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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

How Does Your Garden Grow?

My garden in mid-summer

My husband and I live in a family neighborhood. We've lived in the same renovated farmhouse for twenty-six years and counting. Many other families have come and gone. It's hard to keep up; besides, most of the homeowners are at least twenty-five years younger, many of them raising kids. My next-door neighbor is fifty and has three boys, the oldest of whom is fourteen. It's nice to have younger folks around but, to tell you the truth, I'm about ready for one of those fifty-five plus enclaves unless, of course, there is shuffleboard.

But I digress. Ever since the city chopped down our beloved Sycamore tree a few years back (It did have a split down the middle of the trunk, but it had been hit by lightning and withstood the shock), the lawn between the street and sidewalk has burned to a crisp every summer. No matter how often I water, how good the fertilizer I use, the grass looks like a watered-down pile of hay. In California--at least, before the horrendous fires--they'd call my grass "golden."

Now, some may not find this a major problem, but I'm not among them. I pride myself on being an above-average gardener with an Asian-inspired garden along the side of the house and an eye-popping perennial garden in the back. The insult of this burned-out parkway felt like a nasty punishment, bad karma. Maybe I'd "killed" one too many plants or thrown out a pair of new gardening gloves with the price tag still on.

The solution: rip out the "golden" grass so I never have to look at it again and draw up a plan for a new sun garden. You know, kill two birds with one stone--staying busy and creating a bit of joy for me and for everyone who strolls by--and their dogs, too. Oy, the dogs. Dog piss is one of the flowers' and trees' worst nightmare, not to mention mine. Oh, my, what to do? Build a fence (not to be confused with a wall) with plastic "chicken" wire and wood pickets in the hopes that said fence might encourage more owners to curb "man's (woman's) best friend" and maybe keep baby squirrels out, too.

The process of building the fence didn't take rocket science but a hell of a lot of muscle provided by my husband who is now in bed not having felt well after spending hours in the hot sun, pounding and stapling and yanking.

Before he tanked and I wondered whether or not I'd ever walk again after all the bending, neighbors paraded by the new garden and, with great enthusiasm, drooled over the parkway design. (I took a video of one of our neighbors but can't seem to move it from my iPhone to my iMac. Ah, technology!)

I'll have to translate:

"My name is Rob. I walk by here at least six times a day with the dogs. You can't imagine how much joy your new garden brings. I've been admiring it since you began to plant. I can't wait to see what it looks like in full bloom!"

"You and me both!"

I don't doubt that our neighbor loves the garden--or the promise of one. But I have a suspicion that it means even more right now when things are so "wrong" in the world with the Pandemic, the rancor, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the fires, the hurricanes--I could go on. In so many ways it feels like the beginning of the end.

So, if a new garden can make folks happy, hey, I'm all for it.

Alas, the cold weather is just a blink away. If only the majority of plants and flowers would not take a long winter's nap. It would make my life and the life of my neighbors so much happier.

I'm already dreaming of spring.

My garden in mid-spring


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