A Work in Progress

I went on a Master Gardeners tour back in June. I am not a master gardener, either in name or practice. But I learned something vastly more BlackEyedSusansimportant than how often to deadhead a rosebush or what perennial to plant where.

How reassuring to know that even Master Gardeners have problems with their trees and hedges and flowers.

I especially enjoyed the home of a professor of biology whose garden and yard were like a laboratory of experiments. She calls her backyard “the Eclectic Edge,” and her husband cheerily admits it is her space—she gets to decide what to put where—although he helps with maintenance. There were birds and mushrooms (and logs inoculated with stuff to make more mushrooms, how cool!). There was shade and sun, flowers and vegetables, moist areas and dry, and two compost bins doing their thing.

But this professor was very open in admitting that her gardens don’t usually look all spruced up; she usually lets dead leaves just rot where they are, and covers them up with mulch. She had worked like a madwoman getting ready for the open garden tour, but termed her garden “a work in progress.”

My friends asked her about a huge older vine that had grown up one side of an archway, asking if was wisteria or something else. She said she had fought the wisteria vines for many years, until they won. She cut them off and planted honeysuckle and something else to do the fighting.

But the best things I saw on our morning tour were not the deep blue delphinium (some call them larkspur) or pungent red and yellow roses—three of my favorite flowers.

One was a dying pine tree. It stood smack-dab in the front of a former pediatrician’s home with a lovely landscaped entranceway. The pine (I don’t know the name) had short needles with miniature cones, and had turned very brown. In the middle of June. Wasting away. The Master Gardener guide told us, “No, the doctor doesn’t know what is wrong with the tree, but it is obviously dying.”

How reassuring to know that even Master Gardeners have problems with their trees and hedges and flowers.

We visited the gardens of a 90-year-old woman and her husband. He was in the hospital, but she was quite hardy, and had helped to spruce up her beds; but the other Master Gardeners had done a Herculean job of restoring several bountiful raised rose beds, a Williamsburg (Va.) type shady garden filled with hostas for quiet meditation spaces, and more. She said she is determined to keep them up. She had taken Master Gardener classes at the age of 86, although she’s been gardening all her life.

Instead of coming away envious (oh, there was a little of that), I came away inspired to keep thinking of the words “a work in progress.” I was able to finish weeding and mulching my front perennial bed the following week, and found a place for a donated hosta from my sister-in-law in a shady place at the corner of our deck. I again reflected on the many persons who had given us “starts” for my flower bed: irises (run amuck by now!) from our good friend Charles; tulips; lilies of the valley; mums from the bank where my daughter worked for a while; ribbon grass from a friend; unnamed prolific flowers from my neighbor; black-eyed Susans from a small garden party; a nameless hardy bush from my brother-in-law; a yellow coreopsis from my dear sister-in-law. We’ve only purchased a few items—a nandina bush, two arborvitae, a rhododendron in memory of my father, and several rosebushes. Most of these you can see over at my blog (see endnote) from a post several years ago.

The Master Gardener name makes me also think of God as Master Gardener—and Creator of all that we enjoy. It also reminds me of how God accepts us as we are—imperfect and “a work in progress.”

We make mistakes; we sin, we gossip, we fail our loved ones and our Lord. We try to keep those failures to a minimum and not repeat the same mistakes. We can be like the gardeners who cut down or eliminate things from our lives that cause us problems. When a huge tree dies, we cut it down and plant a new one, or rearrange our landscaping to do without it. Life is a work in progress, and change is continual. When I putter in my flower bed, my mind can aimlessly ponder all these things, even when the work makes me weary. But it’s a good weary and I’m thankful for strength and muscles to do the work.FlowerGarden


For a free booklet, “Respect Your Mother Earth,” write to MelodieD@MennoMedia.org or Another Way, 1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802. If you’d like to check out my humble flower garden online, here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/DavisFlowerGarden.