By Patrice Peltier
My husband, Saint Paul, often bemoans the sorry state of the lawn in our shady yard. There are bare patches due to the mature trees … and our beloved dog. Neither are going anywhere, so we will never have a lush lawn.
I can tell you where there IS an abundance of turfgrass: in my perennial gardens. It is growing among the plants I value, sometimes so entwined that I have to dig up the plants, shake off all the soil, break up the root mass and tease the turfgrass out a tuft at a time. It is mind-numbing, back-aching, tedious work. And there’s a lot of it.
Where did this turfgrass come from? Because the garden was originally lawn, the grass might have sprung from tiny root remnants just lying in wait until conditions were right for a sneak attack. Or, maybe grass seeds dropped from the coats of rabbits and squirrels as they scurried through. I try to pull it up when I see it. Obviously, I have not been sufficiently diligent. Spreading by insidious underground runners, it is suddenly everywhere.
By Day 3 of my assault on the turfgrass, I was beyond discouraged, hot and tired. “Fine!” went the conversation in my head. “Have it your way. I will dig up all the plants and let this garden go back to turfgrass. I’ve had enough of this $&!%.”
Shortly thereafter, Yvonne pulled her car to the curb and greeted me as I worked in my sidewalk garden. She’d been running errands. “This is the third time I’ve been by, and you’re still out here,” she commented. I made a sweeping gesture toward all the turfgrass.
“I know exactly what you mean,” she said. “I have the same battle.”
What a balm for my battered spirit! I wasn’t a lone, negligent gardener. These things happen to other gardeners, too. As we chatted, my funk lifted.
Somewhat restored, I returned to my task. Soon, Al passed by in his golf cart on his way to the course, shouting a cheery greeting. Then Guidry called “Hello, Patti” from the sidewalk across the street as he headed to work. Bent over as I was, he could have easily passed by unnoticed. I was charmed and delighted a teenager made the effort to interact.
Finally, it was noon — a good excuse to take a break. Dirt was embedded in my nails. My t-shirt was streaked with mud. I was a disreputable mess when Eileen pulled her car to the curb to greet me. Remembering my cancer diagnosis last year, she earnestly inquired about my health. From the glove box she produced a greeting card kept at the ready for when she happened to see me.
Smiling, I carried my gardening tools — and the card — into the garage. What an amazing, caring and engaging community I live in! I relish the many opportunities my garden by the sidewalk provides for impromptu exchanges with friends, neighbors and even strangers. It is a gift, this garden that helps connect me to others. And if those connections are the result of endless weeding, well, that’s just blitz.
Patrice Peltier lives in Spring Green and writes regularly for Wisconsin Gardening, Chicagoland Gardening and The Landscape Contractor magazines.