After a long, painful winter — followed by a mocking tease of spring — summer finally decided to announce itself a few weeks ago. Motivated by the unexpected appearance of sunshine, my neighbors immediately set to work — digging, planting, fertilizing . . . whatever people who garden tend to do. Soon, we were surrounded on all sides by lush, vibrant flowers, stretching triumphantly into the air like Jack’s beanstalk reaching toward the sky. Everywhere we looked, there were bursts of fragrant petals, explosions of loud color, eruptions of lush vegetation — all making our apartment building look like something out of Better Homes and Gardens.
And then, of course, there was our yard.
Our sad little yard, with the kids’ half-broken sled leaning defeatedly against a half-broken chair. Our yard, with forgotten toys strewn carelessly across a neglected field of weeds. Our yard, still bearing the ravages of winter.
Adding insult to injury, our home is near a train station, so every day commuters would stroll by, admiring the colorful garden to our right, the emerging vegetables to our left . . . and ignoring the eyesore in between. Clearly this would not do.
Announcing to my husband that the kids needed to learn about the wonders of agriculture — pronto — I packed them into the car and took off for Home Depot. Unfortunately, upon arriving at this gardener’s paradise, I quickly made the same discovery I make every year: I know nothing about gardening. As such, my daughter and I did our best to wing it, basing our shopping decisions on the following highly technical criteria.
1. Color. Clearly, the best flowers are pink flowers, as any five-year-old girl can tell you. This year, blue flowers have joined the list of acceptable floral hues, thanks to the fashion choices of Frozen’s Elsa. Somehow, Mommy made a case for yellow and red, which were grudgingly added to the cart, after a lengthy negotiation (and threats that Mommy “will turn this car cart around”).
2. Toddler resistance. Another factor in planting the perfect garden is choosing flowers less likely to attract the destructive forces of our resident one-year-old. Any plant that grows to toddler eye level is in imminent peril. A flower may be able to survive eight hours of scorching sunlight; five minutes with a toddler, and it’s history.
3. Expert endorsements. Finally, when in doubt, I resorted to vague recollections and random hearsay. The conversation went something like this:
Mommy: Let’s get marigolds.
Daughter: I don’t like them. They’re not pink.
Mommy: I heard they’re an easy, low-maintenance plant.
Daughter (skeptically): Who told you that?
Mommy: Umm . . . someone on Facebook, I think.
Daughter: Do they know a lot about flowers?
Mommy: Yes, they know everything about flowers. They are the ultimate flower expert. They could write a book on flowers. In fact, I think maybe they did.
Daughter (relenting): Well . . . they’re not pink, but OK.
Mommy puts marigolds in cart, trying to remember if random Facebook commenter actually recommended impatiens . . .
After a harrowing car ride home, trying to keep aforementioned marigolds from ending up on my lap, we finally arrived at the site of our future garden. After much digging, and a merciful “gardening intervention” by our neighbor, said flowers made it into the ground. Only time will tell how long these poor flowers can survive our lack of skill, knowledge, and (let’s be honest) interest. But for now, our yard looks slightly less pitiful to the commuters walking by it.
And, really, that’s the point, isn’t it?