The Quest for the Idyllic Garden


| 7/8/2011 6:15:46 AM



Since man first tilled the earth in an attempt to garden, he’s had to battle forces hell-bent on destroying the fruits of his labor.  This is the price for trying to manipulate nature and force it into submission.  Nature, not one to go down without a fight, battles back with drought, floods, and creatures that seek to destroy what we’ve created.

The Not So Idllyic Garden 

 Insecticides, herbicides, repellants, traps, and those squirrel-proof bird feeders that give the critters a spin before flinging them into the air, are just a small sampling of a vast array of products used in a vain attempt to rid our gardens of pests.  There are a myriad of folk remedies, some tried and true, and some that border on the bizarre; their only purpose being to make us feel as if we’re are doing something to prevail in the battle for the idyllic garden of picture books.  Take my neighbor:  he rigged an alarm clock into the ground that ran nonstop in an effort to drive the moles from his yard.  He went through three alarm clocks and the only thing he succeeded in doing was driving his neighbors to the brink of insanity.        

We battle these invaders with a primeval blood-lust; normal, mild mannered people become blood-thirsty hunters.  My friend is one of the kindest wouldn’t-hurt-a-thing women I know…except when it comes to her garden.  She’s been known to be seen on sleepless nights working by flashlight, scouring her honeysuckle vines for aphids, and scraping them off with a toothpick.  Japanese beetles she takes pleasure in drowning in coffee cans filled with soapy water.   My husband thought he saw a Japanese beetle on her roses, causing her to leap over the porch railing, and yell for her son to “GET THE CAN!!!” 

Working at a nursery, I hear lots of similar stories.  There’s the woman who, with Rambo-like moves, shoots the squirrels at her bird feeder with a high-powered Super-Soaker water gun.  Japanese beetles are reserved a special hatred.  “What do you have that’ll give the Japanese beetles a very slow and painful death”, one customer asks.  Another woman, like my friend, drowns them…..in gasoline.  “Don’t you think that’s perhaps overkill?” I asked – especially considering the fluctuating price of gas these days.  “Perhaps”, she replied, leaving with her purchases of deer repellant and mole bait.  But I saw that gleam in her eye when she went out the door, and knew exactly where she was headed:  to the nearest service station to fill up her gas can.

The image of the idyllic garden, I think when I look around my yard, is a myth seen only in gardening books and magazines.  Glossy photos depict women wearing long, flowing floral print dresses and wide-brimmed straw hats, serenely strolling with baskets filled with beautiful blossoms they've just cut from their lovely weed-free gardens packed with an abundance of blemish and pest-free plants.  Some of these magazines perpetuate this myth by running glossy advertisements selling product lines of long, flowing floral print dresses, wide-brimmed straw hats, and wicker baskets. 



I hope I never fall under the spell of this idyllic myth; I just don’t fit its image.  I’ve never looked good in wide-brimmed straw hats.  I labor, toil, and sweat.  I’ve got dirt under my chipped fingernails, calloused hands, blistered feet, and aching muscles.  My gardening product line would include heating pads, pain ointments, and extra-strength muscle relaxers; the Deluxe package comes with a personal masseuse.

Michelle House
7/13/2011 11:56:18 PM

Cindy, we hardly ever see butterflies here. So, seeing one is a good thing, I am hoping for more. I love Monarch Butterflies, they are so beautiful. But...they don't live around here. :( I agree the weather has been bizarre all over the country.


Cindy Murphy
7/12/2011 7:32:17 AM

Great that your butterfly garden seems to be working, Michelle! I was just commenting to Hubs that other day that there seems to be very few butterflies this year, even at the nursery where there are usually gobs of them; maybe it has to do with our colder-than-normal very wet spring? I did see a Monarch at the milkweed in my front garden the other day though. Hoping he's just the first of many to follow.


Cindy Murphy
7/12/2011 7:27:08 AM

Hey, Stepper! I'm always amazed at what a thorough job a few ladybugs can do in a very short time; they don't seem to miss a single aphid. And unfortunately, I've come across a few of those super-bugs...only at the nursery, we call them customers. Oh, the vast majority of them are benign, friendly, we welcome them, and are grateful to have them in our gardens. There are some of the species though, that mimic the behavior of your neighbor super-bugs. They commit planticide regularly despite all attempts by us to change their ways, insisting that they know best. They only appear in this area for a short time, and usually only on weekends on summer. Migratory creatures, they reside here only part-time, and leave their plants out in the blazing sun for weeks on end - most often still in the pots on concrete driveways during periods of drought. Upon their return, they are surprised to find their plants have died. There is no known pesticide that thwarts their planticidal behavior. Ah well...at least there's not an infestation of them. Thanks for stopping in, and enjoy your day.