Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Makes Ruining the Manicure Worth It!

Marie's Rose Garden
There was a time when the only flowers my manicured hands cared to touch were those boxed, potted or delivered in a stylish vase by a florist. The thought of actually growing them never graced my somewhat urban professional mind…isn’t that why we have gardeners? I used to think.  Yet, from the moment I closed the door on my ivy-hedged apartment in sunny Southern California and headed toward my new home, a two-hundred year old fixer upper in the fertile Venetian countryside, I let my heart—and my gardening gloved hands—take a shovel to that city girl mindset and dig into the dirty task of transforming my new home’s rustic garden into a quaint haven of tranquility.  
Rake, trowel, hedge-clippers and hoe at my side I tackled the L-shaped stretch of land that had been the wellspring of nutrition for the hungry souls who had inhabited my home before me. This traditional Italian orto—or vegetable garden—had been producing fennel, tomatoes, potatoes, arugula, zucchini, eggplant, squash, figs, plums and grapes as far back as World War II, and was generous enough to leave me with mounds of rich, dark-as-ground-coffee soil to nurture its metamorphosis into a tree-lined, butterfly-beckoning, flower garden.  
I imagine there are many of you who might greet my spirited enthusiasm for soil and gardening with a roll of the eyes; you probably view mowing the lawn or plucking weeds as just another chore you’d prefer to pay someone else to do. But I also know there are many more of you who prune, plough and plant with passion, and will nod their heads at my comparison of a fist full of rich soil to that soothing, lung expanding scent of the underbrush in the woods or forest. My fellow gardening fanatics could give good reason to why something as mundane and dirty as soil can bring such deep pleasure—and I hope they will jot down their thoughts here—adding to my motivation for having become so addicted to planting the turf. Not only do I look at sod as material to cultivate and harvest with, I see it as the tool that comforts a gardener’s mind and soul.  Because once I’ve set the stringy bare roots of an English rose, a young pomegranate tree or a mix of erbe officinalis into the ground and I've tucked them into bed, fed and watered them, all that is left for me to do is wait for spring to raise the curtain and release the scents and flavors of my garden.
Now mind you, I still enjoy the occasional ring of the doorbell and the voice of a bouquet carrying delivery person crackle the word “fiorista” through the intercom, but what I find more delightful than filling up my favorite crystal vase with cultured roses or lilies is filling it with those I’ve grown in the garden. When that happens I know I got it right.
I would have liked to post a photograph of the rustic garden I’ve just described, but since I don’t have one handy and I moved from that lovely home more than four years ago I’ve chosen to share a snapshot taken in my current home's rose garden in the spring of 2009. Sorry, but it’s still too early in the year for more recent blooms, and I can assure you these same rose bushes have begun to stretch their shoots and are promising another spectacular year!


  1. I am with you, lovely post, I really enjoy gardening. :)

  2. Gee, we still have another two months before even thinking of planting anything. Victoria Day weekend (the weekend before Memorial Day weekend in the States)is the traditional start of the planting season when you can be sure of no more ground frosts. Many people start early but it only takes one cold night to wipe out all the hard work.

  3. Patricia, the climate is a bit warmer here in Veneto, but it's still too cold to plant tomatoes, basil or summer vegetables...so I dedicate this time of year to my roses, summer flowering bulbs, and replacing any perennials that might not have made it through the winter.

    I'd love to hear from you and Lindy about what you'll be planting in the coming weeks.

  4. I feel all relaxed and virtuous, after reading your post! When I go back home, I know the pesky weeds will have taken full advantage of my absence. That'll give me work to do, to wear off some of the good Veneto life I'm enjoying, won't it!

  5. Hello Yvonne...yes, it will. And just think how lovely your garden will look once you've finished. But in the meantime, forget the weeds and continue enjoying your Veneto life!