Life Lessons Learned in the Garden

This past weekend, I tackled a garden project that I’ve been putting off for years. I dug up all the irises in front of our house, and moved them to an entirely new area, which I’m hoping will now become “The Iris Bed.”

When we first moved into this house, I admit I went a little crazy with my flowers. I have always loved English cottage gardens, and I wanted a garden surrounding my house that was all flowers, full of blooms at all times of the year. I’ve been able to achieve that in a sort of modified way out the side door. But in our front, along the sidewalk, it just wasn’t working. For one thing, I only had a small space between the front porch and the sidewalk. For another, that part of the yard just doesn’t get much direct sunlight.

Rather than having a variety of blooming perennials and annuals, I had planted a lot of iris bulbs among the two boxwoods, and then pretty much ignored the area. After all, bulbs are supposed to be low maintenance, right?

But as I know from my years in garden writing, low maintenance doesn’t mean no maintenance. You might choose to turn some of your lawn into a natural area to cut down on the fertilizing, watering, and mowing. But you still have to mulch and weed that natural area. Or you plant perennials instead of annuals in your flower border, but perennials will need to be cut back in the fall and divided once in a while to really thrive.

That’s exactly what happened to my irises. They bloomed gangbusters for a few years. But two years ago, the blooms slowed down, and then last spring even the plants themselves seemed to be choked out. It was an overgrown mess, with dead leaves and weeds overtaking the beauty of the irises.

The newly cleaned up front walkway.

Once I finally took the time to pay attention to these bulbs, I was excited by the opportunities I found. Not only does the front walkway look a lot cleaner in its spruced up makeover, but I had over four grocery bags of iris bulbs to get creative with.

After a few afternoons in the garden, I felt the satisfaction of a job well done. It made me think of something my grandmother used to say, “Nothing in life worth having comes easy.”

Sure, we all long for the no-maintenance lifestyle. But that doesn’t exist, not in the garden, not in friendships, not in our spiritual life, you name it. Very little in our lives thrives on neglect. But luckily, it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to revive or maintain what’s important in our lives. For the irises, all it took was splitting up the crowded bulbs. Nurturing a friendship can be as simple as a text can let a friend know you’re thinking of them. Taking a couple of hours out of my busy night-time routine of washing dishes and getting kids to bed to go to our women’s Bible study is all it takes to reinvigorate me spiritually.

It was easy to neglect my irises. After all, they were in the front of the house, out a door we rarely use, and no one really saw them. But once I made the effort to split them up, which is recommended every three to four years and I had gone seven, I saw just how much of a difference a little time and energy can make. Yet again, my garden is teaching me a lesson — to not let other areas of my life get neglected, crowded, and covered up with weeds. I want my life to be full of strong blooms, and while it might take a little work once in a while, it’s worth it.

It might not be pretty now, but these little iris leaves show the promise of a bed full of flowers come April.



Share with the world
Picture of Blending it Up
Blending it Up

Every blog has a different theme or purpose. For years I put off blogging because I couldn't find a theme. Then I decided on one: Write about whatever I want. And that’s what you’ll find here. Whether it’s an update on how my garden’s doing, goings on with my family, or thoughts on writing, editing, and working from home, this blog is where I share my views on life.

4 Responses

  1. Well said! I, too, dream of an English cutting garden with walkways and a border, maybe with a statue or a fountain in the center. While I did manage to get the “cottage” home, it came with a canopy of shade where I can only grow a few vegetables in tubs on our deck. And did I mention the deer? While I do enjoy camellias and daffodils, and a few peonies, that is all I can manage to bloom.

    And there are chores that I also put off as long as I can. It might be the difficult monogramming item that is impossible to hoop. Or the bank statement reconciliation for my husband’s business. Or the silver that I try to polish twice a year. But the feeling I get when they are finished is not only relief, but satisfying. It makes me want to do the hard things first.

    I should try harder at maintaining friendships too. I’ve neglected many that are worth keeping, due to my busyness and my true introverted self!
    But to use your words, its worth it.

  2. Excellent analogies. I love your garden stories because I had a garden in Marietta that I loved for years.

    1. Being able to stay in one place really does make a difference! I look at how much things have grown and changed since we moved in 9 years ago, and it makes me happy.