I remember my first flower garden, a thick batch of blooms grown from seeds sown in one ambitious spurt in the spring of my second pregnancy … and then left to their own devices all through the summer. I was twenty-three, married for two whole years already, and had never in my whole life had a real garden. My young husband and I had a one-year-old daughter in tow and had planted ourselves in a pretty old Victorian in a small town forty-five minutes out of Minneapolis, where he taught school. His days as a commuter were long, and my days at home with a baby were hectic in that perplexing slow-fast way that all mothers understand.
Suffice it to say my garden suffered from pathetic neglect, all under the watchful gaze of our easterly neighbor. Both of our next-door neighbors were master gardeners, as fate would have it, but the one to the west was kind, loved children, and leaned toward the abundant chaos of an English garden. Whereas the one to the east preferred all growth in tidy, well-manicured rows, and was affronted by her view of our scraggly side yard. She frequently and chirpily pointed out—from her vantage point in her own flourishing garden, watering hose suspended in her green-gloved hand, eyes shaded by wide-brimmed gardening hat—“Nature does tend to take over when left to its own devices, doesn’t it?” (more…)