Earlier today I started to write an entry on a strange encounter I had but abandoned it after 8 paragraphs because I was dancing around an issue and language to keep my little urban gardening blog family friendly.
I live and garden in Chicago, IL and living in a big city has advantages and drawbacks. It just so happens one of the drawbacks of living in a big city I deal with is living off of a very busy road. From time to time some women (lets call them "temporary companions") will provide companionship to men who are driving down this busy road I live off of. Are you following me?
I spent the day in the garden pulling up the last of my tender bulbs and moving around a couple of perennials. Being disorganized I had to go in and out of the house several times to find a shovel, gloves, plant markers and other things. During one of my trips inside the house I saw that the latest "temporary companion" in the neighborhood was walking down my block. I decided I would get my cell phone and call the police but in the process I lost track of her and figured I'd wait and call them later.
As I got down into the garden I spotted her near the fence and I must have startled her because she jumped and yelled "I was only taking a couple of flowers!" In her hand she had a bouquet of the nasturtiums that I grew along the fence line so people (kids mostly) would pull those instead of reaching inside the fence and pulling a flower I really liked. She kept putting them to her nose to sniff and the image was funny to me because one of the names for nasturtiums is "nose-twister."
She asked me what kind of flower she was holding in her hand and I explained to her that they were nasturtiums and that both the flower and leaves were edible and people ate them in salads and soups. I thought once she saw that I wasn't angry with her plucking a flower or two she would be on her way and I could continue with the work that need to be finished in the garden. What I thought was the end of our interaction she took as her segue to launch into a rant about my garden and what I needed to do to improve it. Apparently providing companionship yards away from my garden all summer long had given her ample time to ponder the shortcomings of my garden.
A synopsis of my garden coaching session:
My garden "is a disaster."
I have the best flowers on the block but I need to "work on the design."
My garden could be improved "by reading a couple of gardening books."
I obviously love plants I just need "the help of a landscaper."
I should get some "plants that don't die."
All of those "dead-looking plants need to be cut down."
If I placed black plastic bags around my plants when I plant them I could cut down on the weeds.
My garden looks "too masculine" it wouldn't kill me to buy a few bags of red lava mulch.
It is hard enough having a conversation about gardening with someone who doesn't know much about plants it is even harder when the person is drinking from a brown paper bag and has a hard time stringing a complete sentence together. Part of me wanted to get my camera and record her gardening advice and post it to YouTube. I bet there isn't a video there of a "temporary companion" giving unsolicited gardening advice.
Truth be told she's right about a number of things. My garden was "a disaster" but there usually aren't large holes and mounds of dirt everywhere. A type of black plastic is used as a weed barrier and in a pinch trash bags can be used for soil solarization or as a weed blocker. I should do a better job of planing where to plant the annuals and perennials in my garden but I'm not that organized. Then there is the fact that I have a small urban garden barely larger than a postage stamp and plants are grown where there is room not where they'll look better. I also happen to like weeds in my garden because many are host plants to beneficial insects in the garden (click the word bugs in my label cloud) and I consider them to be "free plants." The dead-looking plants she wanted me to cut back were actually Purple Coneflowers and they'll stay that way until the birds finish eating the seed heads I left behind for them. I don't think my garden is too masculine if anything I think I have too much pink in my garden's pallet and I won't be using red lava rocks as mulch unless I move to the base of a volcano.
It sure was an interesting day for me in the garden and I'll have to add "a 'temporary companion' is your garden coach" to my list of "You know you're an urban gardener when..."