Confessions of a Delinquent Gardener

My garden is a shipwreck!

I have an embarrassing confession to make. I’ve been a delinquent gardener. My little postage stamp of a garden here in San Francisco is suffering.

My garden is a disaster. I’m not kidding. It’s not just a weed issue – or a lack of maintenance. It’s the complete failure of my once thriving garden. There are a number of contributing factors that lead up to the collapse that I will enumerate in a moment. This post is a self-help pronouncement, a statement of accountability, that I will spend no fewer than 20 minutes a day for the whole month of September to rectify this situation – and to get back to doing what I love best – enjoying the fall (our warm weather months in San Francisco) out in the garden – relaxing, dining al fresco with friends, watching things grow, delighting the hummingbirds and butterflies and enjoying our little microcosm in the city. I’m on a 30-day mission to turn the tide back to a thriving garden. I guess 10 hours doesn’t seem like enough time, but I have a pretty typical San Francisco Victorian garden space of 25′ x 30′. Certainly, I’ll spend more time on the weekends, but I think 20 minutes a day will get me back into the habit of being a gardener – not just a delinquent gardener.

Whose garden is this? I feel like I should be on an episode of “Hoarders!”

It’s so important to spend time in our outdoor spaces. One of the things I love most about San Francisco is the commitment of the early planners to create open space. I can throw a rock from my house and hit several amazing urban parks. I spend hours each week running my dogs through Golden Gate Park. I’m excited to spend more time at Strybing Arboretum in Golden Gate Park in my search for hard-to-find cultivars and interesting plants. I’ve been such a delinquent gardener, I didn’t even know that Strybing Arboretum now has daily plant sales at “The Arbor.” But I’m getting ahead of myself. There will be no new plants until there is containment and focus in my little botanical garden.

So what happened to my sacred space to get me to this point of desperation? I was planning a wedding – my own. It was a homespun hootenanny that took most of my time and energy for the better part of a year. During that time, a puppy moved in to our three-flat building with free access to the garden and set a path of destruction that included chewed irrigation, dug up plants, a lawn massacre – you name it. While I love the pooch, I admit I’m not sad to see her move to her new garden across town.

The Ever-reaching Bloom of Agave vilmoriniana – note the ineffective dog fence and weeds!

Then there was the beautiful bloom of the star of my garden – the Agave vilmoriniana – common name Octopus Agave. If you know the life cycle of agaves, you know that the bloom is also the plant’s death knell – we don’t have the moth that pollinates the beautiful bloom here in San Francisco. Somehow, with everything else going on in my life during its bloom time, other garden activities stood still. I’ll miss the beautiful blue-gray “octopus” arms of my specimen agave while its replacement grows in. There is another upside to this Octopus Agave story that I’ll share with you another time. I have a new Agave vilmoriniana ready to replace my specimen when the moment comes.

So here we are – the beginning of September. There’s no better time to start this sort of effort in San Francisco. It’s Labor Day weekend, so I get a three-day jump start. The weather is changing for the better – our phones start ringing to see if the grill is on as soon as the sun comes out. The puppy is moving out next weekend. My wedding is done (on to living happily ever after). Over the next 30 days, I plan to transform my little delinquent garden into a bountiful and thriving botanical garden. I won’t stop visiting Golden Gate Park and Strybing Arboretum for inspiration, but I look forward to spending time in my own outdoor space.

This is a pre-delinquent-gardener shot of Wingnut, not the puppy, enjoying a well-kept garden.

6 Responses to “Confessions of a Delinquent Gardener”

  1. George

    Strybing Arboretum is no more. It has been privatized, and public land is being used to put their “arbor” and the Society has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to lobbyist Sam Lauter in order to restrict entrance hours, charge a $7 entrance fee and to allow them to build a $15 million office building on public land.

    You should buy your plants from a reputable source!

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