemed beaten. We had ripe strawberries. I would daily lift the veils on my precious plants and pick a few, sweet fruits. Then my foes must have had a board meeting. I imagined them talking about plans to build new nests in the nearby trees. One asks for building material suggestions. Another pipes up, "You know that red-headed lady who sews? Well, she left some netting on her strawberries. I figure we can use that." And use it they did. Day after day, I arrived home from work to find more of the netting torn from the planters. Once they had used up all of that, they moved on to the coconut fiber lining. The strawberry plants fell out. I was gutted. Only one strawberry plant survived Squirrel War I. I'm not sure I'm up for reconstruction.

The pillaged strawberry planter 
Then there are times that I decide to take a leap of faith, even though the voices in my head tell me not to, that it will be a waste of time, another disappointment. I just took another leap in January. I had Alstroemeria seeds. I love those flowers. They were my wedding flowers, and I purchase them almost every week at the florist. Why not grow them at home, I thought? I read the instructions and began to doubt. I had to sow the seeds on the surface of the soil in small pots. Then I had to put the pots in plastic bags and sit them on a windowsill for 3 weeks. After that, they were scheduled to spend 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Finally, they would return to the windowsill for 3 weeks, at which time they should germinate. Alarms went off in my head. I knew I couldn't do it. I knew it would expose me as inexperienced. Too much could go wrong. It was like standing on the first tee box, staring at that little white ball.

But look who just got a hole in one.

Alstroemeria seedlings in their plastic cocoon


  1. Heh... I seem to recall a student in your undergraduate literature classes at CSU who had a similar "problem" with perfection. On your final day at Clayton State, you gave her a little handmade sign that quoted Emily Dickinson: "Find ecstasy in life--the mere sense of living is joy enough."

    Five years later, it's STILL pinned to her bulletin board, as a reminder that LIVING life is sometimes better than constantly trying to PERFECT life.

    -Laurissa W.

  2. Sometimes the professor is taught a good lesson by her student. Thanks for the reminder!