My Life is Like a Garden

Echinacea flower

Over the last two weeks, I made some changes to the shade garden in my backyard and the flower garden in front of my living room window. Even though the plants were thriving, I spent time clearing some of them out. In the back, there are hosta, some with white-tipped leaves, others are more bluish-green, and another has leaves that are enormous (Empress Wu). I have two kinds of ferns intermingled with the hostas, and there are also deep pink impatiens planted in clusters. This part of my yard, on the north side, does not get nearly the sun that the front does, so I use shade-loving plants that like to keep their feet a bit wet because they thrive here.

But my garden also has a plant that is a bit of a bully—a purple iris that sends out a slim flower in early summer and what is left after the flower dies back is a mass of spindly leaves. I don’t mind that the season for the purple flowering is short, everything has its own season. What bothers me is that over the last several years, in parts of the yard, this iris has pushed out the hostas and peonies that used to share its space. So two weeks ago, after a rainy day moistened the soil, I grabbed my shovel and dug a massive clump of it out of the yard.

Normally I might try to find another place to put a plant that seems so native to my yard and grows well, but I knew in a few years’ time, I would have the same problem, too much iris creeping in, other more delicate plants being shoved aside. So I tossed the clumps into the yard waste bin, where they were carried off the next day for pickup. Even though I shook off as much dirt as I could while tossing the plants from one bin to another, I was surprised by how heavy the first trash can remained; it was hard to heave it up and into the yard waste.

The front flower garden is going to take more work, but that might have to wait until September, when I can divide and transplant the purple and red coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) that have gone from a handful of plants to a dense plot of flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and many types of birds. Compared to the irises, this will take more time but the plants are not nearly as heavy to move around.

Yard work reminds me of life – the need to periodically prune, trim, and even toss when I realize I have allowed excess to creep in. Sometimes it is hard work to decide what to keep, what to get rid of, because I want to believe it all belongs, that there is space for everything I think I need to do. But when I sit back and reflect on what is working and what needs to go, or what can be postponed until later, just like the transplanting of the coneflowers to another spot in my yard, I realize that in creating a bit more space in my life, I can enjoy it more. I feel less encumbered, and can move more lightly, and that is a good thing.

There is a bothersome vine that has taken root in this area, and occasionally I see it has popped up in my yard in a space where it is not welcome, twisting through a rosebush or winding through the peony leaves. I don’t ignore it like I did the irises. Instead of tackling the vine all at once, I will pull at it a little at a time, leaving space, and tending to any overgrowth before it takes over.

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