Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tenacious Tip Tuesday - Feeling Overwhelmed

The hardest part of being unable to go gonzo in the garden is watching chaos reassert itself. Knowing that weeds, insects and varmints have free reign while I’m stuck plodding along is very difficult. All the beautiful plants I spent a great deal of time and money on are slowly being overwhelmed and there is very little I can do about it. Rescuing the occasional victim, one in most imminent danger of extinction, gives a certain satisfaction but it feels awfully like fighting an incoming tide.
I made the mistake of expanding too much all at once and it has definitely caught up with me. While I was busy with the new section, the old gardens fell to wrack and ruin. Instead of bright patches of flowers, I have waving fields of grass. The roses are competing with tall stands of fleabane and Queen Anne’s lace has replaced the bee balm. The stupid, f-ing groundhog now smirks at me from under a besieged weigela.
Pardon my language. I REALLY hate that groundhog. 

A part of The Wild Zone

Reclaiming the old gardens is not going to be an easy task. It will take a lot of work that I can only do in short spurts. I’m being smart about it for a change, though, and completely finishing a section before starting another. The sections are smaller, too; no more than a few square feet at a time. Still, there are a lot of square feet to work on and some days I despair of ever finishing, especially after a visit to the untended areas. The amount of work to be done is staggering and most of it requires hard labor with a shovel, not exactly my forte anymore. The feeling of being overwhelmed is . . . well, overwhelming.
What do I do at times like that? The classic response is to flee screaming into the night, never to be seen again. Since this is impractical, I flee, sighing, to a patio in the shade and read a book. Distraction is a wonderful thing. Sticking one’s head in the proverbial sand, however, is not a long-term solution for being overwhelmed, no matter how good it feels at the time. Not to mention you run out of reading material rather quickly.
There is really only one real strategy for times when I can’t stand to look at the mess my garden has become and it is a horrible cliché. Embrace the chaos. That’s it, just embrace the chaos.
Now, mind you, this is easier said than done and there are several parts to it. First, I had to firmly remind myself that I chose to preserve my health over my garden. It’s a good choice, but all choices have consequences and a weedy, messy garden is at least temporarily the cost of this one. If I had continued to rage against it and feel put upon, I would have driven myself, and everyone around me, crazy in very short order.
So. Accept the situation with what grace you can manage. An attitude adjustment was the first step for me. I forgave myself for only being able to do so much. Perhaps that’s not so much embracing the chaos as embracing myself, but it was a necessary step.
The second part to embracing chaos for me is taking the time to observe what’s there, not just worry how to change it to suit me. Gardeners, to my mind, seem to have an eye for beauty in all its forms, but the trick is remembering to look. There are an unbelievable number of insects, birds and animals I’ve never seen before crawling, flying and oozing through the weeds. Some of them are quite intriguing and a few are surprisingly pretty when seen up close.
Not the groundhog, though. He’s ugly. And smug.
I have begun carrying my camera around with me any time I go outside, especially when touring the wild side. Butterflies are quite taken with the weeds, especially the stands of fleabane I keep meaning to rip out, and I’ve managed to get pictures of several different kinds. One very special flier, the hummingbird moth, is pictured below sampling the nectar of a balloon flower.

Hummingbird, or sphinx, moth
I’m even learning a few things as both He of the Strong Back (aka my darling spouse, Brian) and I run for the insect/bird/plant guides as soon as we spot something unknown. Did you know there is a caterpillar, called a Wavy-lined Emerald, that picks pieces off the plant and sticks them to its own body for camouflage? How cool is that? I never saw one before I slowed down to look. I may even keep a few patches of fleabane when all is said and done. It a bit like baby’s breath and looks rather nice with the daylilies.
Be gentle with yourselves, all.


Anonymous said...

Really enjoy your articles and tips. Love the pics too!! -JJ

David Truland said...

Is there a H. Moth around regularly or was it just a visitor?

Sharie said...

We get them regularly, Dave, especially since the phlox started blooming. Stop up anytime if you want to photograph them!