By June 3, the azaleas on the east side of the yard had been moved to allow for the hosta garden. The herb garden had been planted, and now it was time for the botanical section, so named because it was the intended home of the more exotic plants.
Belatedly, I learned that June is very late to plant flowers, especially perennials, so nurseries were mostly out of desirable plants. My final plant selection consisted of four varieties of coneflowers, a lavender and a purple butterfly bush, a few garden phlox, black-eyed Susans, and bee balm—the main perennials. Altogether, there were about sixteen plants. Most of the things I had planted up to that time (herbs and hostas) were small, and the soil easily moved with a small trowel. It was an unpleasant surprise when I began to dig for gallon-sized plants.
The botanical section soil had much more clay than the other sections, so the hand tools couldn’t cut it. Also, the soil required much more manure than expected to make it suitable than expected. As a result, a job I thought would take three hours took closer to seven. At first, I decided to dig up the entire 100 or so square foot area where the plants would go. That brilliant idea lasted about an hour; digging heavy clay soil in 90-degree heat in direct sunlight gets old fast, especially if this is the first time in your life doing it. I determined it was more practical to dig 16 one-foot holes. Even that was a lot of work because I had to dig a hole, remix the soil with manure, and then find somewhere to put the leftover dirt. I never considered having to dispose of extra soil.
By the time all the plants were in the ground, it was nearly dark, and I still needed to add mulch and water. At that point, I drafted my wife and daughter into the effort, and we finished the mulching and watering long after dark. I’m sure my neighbors were shaking their heads.
Planting day was six years ago, but I still recall the sense of dread I felt once I realized the planting was going to be more work and take more time than expected. Planting day was a miserable experience. I think it was also at that time when it dawned on me that gardening was going to be much more work than growing grass.
The next morning I walked out the front door and saw, not a Martian landscape or black plastic, but the beginning of that impressionist vista that I had dreamed of. Immediately, I went from dread to pondering what I should plant next. That’s when I knew I was a gardener!