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Gardeners Anonymous

by Wayne Scheer

I wonder if there's a meeting where the members stand before the group and say, "Hello. My name is Wayne, and I'm a gardener."

My story is an old one. It started with houseplants. Just a philodendron for the coffee table in the living room, then a spider plant for the bedroom window, a fern in the bathroom, an African violet on the windowsill in the kitchen. Before I knew what the numbers meant in 10-10-10 fertilizer, I was buying plant stands and shelving because I had run out of desk tops and window ledges.

So I moved outdoors.

A few hanging baskets of begonia, I thought. Maybe a flower box along the front window?

I live on a small city lot, so I thought my obsession would be limited by space. 

Limited, but not controlled.

I've replaced almost every available inch of what was once a small front lawn with plants and flowers, bushes and trees. I can't help myself.

One side, separated by a walkway is in heavy shade from a holly tree that was there long before my wife and I bought our house. Grass was hard to grow, so I filled it with hostas, ferns, azaleas, and a number of plants I can no longer identify. Anything described as "shade loving" finds its way there. A few years back, I had to cut a branch off the holly tree because it was growing too low over the driveway. I discovered a three-inch hole where I had made the cut. A better person would have left well enough alone, but I filled it with soil and planted ivy, which now covers much of the tree and competes with the hostas for ground space.

The other side of the lawn gets sun, but instead of simply growing grass I've added a Japanese maple, and cut out a semi-circle for flowering annuals, a couple of rose bushes, Russian sage, ornamental sweet peas and more. Much more. I have a hydrangea bush in an area that gets semi-shade. And I've filled the small strip that runs between the sidewalk and the street with dogwoods and a crepe myrtle, and monkey grass, hydrangea transplants and an assortment of bulbs, from daffodils and tulips, day lilies to cannas, so I have additional color from spring to summer. To separate my jungle from my neighbor's driveway, I planted ornamental grass. The clumps are now at least six feet in diameter.

I won't even begin to talk about the vegetable garden in the back yard that I swear to downsize every spring, although I still plant lettuce and spinach, herbs, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, squash, zucchini and potatoes. At least this year, I haven't tilled the area I usually plant with sweet corn. Yet.

Now I'm considering growing cherry tomatoes and jalapeno peppers as hanging baskets. That would give me more room for beets and carrots in the garden.

My name is Wayne, and I'm a gardener. 

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