The Gardener’s Version of a Selfie
By Kelly Orzel
You know you’ve crossed the threshold of obsession when your idea of a selfie is a pic of your favorite plant at the moment. Most people’s Instagram and Facebook feeds are full of photos of friends at the beach, family gatherings, and their latest plate from the newest trendy artsy-foodie restaurant that just opened. But for us gardeners who get beyond excited when we discover a new plant, or that dahlia that you’ve been nurturing all season is putting on an insanely gorgeous show, it is our gardens that are the star!
Like everyone, I’ll post a photo of my mom and I on Mother’s day, but for the most part my social media—and especially my Instagram is wallpapered in flowers, vegetables, herbs and just about anything plant related. It’s a sickness really to be this invested in my garden, but I just can’t help myself.
I feel no shame than my feeds are crowded and bursting with images of lilacs, dahlias, tomatoes, carrots, scented geraniums and armfuls of herbs like basil and chives. These are my loves, why shouldn’t I show them off? Even though I’ve been growing things since I was a teenager, I am invariably surprised when these little seeds turn into something beautiful or tasty.
There’s no greater thrill than seeing a small seedling you cultivated surpass the package, or catalog, descriptions. Last year I grew some cosmos because, really, why not? They’re the classic cottage garden cut flower (of which I am an everlasting fan), they come in a selection of luxurious pastel colors and are remarkably productive, three things that have me clicking “add to card” like Pavlov’s dog salivating for a treat. Well the ‘Double Click’ and ‘Daydream’ descriptions said to expect the plants to grow to three-and-a-half to four feet, I thought “Awesome, these will look great between my dahlias.” Well, these suckers grew more than five-an-a-half feet tall! I’m 5’1’ and these things towered over me and my dahlias—you should have seen me cutting them down at the end of the season, my husband couldn’t see me in the flower patch even after the frost had killed everything. When you have a performer like that, how can you not share? It would really be a public disservice.
When you look out in your garden and you’re sure you’ve grown the most succulent lettuce anyone has ever grown or your scented geraniums are so tall you’re wading waist-deep in their delicious scent our grubby, compost-ridden fingers can’t wait to get out our phones, or cameras to capture such awesomeness. Or how about when you are convinced you just harvested the most incredible 20 pounds of basil anyone has ever harvested, won’t your fellow gardeners understand the love that went into growing them? And you cannot even contemplate not bestowing the glory of your foot-long, arrow-straight carrots with your online friends. As gardeners we just have to share!
This is not to say that nothing ever goes wrong in the garden—quite the contrary. I prefer to think of these garden mistakes as “experiments in research.” And I just learned how not to do something that didn’t work so well … like the first time I planted comfrey, gifted from a garden friend. In case you are unaware, while comfrey has many uses in the organic garden it can be quite invasive if not cared for properly. No one told me to cut it to the ground, and I let it flower and go to seed since it was so pretty. That was a big NO-NO! Comfrey can be incredibly invasive if you don’t have the ‘Blocking 14’ cultivar, which is sterile. Now I make use of this hardy perennial, cutting it back to the ground four or more times a year. Making fertile comfrey tea to feed my flowers and fruiting veggies, using it as an organic mulch, and layering it within my compost pile to accelerate decomposition (for more info on how to use comfrey and other organic gardening techniques, check our my new book The Backyard Gardener. The flower stalks add a nice touch to my kitchen arrangements as well!
While these distressing moments don’t typically end up on Instagram or Facebook—just as I imagine people are not posting when their children are behaving in a way they wished they didn’t—they help you become the gardener you are today. And so we celebrate our garden successes, just as if they were our children, because really, they kind of are.
Kelly Orzel is a Master Gardener, horticulturist and girl-farmer who owns and operates Bowery Beach Farm in Maine. She holds an MS in Horticulture and is a garden speaker, freelance writer and photographer. Her first book is The Backyard Gardener: Simple, Easy and Beautiful Gardening with Vegetables, Herbs and Flowers.
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