I was asked to write about gardening as a hobby and this is what I said:

Gardening a hobby? I think not. A quick perusal of the digital thesaurus provided by my word processing program sites such synonyms for “hobby” as “diversion,” “fad” and “sideline.” I wish that my gardening endeavors played such a light and frivolous role in my yearly intellectual, physical, and financial life.

Alas, in the fifteen years or so since I started a small container garden on my Elmwood Village patio, gardening has grown into nearly a year-round occupation. I can be counted on to be outside digging, planting, watering, deadheading, or fertilizing on a daily basis during the warm weather months; I plant and force bulbs in the fall and winter; and I maintain a growing inventory of plants inside year-round. I have three mail-order companies I regularly patronize for live plants in the spring, I can be seen browsing the offerings at local nurseries regularly on summer weekends, and, in late summer and fall, four other orders go in for mail-order bulbs. I am also constantly replacing outdoor pots, even though container gardening is now only one part of my six-year-old Allentown space.

While much of my gardening activity is pleasurable, almost as much of it is frustrating. There is very little I can do about the Norway maple trees whose roots make it nearly impossible to cultivate my front garden space and whose shade prevent any light-loving plants from thriving there, even if I could get through the cement-hard root systems to plant them.

On the side of the house, a bounteous jungle of hostas delights, and then dismays me very year; nothing I do stops them from prematurely decaying in mid-August. Should I replace them—or just enjoy them for the pleasures they do give? And what about the 15-dollar lily bulbs that never came up? Should I stop ordering—oh, but when they do come up, they’re glorious.

For the past four years or so, my yearly springtime obsession has been the pond I keep delaying. I know I will have one, but thoughts of filters, electrical access, possible mosquitoes (causing eventual death from West Nile), plant displacement, and upkeep terrify me, causing me to delay the inevitable one more year. But I can’t stop the bitter pangs of envy whenever I see a friend or neighbor’s fabulous pond.

This is not a hobby. This is endless worry, backbreaking work, unfulfilled expectations, irrevocable mistakes, and appalling expenditures. This is obsession.

But even obsession has its rewards. Sometimes, the sun is out, the lilies are in bloom, and the air is filled with their fragrance. Sometimes, the verbena boniarensis fulfills all my expectations. Sometimes, against all odds, the ground cover calls truce with the tree roots and my front yard looks acceptable.

See you on Garden Walk.

The front at an OK moment.


Annie in Austin said…
Hello EAL,

Although it's January of 2007, this post just popped up on Bloglines, so I read it and agree. Gardening has been a delight, a pain, a compulsion or an obsession, but don't call it a hobby!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose
Anonymous said…
So true! The pursuit of garden beauty can be both exciting and disappointing, but it's rarely boring.

Your front garden looks beautiful. I wish I could see it on the garden walk, but Buffalo's a little out of my range.
Anonymous said…
Well, my February is a little different than yours!In AZ it is spring. A spring following a very unusual week and a half of night freezes and cold days.

You are absolutely right. Gardening is not a hobby, especially when trying to take care of 3 acres. That makes it impossible. The weeds are overwhelming. Total frustration reigns. And it must be an obsession to achieve any real goals.
Anonymous said…
Hi Elizabeth,
I've been following your blog since last year's garden walk and keep up with your columns in Spree. The plot pictured as a spot for a small pond would be perfect. I began a pond about 8 years ago and finally had it professionally "restored" last Summer. It's great! There is a new company here I was referred to called Second to None Ponds and Patios and the young owner, John, is terrific. Pond worries gone and the price is reasonable. The number is 603-6607 and tell him Suzann on Chatham referred you.
EAL said…
Thanks, Suzann!

We did hire Brain Masterson to do the pond--he has his own business apart from his dad's in East Aurora.

It gets installed Thursday and I hope you come by and see it on the Walk. There will be some other new stuff on my block.

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