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“A Day in the Garden”

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I just returned from an early walk in the woods. As it rained heavily last night, the paths were damp and the air still held night’s coolness. As I meandered around the pond, I felt very grateful that I was still able to walk! My legs, hips, back and arms were aching from the work I’d done the day before in my garden. That day, yesterday, had begun with a similar walk in these same woods, but unlike this morning, I was perky, full of energy and eager to get home and start on my “projects”.

First on the list was a walk around the gardens removing the dead daylily blooms from the day before. True to its name, the lovely daylily flower lasts only one day- from sun up to sun down- then its gone. Luckily each plant sends out anywhere from five to seven buds which flower one or two at a time so the plant looks lovely for about 10 days. After that it looks less than lovely, and I usually end up cutting it way down to remove all the yellowed and dead foliage. Every year I say I will dig all the daylilies up and stop planting them, they are so much “work,” but every year I marvel at their beauty, however short lived it is, and I cannot bear to throw them out in the compost pile. So I walked around with my bucket and scissors and cut off all the gone by blossoms and loaded up my bucket with the blooms. Sometimes I forget my scissors and snip off the blooms with my fingers, which is messy business as the blooms come in all shades- pinks, yellows, oranges, deep rose and burgundy. When they die, they get soggy and loaded up with a color, like a dye, so my hands, nails and fingers are tinted for the rest of the day.

I don’t have beautiful hands. I have a gardener or worker’s hands for sure. Once on a school field trip some twenty years ago, one of our Chinese teachers sat beside me on the bus and he told me of his talent for reading palms. He asked if he could read mine. Turning over my hand nervously, I waited for the verdict. He said, “ah you have a laborer’s hands, a hard worker, one who doesn’t have an easy life.” Now twenty years later, I look at my stained, wrinkled rough hands and I agree. Look at someone’s hands and you’ll know a lot about their life. I think, don’t you?

Back to the garden. After I finish up the daylily job, I grab my shovel and begin to divide the clumps that have finished blooming. No easy task. The roots have a strong hold on the ground and are clinging for dear life. Even though it’s only 8 a.m., the sun is hot and penetrating through my long sleeved tops and pants. I must dress this way to protect myself from the ticks. It’s a killer, I must admit, to be gardening in 80-degree weather in heavy pants, long sleeved shirts and, socks pulled up to my knees and hat and gloves on. So I sweat and drip as I dig through rocks and hard soil to get these lilies divided. After the divide, I load up the wheelbarrow and look for spots to transplant them into. The hill out back is filling in nicely with all the divisions so I wheel myself round back of the hill and carry them, clump by clump, up the hill and dig holes and deposit the lilies.

That job is done and I begin the even more arduous task of dividing the huge hosta beds that threaten to take over the yard. Hosta is my favorite of all plants. Unfussy, tolerant of drought and neglect, they please me to no end.

I’m grateful and I’m tired. But I can’t stop yet. The tomatoes and beans need staking, watering and weeding. I noticed a crack in a stone dish I use as a birdbath and I want to repair that. The impatiens out front are wilting in the hot afternoon sun and must be tended to. Tomorrow I probably will not be able to move, but it will have been worth it, I know. And maybe before I go to sleep tonight, I’ll take another look at my hands and see what they have to say now.

This is an excerpt from a submission by Carol Anne Calvert about a day in her garden in Massachusetts.


See Horticulture's steps for dividing a daylily