I grow a lot weeds, but I cultivate a few flowers. Don't get the idea that I have some exquisite garden. I once had a very lovely perennial garden, but working outside the home for eighteen years did that one in. However, now that I am retired and have a new hip to boot, I am feeling the urge. So I have developed a few guidelines for women who fall in the over fifty category and still like to dig in the earth.
1. Wear a kitchen apron over your clothing. I have an old dark green and white Williams-Sonoma apron with deep pockets that I wear in the yard. You just never know when you will need pockets (even though my "baby" is twenty-four, I will occasionally turn up a jointed GI Joe or tank that he buried in the yard when he was a little boy), Also, if I have my glasses on my head they fall off in the dirt, so it helps to stick them way down in the pockets of the apron where they are less likely to get lost in the yard. Losing glasses at the rate I do can get expensive, even when they are the drugstore kind.
2. Do not wear a bra. If you wear the kitchen apron, this will not be so obvious, and you will not be quite so embarrassed when the neighbors come to call. I should have made this rule number one, but I didn't want to start out with something that sounded totally crass, however, this is a very important rule. Not wearing a bra helps to mitigate those life-altering hot flashes...which seem to come more frequently when your head is bent down below your hindermost parts.
3. Water your plants when you first go out and then turn the hose down to a light trickle. As I work around the yard, I drag the hose around with me. The trickle is nice because I can drink from the hose when I get thirsty or even pat a little water on my head and neck when one of those hot flashes make their appearance. And if you have a nuclear flash (some of you know what I am talking about) then you can sprint to turn the hose up to full blast and turn it over your head. I call this my shower in the yard.
4. Keep several pairs of yard shoes by every door. I am bad about going out one door and coming in the other, so I like to have several pairs of shoes in case one gets muddy from a nuclear flash or otherwise soggy ground. For a while I had more yard shoes than good shoes because I was always getting the urge to dig in my good shoes, and I could not restrain myself. I am trying to be more disciplined now.
5. Keep your tools nearby. I have a plastic cart that I bought at a yard sale that is my best friend. (This photo is the closest thing I could find, but keep in mind that I paid $5 for mine; that's right folks, $5.00) It works better than a wheelbarrow for me and is lighter. It is also angled so that I can keep my trowels and shovels in the cart when I work. Otherwise, I will lose something. I have found trowels in the oddest places along with gloves I never remember taking off. Hot flashes are known to fry the brain cells. Or so I say.
4. Start early in the morning, and start in the shade. I have tried working later in the day, but the heat and the sun are guaranteed triggers (just like a blow dryer) for those pesky hot flashes.
5. Don't be afraid to break the rules. My woolly lambs-ear says full sun, but it does not like the full sun of my herb garden. I know this because I have tried repeatedly to make it grow there. The lambs-ear is the happiest tucked up under my lace-cap hydrangeas. Despite what the folks at Home Depot think, God does not always follow the rules on the plastic tag, therefore, neither do I.
6. Go with your gut. I had a friend who had an unbelievably beautiful blue and white garden. It was magnificent, and I loved going to visit when the phlox and larkspur were in bloom, but despite the fact that I appreciated the discipline and order that she brought to her landscape, it is not my cup of tea. My yard is riotous. Riotous in color and texture. I could never limit myself to two colors and besides, you never know what is going to be in the cosmos or zinnia packets.
7. Annuals versus perennials is not a battle that I fight in my yard. I buy whatever strikes my fancy. The weather is so crazy around here that I always have a few "spring" surprises. This year my Italian flat parsley wintered over, but none of my columbine came back. Go figure.
9. Keep plastic or paper down in your trunk for those moments when you just have to buy a plant, or better yet, have a friend who will let you dig one up in her yard. It saves you later when you can't figure out that musty, earthy smell coming from the back of your car.
10. Don't do your gardening for anyone else to enjoy, do it for yourself. I have been a lot happier since I started following this line of thought in my yard and in my life. Talk to God in your yard. He likes it out there. Pray, sing, laugh, and sweat (if you are over 50, this does not require much effort to produce this result). Gardening is good for the soul. I could write more rules, but there is no humidity today so I am heading back outdoors for round two. The silver artemisia I found day before yesterday is calling me!