I Tried, But It Died: Adventures in Summer Gardening

Saturday, November 07, 2015

oh so smilynn: I Tried, But It Died: Adventures in Summer Gardening

You can usually learn what my latest phases are with a quick glance at my Pinterest page. Once you get through all the adorable dog pictures (which is NOT just a phase... the dog culture is a way of life) my latest pins always reveal the trips I'm planning, the meals I wish I could cook and the crafts I plan to attempt.

This summer, as Pinterest would show, the big phase was gardening.

The desire to exercise my green thumb all started with a beautiful little flower my dear husband purchased for me. On the rare occasion that I will voluntarily venture into a grocery store, I first spend a few minutes admiring the latest arrangements in the floral section. And on the even rarer occasion that I will venture into a grocery store with Ben (I learned early in our relationship that grocery shopping is not an activity we should share together, for the benefit of my sanity and his safety, but that's another story entirely), I drop hints about how much I love getting flowers. On one of those rare summer grocery trips we made together, he offered to buy me the flowers of my choosing, and after carefully considering the options, I decided against cut flowers and instead picked a flower with an attractive deep pink bloom and several more buds preparing to open.

oh so smilynn: I Tried, But It Died: Adventures in Summer Gardening

It was the beginning of summer and I was feeling adventurous. Why couldn't I nurture this pretty little flower? So what if I've killed nearly every other potted plant Ben has purchased for me over the course of our relationship? People can change!

At the time, Ben was also in the process of building three raised garden beds in our backyard, and we had already decided that one would be devoted to my flowers. I was committed to trying my hand at gardening, and this flower was my gateway into that hobby.

I checked the tag on this new living thing entrusted to my care and the name was one I had never heard of before: dahlia. During the car ride from the store to home, I Googled dahlias and was dazzled by all the gorgeous photos. I decided that my flower bed was going showcase dahlias because this flower I had never heard of before was now one of my favorites.

After many, many trips to Lowe's, Home Depot and Menards, I acquired all the perfect, dreamy dahlias I needed for my flower bed. With each new trip, I discovered a different colored dahlia that I hadn't seen yet, and of course, I had to have one in every color!

oh so smilynn: I Tried, But It Died: Adventures in Summer Gardening

I also discovered that I liked gerbera daisies... and riegier begonias... and lantana... and various other little annual flowers that come in those 6-pack plastic containers. I ended up with more plants than I had room for in the flower bed, so I decided my new love of gardening should not be contained to just one flower bed; I would line our patio and porch with flower pots and our landscaping would become a beautiful explosion of summer color!

A friend took notice of all the gardening pins that were popping up on my Pinterest and invited me to a Master Gardener show, where I ventured outside of my annual-only comfort zone and bought a few perennials.

Things were getting crazy.

I became that person who talked about my garden given even the smallest window of opportunity. I shared photos of my flowers nearly as often as I share photos of my dogs. "Hey, look at this new color of dahlia I found when I was at Home Depot on my lunch break!"

I even finally built my own version of the beautiful flower tower picture that floats around Pinterest.

oh so smilynn: I Tried, But It Died: Adventures in Summer Gardening

Growing up, my sister was always the one interested in flowers and I never had much use for them, but I assumed embracing my role as the flower whisperer was just one sign of my growing adulthood.

But then... my flowers weren't responding to my newly gained gardening skills. The dahlias, in particular, were showing signs of distress. In a panic, I turned to the Internet.

"Why are the leaves of my dahlia turning yellow?"

"Why are the buds on my dahlia turning brown and not opening?"

"Why are the leaves of my dahlia turning brown?"

"What are the bugs on the underside of the leaves of my dahlia?"


With each click, I spiraled into what must be the flower version of WebMD; any problem a dahlia could experience, mine had it, and the outlook was grim.

In fact, that search revealed dahlias are finicky plants that require a lot of maintenance to keep blooming continuously and to ward off pests and diseases. Hmm... so that's the fine print I probably should have read before I was lured down this rabbit hole by a charming little flower, huh?

Regardless, I gave it my best effort to salvage the once gorgeous dahlias. I spent some time discussing the soil pH levels of my flower bed with a Lowe's nursery worker, and trust me, that conversation is not one I frequently have. I mean, I didn't even know soil pH levels were a thing until the flower WebMD cited that as a cause of the potential flower graveyard that was popping up in my backyard. I bought fertilizer, I changed watering habits, I concocted a recommended potion to fix a thing called powdery mildew (yep, that's a thing), I begged and I pleaded... Essentially I did everything short of a ritual sacrifice, but in the end, it was the Great Dahlia Massacre of 2015. A co-worker advised me not to pull up the dying plants but I got tired of their brown skeletons taunting me. Strangely enough, the one Ben bought me at the beginning of the summer was the one that held on and bloomed the longest.

I was able to nurse most of my other flowers back to health, but I lost a lot of the initial zeal I had for my new hobby. "Gardening sucks," I declared to Ben. "You can have all three raise garden beds next year because I'm done!"

Then I saw a hummingbird buzzing around my lantana flowers, and I relented. "Okay, maybe I'll keep a flower bed next summer, but I'm only planting easy flowers..."


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