Bay Reflection

Vol. 8, No. 15
April 13-19, 2000
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Growing a Gardener
by Bo Sinnlich

In my back yard, coffee in hand, I squiggle my toes in pleasure looking at the beginnings of this year’s garden. Shoots of green and feathery sprigs and uncurlings abound, and I wonder, with anticipation, what they all will be. There are lots of bulbs from last fall’s extravaganza with a new catalog — most of them, at this point, are a mystery. And I never seem to remember what comes back from the year before.

This is new to me. Just a few years ago I lived in a rented home and before that in an apartment, surrounded by concrete, where the only thing I planted was myself on a barstool Saturday night, the only rose I considered was Chanel’s new lipstick color, and I would have thought compost was one of those cute little dishes for fruit. I have learned slowly and with many trials and errors the joys of gardening.

My first year here, I assumed everything took care of itself. The fallacy became apparent when, by midsummer, I needed a machete, boots, and two cans of “Off” to get to the bird feeder and back. My neighbors suffered silently.

The second year I hired someone to “take care of it.” I know there are many truly handy handymen in this area. Somehow I managed to find the few that weren’t.

To start, I was told by friends to lay down this black plastic stuff under wood chips and gravel to keep weeds from growing. I passed along this advice to the first handyman I hired.

My cat probably still remembers my shriek of horror when I came home to a yard covered by one solid piece of black material the consistency of roof tiles. At least weeds wouldn’t grow through it. My neighbors continued to suffer silently.

The next year I rolled up my sleeves and decided I was as handy as the handyman. With the help of one of my very good-hearted neighbors, I cut up the black plastic stuff into strips and hauled it away.
My next move was to get rid of other things that didn’t look like they belonged. Here I hit another snafu.

“Did you purposely tear up my English ivy just as it’s beginning to grow?” my neighbor icily asked.

“Oh no,” I responded cheerily, thinking I knew what ivy was. “I just pulled out this weed that was wrapping around the fence,” I said, proudly showing him a vine with heart-shaped leaves.

“That is my English ivy,” my neighbor said.


Anyway, I love it now, love digging in the soft warm earth as my cat stalks worms. Love arranging the driftwood around the edges just so. And love the colors and scents and shapes and textures this work brings to my life. The first smell of lilacs in spring is a pleasure hard to equal.

I’m still a novice, but getting better; so my neighbors need suffer (silently or otherwise) no longer.

Bo Sinnlich, of North Beach, breaks into Bay Weekly with this reflection.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly