Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Accidental Gardeners

Remember the film version of Witches of Eastwick? The Cher/Jack Nicholson vehicle, not the new t.v. version with Paul Gross ("Eastwick"). Anyway, you'll remember that the lovely Michelle Pfeiffer played Suki, a local journalist and divorced mum who got pregnant. A lot. At the drop of a hat. And her fertility extended to anything she touched. Especially zucchini. She had zucchini everywhere and in everything.

I don't share the character's fecundity in terms of children, but you might as well call me Suki when it comes to the vegetable patch. The specimen in the picture is not the largest zucchini we've had this summer, but I needed to pick it for dinner tonight and couldn't resist taking a photo.

You do take your life into your own hands when you enter the Veggie Zone at our place, it's a bit of an edible jungle. Our carefully planted and caged heirloom tomato plants? The ones that I actually planted at a decent distance from each other this year? An almost impenetrable, tangled bank of greenery with glints of red and yellow where the fruit hang amongst the leaves. The herb garden? Cilantro, parsley, basil and God knows what else, all well over a foot and a half tall. The couple of sprouty spuds I tossed in for the heck of it? Hefty taters.

But here's the thing: we are terrible gardeners. We operate on the once-it's-planted-it's-on-it's-own principle (I have a hard time remembering the needs of something that can't talk, bark or miaow at me) and our sad houseplants are (un)living proof of our neglect. But, despite this inattention, stuff just grows for us. My mother, an avid gardener who's persevered for decades on a lot cursed with sandy soil and heavy shade to create a lovely jungle, regularly stands in our front yard shaking her head at the sprawling greenstuff around her. For example, there's one purple flowered plant, we have no idea what it is ("It's a Canadian wildflower!" says the Christel), that we've never seen taller than about 20 inches. In our garden? Over 6 feet. The reason someone was able to break into our car and help themselves to our ipod and g.p.s. without the dog noticing? Because it was parked in front of the house and all but invisible through the foliage. Our 70lb dog and 26lb cat can simply disappear into the backyard in an instant, the wiggling leaves and faint sound of Lucy's bell the only hints to their whereabouts.

Of course, it's not actually growing for us. It's the amount of excellent triple-mix we buy every year (Satellite Garden Centre, for those of you in the Hammer area), the amount of sunlight we get on our lot, and my mother's judicious foundation planting. All we contribute is a horticultural aesthetic based on tolerance and ignorance -- "Oh, you mean that's a weed? But it's so pretty!" or "Pruning? Wha?" -- and a belief that time spent on lawncare is time wasted.

Ultimately, though, who cares why the stuff grows, I'm just glad it does. We're already planning for a fourth raised veggie bed in the driveway (this is why we park on the street, our sunny driveway is full of vegetable beds -- yes, we're that kind of eccentric) for next spring and I'm taking notes on how the veggies behaved this summer so I can perhaps keep some kind of control over them next year. Tomatoes growing upside down from buckets have been part of our plans for a few years now, maybe we'll get to them in 2010.

But, then again, who do I think I'm kidding?


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