THE LAZY GARDENER

By Douglas E. Welch (douglas@welchwrite.com)

I have a confession to make.  I am a lazy gardener.  I am far more interested in enjoying my garden than working in it.  Sure, I putter about neatening things up, pruning, weeding, etc., but I would much rather be sitting in my comfy chair, looking through the trees at the feeding birds and sipping a cool beverage than double-digging the flower beds.

Each year, I see the real gardeners preparing their soil, making many trips to the garden center for annual plants in full bloom and then planting it all in neat little arrangements.  This can be the straight rows of a vegetable garden or geometric plantings of pansies and petunias.  Instead, though, I rely on the stalwart guardians of my garden - the perennials.

When I started gardening again 15 years ago, I quickly remembered how much I disliked planting annuals.  Thankfully, the previous owners of our home had a love for perennials as deep as my own.  There were mature, or soon to be mature, trees, roses, pittosporum, huge beds of azaleas and vines galore.  With just a little care these plants would provide me with gardening pleasure with nothing more than a little watering and a little pruning.

This doesn't leave my garden work-free by any measure, though.  With so many trees, keeping up with the leaves alone is a weekly job year-round.  Here in our Southern California climate, plants can quickly grow out of control.  I have a volunteer fig tree that is currently threatening to take over one corner of the garden as I type.  Irrigation must be maintained.  Pruning crews must be hired and organized for the larger trees on the property.  There are a hundred little jobs, as with any garden.

Still, when I look at this work, it makes me feel more accomplished than planting flowers only to have them die at the end of the season.  Heck, here in our climate, the season is so out of whack with typical gardening schedules I am not sure what I would plant or where I would plant it.  Annuals also require a lot of sun, which is something that is in short supply here.  It is situations like this that have me loving my perennials more each year.

I am reminded of this every year when the bulbs begin their progression as soon as the first rains arrive - usually in January.  Within a day or two of our first significant moisture, the foliage pushes through the leaf litter.  First the paperwhites, then the snowbells and then, finally - and most dramatically - the daffodils.  I plant a few more bulbs each year and the previous bulbs are slowly naturalizing around the garden.  Each year the show gets better and better without requiring lots of digging, raking and weeding.

I admire the annual plantings in other yards and gardens, even if I wouldn't do it myself.  I do this much in the same way I enjoy our friends' dogs without ever really needing to have my own.  Nice to visit.  Nice to look at, but a bit too much trouble to have yourself.

Yes, I am probably the epitome of the lazy gardener, but I must place some of the blame on my perennials.  They are my enablers.  They make it easy to do a little bit of this, a little bit of that and then sit back and enjoy the show.