Posts Tagged ‘hobbies’

Growing Things

June 2, 2010

Once when I was 9 years old, I set a plastic flower box outside my bedroom window, filled it with soil, and planted some seeds that, most likely, had come in the mail as part of one of those garden-club-by-mail junk mail offers.  I grew leaf lettuce and garlic, both doing surprisingly well considering I almost certainly forgot to water them, and my only background in growing things was “planting” a bean in wet paper towels as a 4th grade science project.  And that was pretty much the extent of my green thumb–I did manage to keep alive a bonsai juniper for a few years–pretty much everything else I ever tried to grow ended up a brown wilted disaster.

It’s not that green thumbs aren’t known in my family; in fact, my mother’s kitchen window is perennially filled with all manner of hanging green vines, flowering cacti, and jars filled with rooting cuttings.  My father plowed a garden every spring that would produce beans, corn, tomatoes, and hundreds and hundreds of zucchini every summer.  And while I certainly enjoy smelling flowers, and eating fresh summer corn, I never caught the growing things bug.  Maybe it was a lack of patience, maybe it was a lack of organization, but whatever it was, beyond that singular flower box, I’ve never been a gardener…until now.

Seven months ago I moved to Las Vegas.  The move was for many reasons, but one of those reasons was *not* so I would be able to grow things.  And yet…my patio has been not-so-systematically covered with all manner of flowering shrub, green herb, and fruit-producing tree.  I have two palms, a pomegranate, a peach, and a key lime tree.  I have four bougainvilleas, a pot of cosmos, and just today I picked up two roses, two mandevillas, a red ground rose, and some pretty purple and pink things whose names I have already forgotten.  I also have a sage, a rosemary, some catnip, spearmint, and an oregano.  The growing things bug has also caught on indoors: I have a Christmas cactus and five orchids in my living room, and I have three rose cuttings taking root above my kitchen sink.

I bought two of these (mandevillas) at WalMart for $7.50...

So why this preoccupation with growing things?  I think first and foremost because, for the first time, the things I am growing are not simultaneously dying.  In New England the growing season is so short, that if you don’t time your plantings correctly, your plants never get the opportunity to flourish.  If you don’t properly protect them from the late frosts or the early snow, they die premature, black, deaths.  But in Las Vegas?  Plant whenever you like; it’ll grow!  I thought I was moving to a barren wasteland of a desert where only the heartiest cacti could eke out a meager existence, but it turns out I was wrong.  Las Vegas is in the desert, of course, but there is also water here–it’s why people moved here in the first place–and it turns out there are a LOT of plants that thrive with hot hot sun and dry dry weather.  There’s also a lot that love hot hot sun and the occasional hose down.  In other words, it’s easier here.

Secondly, because it turns out gardening is a relatively cheap hobby.  Now that June is upon us, every big box store that sells plants has put them all on mega sale.  WalMart was selling their roses for $4 today.  Sure they probably won’t bloom again for a year, but for $4, if I can keep them alive for a year, that’ll be $4 well spent.  Hobbies can be very expensive, even the supposedly “free” hobbies have unexpected costs.  By the time I paid for the new seat, helmet, and tune up, my bike ended up costing me well over $200.  To go hiking in the Valley of Fire was about 5 gallons of gas and an $8 admission fee, and since my old hiking boots bit the dust while I was there, if I want to go again, I’ll need to shell out at least $50 for a new pair.  Gyms have membership fees, most sports require some sort of equipment or clothing cost, and most hobbies in the home have some sort of material cost.  So, by comparison, my $4 rose bush is cheap for a hobby.  I like cheap hobbies.

And finally, it turns out that gardening is addicting.  As an HGTV junkie, it’s no surprise that I get a high from decorating and redecorating my house.  The most fun part about moving was staging the house for sale.  But when we moved to Las Vegas, we brought with us all of our matched living room and bedroom furniture, the same linens and wall hangings.  Decorating just isn’t that appealing when you don’t have new materials to work with.  The only “new” thing to decorate in the new house was the patio.  In Vegas, your patio can literally become an outdoor room; in fact one of the first pieces of furniture I bought for it was a white leatherette sofa from the clearance room at Ikea.  I know it’s not intended as an outdoor piece of furniture, but here it doesn’t matter, so why not?

To me the patio was a blank canvas just waiting for an artist’s brush strokes.  And my brush of choice has been plants.  And the best part is, since the plants actually grow and change shape and color and produce things like flowers, and fruit, and delicious smells, it’s nothing like decorating inside with our same old furniture.  The patio looks different from week to week.  Different plants flower at different times.  They grow taller, and they grow wider.  And someday, some of them might even produce things that I can eat!

The Promethean nature of growing things has me hooked; it’s exciting waiting to find out what will happen next.