An unrepentant garden hog

Early this spring I walked past a house in town and noticed a lady out in her yard. She looked like she had stepped right off the glossy pages of an L.L. Bean catalogue. I slowed down and watched as she knelt on a floral knee pad, wielding a pair of stainless steel garden shears.

Early this spring I walked past a house in town and noticed a lady out in her yard.

She looked like she had stepped right off the glossy pages of an L.L. Bean catalogue. I slowed down and watched as she knelt on a floral knee pad, wielding a pair of stainless steel garden shears.

A ceramic floral travel mug sat in the grass nearby. She set about her task of snipping the dead tops off the perennials in her flower bed. All five of them.

On her face was a peaceful look of contentment. When she glanced up and caught me staring she merely smiled and said, “Beautiful day isn’t it?”

I nodded numbly and headed on my way, but I couldn’t shake the scene I had left behind. There was something hauntingly, achingly familiar about it. But what?

I thought of my own springtime gardening efforts. I had wintered our eight sheep in our vegetable garden. The result, as anticipated, was a whole lot of organic matter.

In places the straw, hay and manure was more than three feet deep. The soil beneath was still frozen solid despite the warm spring sun.

For the last two weeks I had been removing tons of smelly matter off the rows. My jeans and jacket were streaked with smelly sheep poop (in case you thought there was a perfumed kind).

In my panic to expose my vegetable rows to the warm spring sun my herb and flower garden had been grossly neglected.

The stink weed, dandelions and quack grass were shooting towards the sun like athletes on steroids. Mint, lupines and sweet cicely bravely fought it out with thistles, nettles and encroaching lawn. Unlike their pampered city relatives, there was no serene gardener to trim their withered heads.

Just a crazed wild-haired woman perfumed in sheep poop.

Everywhere I turned another gardening task reared its needy head. A box of 100 strawberries and four dozen asparagus roots sat desperate to get their roots into the ground.

But first I had to dig a trench for the asparagus and work up the new strawberry bed, both of which should have been done last fall.

The raspberry bushes needed to be pruned and the greenhouse was stuffed to the brim with sad looking plants in perennial need of water and food.

In the centre of our circular driveway, poplars were sending up thickets of suckers. They needed to be cut while their trunks were still the size of my thumb. If left them alone they would graduate all too quickly from nipper material, to axe and finally to a gargantuan task involving a chainsaw and hours of clean up.

My mind was never on the task at hand, but instead it went ricocheting all over the yard from one unfinished task to the next.

And that’s when it hit me. I knew where I had seen L.L. Bean lady’s serene expression before. She was me in my imagination as I made my way through my garden books every winter.

I made up my mind then and there to downsize. I would spend the year shrinking my garden until I too could go around looking like the L.L. Bean lady.

That was this spring. Now it is fall and it doesn’t look good. Our entire yard is on a slope. At the top of the slope just behind the house is a pond, for lack of a better description. All it holds is cat tails. For years I had been thinking about having it levelled.

Last week I phoned our neighbour who owns a caterpillar tractor. The very next day he came rumbling over in his big yellow machine and in just a couple hours expertly transformed our dry pond into a beautiful patch of level ground.

I made some chatter about wanting a level spot for a lawn, but I wasn’t fooling anyone. The grid paper and pencils have been flying ever since. There won’t be any lawn seed on my shopping list next spring.

I’m hopeless. It’s as plain as the dandelions on my lawn that I will never be the serene L.L. Bean lady. I am forever destined to be the wild-haired woman with manure streaked clothing and a chaotic yard all because I am a greedy, gluttonous garden hog. My name is Shannon and apparently I’m an unrepentant plantaholic.

Shannon McKinnon writes and gardens from her home in the Peace Country. You can reach her at

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