So I’m out in my front garden yesterday – in the misty rain and mud of course – desperately tearing out the shiso basil that had taken over next to the overgrown patch of mint when I had a sudden uncomfortable realization about myself.
“I have a problem,” I thought.
“If there was a support group for this sort of thing, I would need to attend.
“I am a gardening addict.
“I am out of control.”
Hello, my name is Catherine.
I am addicted to flowers and gardening.
I am not really sure when this whole thing started, but no matter how reasonable I try to be, I find myself getting out of control with flowers, massive landscaping and collecting.
Maybe I can blame it on my grandmother, who took me to Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania as a child and who turned me on to looking at petunias as if they were fancy ball gowns.
I remember when I visited the greenhouses on the Isle of Gigha in Scotland during 2009 as a guest of my dear friend Don Dennis, creator of Living Tree Orchid Essences, Don read us a great quote:
“You can get off alcohol, drugs, women, food and cars. But once you’re hooked on orchids, you’re finished.”
It seemed like a funny quote at the time applying of course only to other people, but then one of the hallmarks of addiction is denial.
When I lived in Acworth, Georgia, my ostensible work was writing plays.
Whenever I got writer’s block, I would go out in the garden.
As writer’s block happened quite often at that phase of my life, I ended up in the garden for hours and hours on a regular basis to the point where I had a whole hillside of daisies, over 600 bulbs, butterfly bushes of every color and perennials stuffed up the hillside.
I even carried a shovel in my car in case I happened to see an antique rose living in a ditch someplace that I could just dig up and repatriate.
It started out as half an acre of suburban grass and ended up as the garden to end all gardens.
I thought I had put an end to myself one July when I bought seven spruce trees on sale, 50 percent off, and had to dig up the hard Georgia clay in the middle of the summer.
You would think by then I might have learned my lesson.
When I moved to 1951 Northside Drive in Atlanta, I vowed to be more reasonable.
I hired a landscape designer to come up with a garden plan.
“This is it,” I thought. “I’m not going to go crazy outside. I’m following the plan.”
I even decided to start raising orchids in my studio as I thought it might be possible to have much better judgment raising what I thought would be just a few pots and not allowing myself to be a total garden megalomaniac.
Seventeen years on, what was once grass at my Northside Drive house has been dug up and converted into an all-organic cornucopia of perennials, herbs, annuals, ground covers, roses, strawberries, blueberries and a bird, butterfly and hummingbird sanctuary, not counting all the orchids in my studio.
My fiancé Ken Holmes and I bought a new home in Trinity, Florida, earlier this year and have been going back and forth between Florida and Atlanta while the house on Northside Drive is up for sale.
I pouted and fretted over losing my Atlanta garden but discovering the huge yellow swallowtail nurturing itself in my Florida garden made me feel a little less pitiful.
I visited a nearby orchid farm one day to cheer myself up. Now I have brought down all but one of my Atlanta orchids and my Florida porch houses 15 varieties. I am beginning to feel more normal surrounded by my phaelaeonopsis, paphiopedilums, cattleyas and oncidiums.
The lady who owned the house before us had created a small but exquisite garden, I have to admit.
Ken remarked to me helpfully, “The total cost of the landscapers in Florida is only $80 a month, and they come every week!”
Once again, I am vowing to try to keep myself under control, hoping I can be happy with a mere 15 orchids on the porch and thinking there really is no necessity to improve on an already great landscape plan.
My new neighbors have gently pointed out to me residents are required to submit any landscape renovations to a committee for approval.
Who would want to put themselves through so much bureaucracy just to expand the herb section?
I must try to be more circumspect.
But the truth is, it’s early days.
We shall see.
“Ah, if there’s a cure for this
I don’t want it
Don’t want it
If there’s a remedy
I’ll run from it, from it
Don’t call a doctor
Don’t call her momma
Don’t call her preacher
No, I don’t need it
I don’t want it”
Diana Ross, “Love Hangover” by Marilyn Mcleod and Pamela Sawyer