Nicola’s Garden and Us-Gettin’ Old- Gardeners

*Names and nationalities have been changed to protect the innocent

*Nicola has gardened at her home since she purchased her house five years ago.  I met her a year ago when I was out walking my dogs, and she was watering her plants.  I’m so glad I said “hello,” and that we struck up a conversation.

Nicola is from Belgium and works as a prison guard in a unit that houses some pretty rough criminals. You’d never know this was Nicola’s occupation from the way she looks or her personality.  However, her occupation is one reason I’m not using her real name or country of origin.

As much as I’d like to post photos of Nicola’s garden, my guess is she wouldn’t allow it.  She is not much of an Internet user so she’d never view this blog, and I think because of her work, she would feel uncomfortable having photos of her yard on-line.  That’s too bad because she has a lovely garden that she created all by herself.

So, all I can do is describe and contrast Nicola’s garden with my own.

Nicola grows roses, gomphrena, Katie ruellia, various bulbs (hyacinth, tulips, daffodils), Carolina jessamine, clematis, aromatic geraniums, purple heart, grapes, passion flowers, citrus (lemons and oranges), figs, raspberries and a multitude of vegetables in large pots.  She uses a lot of pots because her soil is red clay. I’m guessing she isn’t sure how to amend the clay to get it to grow stuff even though she does grow a few hardy plants (Carolina jessamine) in borders around her house.

Unlike me, Nicola’s garden is organized using straight paths and straight lines.  She enjoys a sharp clean look, but says she is able to appreciate the laid-back meandering style of my garden.  That, of course, makes me feel good.

Nicola built garden beds behind her 3-foot black iron fence (modern style) that surrounds her front yard, as well as beds that border the house, itself.  Nicola embellishes her yard with various pieces of resin, concrete, and metal garden décor.

At the back of her yard, she recently installed a large covered patio and a lovely wooden tea house, which she screened in all by herself. Screening it in was a BIG job.

Sometimes I go over to Nicola’s house to sip wine and eat awesome food beside her fire pit. We’ve done this several times. (Nicola knows her wines. Yum!)

Anyway, now that perhaps you can envision Nicola’s garden, I want to move on to a subject that stares Nicola and I (and eventually most gardeners) squarely in the face:  We are no longer young.  Nicola has had three back surgeries and her hip hurts.  I am facing a hip replacement and another surgery next year.

As much as we both enjoy gardening, there are times when we can’t or shouldn’t do gardening tasks because they damage us, and yet, we both do them anyway.  Nicola was up and down on a ladder to screen in her tea house, and last night she was paying for this with back pain.

You might question, “Well, why didn’t she hire the job out?”  She tried to.  She mentioned this job to her handyman multiple times.  He never said he didn’t want to tackle it, but he simply never would start on the job. She got tired of waiting, and she waited 4 months.

For my part, I recycle water and carry it in large buckets to various plants.  This saves money, but it’s not great for my health issues. Until recently, I did it anyway.

Do I hire things to be done?  Sure, but guess what?  Sometimes it’s hard to get people to do the job or to do the job right, and it also gets expensive.

Moving into this new-to-me house was an attempt to downsize from managing 2/3rds acres alone.  My husband passed away, and I was left to tend his 100’ x 10’ bed, my two 85’ free-form beds, one 5’ x 8’ bed, two 4’ x 5’ veggie beds, and one 10’ x 10’ bed, plus I cared for 85 potted plants, along with mowing and weed-eating.  I’m not complaining, just stating facts. I did this for ten years, but realized I couldn’t do it forever.

Nicola and I discussed aging last night.  She said she’s renovated her home with aging in mind and that this was one reason she purchased a house on a level lot, removed a large portion of her sod, and replaced it with pavers so she wouldn’t have to mow as much.  Using tall pots and stock tanks for her veggies keeps her from having to bend over, which is also back-saving.

And me?  Well, if I let the horse herb be my “grass” in the back yard, along with the short native bunch grasses and liriope (not planted by me), I can cut back on mowing.  In fact, I already have.

I’m also looking toward growing fruits & veggies that are more long-term in nature such as thorn-less blackberries, asparagus, grapes, and maybe a dwarf fruit tree or two.  This way, I won’t have to bend as much to plant new seed each season, but I’ll still have good things to eat.  I’ll probably continue to plant some veggie seeds though, but as I get older that could change.

Lugging around a garden hose at 35 years old is different than lugging one at 70.  (I’m not 70 yet, but hope to be one day.)  I know planting natives and drought-tolerant plants cuts down on watering chores and to some degree, I do this.   Because all my plants are new this year, I have to water often, but once they’re established, I hope not to water as much.  Most of my stuff is well-mulched.  Thank you, leaves!

I looked at books on Amazon for active aging gardeners but didn’t see a huge number.  One book that looked interesting had mixed reviews.  However, it’s not expensive so maybe I’ll buy it anyway.

Perhaps as baby-boomers age, more books of this type will emerge, and I’ll be ready to read them. I also see there is some overlap with this topic and that of disabled gardening. Makes sense.



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