(Or How to Grow a Romance…)
April. A month of chilly evenings, morning birdsong, and patches of green peeking up through the snow-scattered earth. In April, I scan the woods behind my house for glimpses of mother black bear and her two cubs, soon to awaken from their long winter’s nap. Colorful birds of every kind begin to gather nesting materials, bits of straw and twine, even a discarded shoe lace. April. The worst of the winter is past, and my thoughts once again turn to gardening. And to romance.
With five country acres, I have lots of room to play. I have potted gardens tucked between ferns in the sandy soil beside the creek bed and shade gardens where ivy and impatience climb chaotically over rock walls. The sunny spot beside my fence abounds with pale pink lilies, blood red nasturtiums, and marigolds as big as a man’s fist. I believe gardens are like romance novels. There’s no such thing as too many.
I have always thought that growing a garden is a lot like growing a love story. First I must decide on the perfect ‘plot,’ and then I have to come up with an appropriate setting. Will my story be dark and shady, or light and breezy? Will I go with the old fashioned variety, or something more off the beaten path, something paranormal?
When I have a general idea in mind, it’s time to prepare my space. Like clearing a patch of earth, I have to clear my mind of clutter, make space in my life. How little or how much depends on how elaborate a story I’m going to build.
Then I must spend some time sorting through the catalogues in my mind, deciding on characters, occupations, and any manner of dilemmas my people might face. When I have a basic plan of what I’d like my garden of romance to be, I scatter seeds in the soil of my imagination and wait to see which ones take root. I often end up with more than I need, but I let them all grow together for awhile.
Next comes the painful process of weeding out the bad ideas. The real stinkers are tossed over the bank and forgotten, while the ones that have potential, but may not quite fit this garden, are set aside to be used in another garden, another time. Now I stand back and take a good, hard look at what remains.
I like to think of my seedlings as characters, a hodgepodge of blooms, the more colorful the better. My stepping stones are my situations, a few well placed rocks make a garden so much more interesting. Though I do my best to keep my gardens free of weeds, I leave plenty of flaws in my hero and heroine. Fiction, like life, is not always pretty and no bloom is ever perfect. After all, I don’t want it to seem artificial.
When my plot, characters, and setting have firmly taken root, I water them with just the right words. Not too many, but not too few. I fertilize them with my own experiences and memories to provide the small, telling details that will bring my garden to life. I will need rain and sunshine in just the right amounts.
I know going in that it won’t be easy. It will demand hours and hours of my time, and every ounce of perseverance I possess. I’ll have to get my hands dirty -- roll up my shirtsleeves and dig into areas I know nothing about. I will feel the incredible frustration of having some of my favorite flowers wither and fade away. As my garden of romance grows and takes shape, I will know the heartbreak of having to wrench out some of my favorite blooms if it turns out they aren’t right for the garden.
I will also have to deal with drive-by gardeners.
Some will glance at my labor of love and tell me they’d build a garden too, if only they had the time (as if time were all there was to it.) Some will not appreciate my garden at all, and will come right out and criticize the color and the layout.
But I’ll just smile.
Because at the end of the day, my perseverance will have paid off. I will have created a thing of beauty where once there was nothing. As any gardener will tell you, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
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