One of my many favorite tunes features Ray Charles and Norah Jones singing Here We Go Again, which at the moment is stuck in my head. Because by the time you read this, I will be healing from my second hip replacement. At least I’ll have matching legs now! Just in case you’ve lost count, this is hip surgery number four. And don’t forget shoulder surgery, two neck surgeries, and a back surgery. Apparently I was destined to be a Thanksgiving turkey or a glue horse instead of a gardener.
I’m not a bit worried or afraid however and here’s why. My 53 years on earth have been wonderful. I’ve met incredible people, experienced wonderful things, and seen beautiful gardens. If I die on the operating table, they can haul off my crippled bones with no regrets. I already requested the last hip bone for my dogs and was met with a morbid, resounding NO, but I suppose if I’m dead, they’ll have to turn over all of them! A nice spot in Arcadia beneath a clump of jonquils near Rosie and Ilex would be ideal. I was always told that bulbs like bone meal.
There’s nothing new or novel about this disabling process. Every gardener goes through it. Luckily I’ve been planning on my physical demise for years. Here are the take home lessons I’ve gathered.
First of all, I’ve learned to have my surgeries during the down months of our blistering summers or our short cold winters. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing a bed that needs weeding, a yard that needs mowing, or a row that needs hoeing when you can’t get up to tend to it.
It’s also dangerous to try and garden while your body is healing. After my last hip replacement I took my walker into the corn patch and tried to pick sweet corn because I couldn’t stand to see it go to waste. Getting into the patch was difficult at best. Getting back with the corn was next to impossible. And after my last hip tendon surgery while doing a rehab walk around my pines I happened to notice that the fleeting chanterelle mushrooms were up. Well, it just wouldn’t do to leave them there so I slowly sprawled out like a baby giraffe at a watering hole. Once again, getting down was hard but getting back up with delectable fungi in hand required Divine intervention. Bottom line: Make sure the weather keeps your crippled butt inside until you are well!
Thankfully I’ve always been enamored with those plants that tolerate our feast or famine Texas weather. It’s the very reason I was attracted to Bill Welch, Pam Puryear, cemeteries, and abandoned homeplaces. If plants can survive decades and even centuries of floods and droughts with their former owners long dead, they can certainly survive my temporary convalescence. Therefore I’m very convinced that any Texas landscape should be well stocked with the backbones of antique roses, heirloom bulbs, Texas natives, and Texas Superstars. These are all “time tested” as my mentor Bill Welch would say and are proven performers. Most big box stores have no concept of these uniquely adapted regional players, but thank goodness The Arbor Gate does. Thank you Beverly!
I’ve also learned the hard way to design my landscapes so that others can look after them if need be. In my opinion the first thing to consider when coming up with a landscape plan is how easy it is to mow around. In my case that includes both lawn mower and tractor. For many gardeners somebody else does the mowing. If you want an imminent disaster, just make a bed with angles that can’t be mowed, or stick lone plants out in the middle of the lawn and see what happens! Though I love formal landscapes with rectilinear beds, I design mine with natural mower curves. Heck I even design mine for my truck to drive through! I’ve always said that “the design is more important than the plants” and like it or not, it’s true.
Of course those plants have to be maintained or in some cases continually changed out. This all required physical labor. That’s why I use Texas-tough perennials instead of annuals. The year round impact might not be the same, but the amount of time and labor is certainly reduced. Other time and labor savers include massing plants together, mulching to prevent weeds, and intensive raised beds instead of sprawling row crops.
At some point we all have to give up things; first a few, then some more, and then all of them. For that reason I’ve prioritized the importance of the plants and beds in my garden. From a design standpoint, the last three I’ll cling to are my naturalized spring and fall bulbs, my crapemyrtle allée, and my little front perennial border. Whenever I can’t garden at all, I’ll give up the border and still be perfectly happy with my narcissus, daffodils, and jonquils each spring, my crapemyrtles during the summer, and my oxblood and spider lilies every fall. I know for a fact that all of them can survive without me. The crapemyrtles just have to avoid the chain saw and the bulbs just ask for a once a year mowing to prevent their open meadow from turning into a forest.
But you know what. If they turn into a forest, I’ll be happy with that too. Even before gardening, my first love in this world was nature. So as long as you prop me by a window next to a bird feeder or birdbath and drive me around my woods and meadows periodically, I’ll still be smiling, at least on the inside. And when I can’t see anymore, open the windows and let me hear and smell the scenes and sounds. We gardeners and nature lovers are a resilient and happy lot. The rest of the world should take notes. -Greg
Hope you are back playing in the dirt soon.
Thank you for your inspirational words. May you have a speedy and complete recovery. GOD bless you.
Thank you both! Slowly inching along with a walker. Of course not fast enough for me but will get there, kicking and screaming. OK, no kicking… Hopefully back to my old house and garden soon for some mental therapy. -GG
I know how the turkey feels! I had surgery for appendiceal cancer last year. I need two hands to count all the organs that had to be removed, then I had HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy – they fill your belly with hot chemo and rock you for 90 minutes). So I joke that I was gutted and had “shake ‘n’ bake.” Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself 🙂 Needless to say, I didn’t garden much last year. This year, though, I had one of my best years (in the garden and in general). I’ve got a small patch of winter veggies growing and I’m already looking forward to my spring garden.
I enjoy reading your posts. At least you can make people laugh while you convalesce. I hope you can ditch the walker soon and get back to your garden!
GOOD LORD! You are an inspiration and then some!!! I’m so glad you are back gardening and wish you all the best. They say laughter is the best medicine but gardening has to rank close. Thank goodness we cultivate both. Keep up the good work. -GG
Laughter is great medicine unless you have an incision from breastbone to pubic bone! (Fortunately, the ubiquitous “they” also say time heals all wounds.) I agree with you that gardening has to rank close. I really missed it last year. I made up for it this year! It’s a shame there aren’t more people who appreciate gardening.
Good to read your post….thinking about you across from the grave yard.
Jeff and Leabeth
Thank you dear friends Jeff and Leabeth. Might be a good idea to start thinking about me IN that beautiful cemetery!!! Heck, flowers need love from the top and the bottom! Merry Christmas to you and yours from quiet and slow Arcadia. Can’t wait to trade in the walker for my truck. Dogs wondering why the heck I’m so slow.
Loved your post. I hope you have traded your walker for your truck by now.
Thanks Elaine. Actually I’m driving the truck hauling the walker in the back. Using a cane indoors and the walker outdoors. Hardest part is getting in and out of the truck! Dogs are tired of all of this. Me too.