Call me Digger, or Mulch Man. Do not call me Gardener. That is my wife’s territory. She is the one who reverently speaks the Latin names for plants. She is the one who talks in planting zones. She is the one who knows that a plant labeled “Full Sun” will burn up in one afternoon’s exposure to the intense Atlanta sunlight. She is the one who knows exactly where each plant should go, and why. She knows their width, their height, their spring and fall colors, their soil and drainage needs. (I suspect she converses with them when I’m not around.)
And ultimately, she is the one who points to a spot on the ground and says, “Honey, plant the [insert Latin name here] there and there. To which I respond, “Which is the [insert mispronounced Latin name here]?
“The red ones.”
“Well, why didn’t you say so?”
It is then that I display my true skills. I dig, I plant, using shovel, pickaxe, and trowel. When I get into a rhythm, I have been known to plant at a rate of 100 plants an hour. And that’s saying a lot when you consider that I am planting in drought-hardened Georgia clay. More than fifteen hundred plants have gone into the ground by my hands in the last three years. More than 500 bags of mulch, some black, some red, some brown, some golden have been spread to create meandering garden paths and sensuously curvy garden beds, all bordered by enough cobble stones to repave Colonial Williamsburg.
In these beds you will see enough Latin-named whatsits to make your high school Latin teacher just plain giddy. You will find every color and hue, every texture and smell. What you will not find is grass. Every blade on this little third of an acre of planet Earth has been eliminated, by me, with a hoe. (I no longer own a lawnmower!)
Our gardens attract a lot of attention. People stop, get out of their cars, and wander around. Buses slow, even stop briefly, so the passengers can see the garden. Passersby always have good things to say. And one day this summer, two women from a garden club stopped by to tell us that our gardens had been selected for the Decatur Garden Tour.
That, of course, led to more digging, planting, and mulch spreading. Enough, in fact, that my wife now refers to me as Baron Von Mulchhausen.
Hundreds of people toured the gardens in September, filling the air with oohs and ahhs, much to the delight of my wife. But some questioned why we left one corner of the garden in its natural wild state. There you will find ivy, both English and Poison, and all the weeds pictured on those bags of herbicide at Home Depot, along with wildflowers, creepers, weed mulberry trees, and the occasional volunteer oak sapling.
We tell them it’s to provide counterpoint to our garden. It’s a reminder, we say, that however beautiful our garden, it must one day yield to Mother Nature’s ordered chaos. And who’s to say which is more beautiful?
On second thought, call me Mr. Weeds.