Eve was enticed by a serpent to eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden. I didn't see any serpents around when I fell for a gardenia at Fasel's Nursery in Oak Lawn. This gardenia was a beauty with a brigade of flower buds ready to burst open. Who knew what was coming next?
Gardening has been one of my hobbies for a long time. I cut my teeth on it when I was still in college living at home. My mother cultivated a rose bed and grew a variety of other ornamental plants and vegetables. . Gladiolas, phlox, and chives were only a few of her favorites. I would help with the weeding and the heavier toil. It wasn't long before I was mail-ordering whatever appealed to me in the catalogues, like Burpee's. We had a relatively small urban backyard. Once I put in a tulip tree and had to uproot it when my mother realized how tall it grew.
We lived along an alley and our yard was enclosed on three sides by a chain-link fence. I knew very little about flora and horticulture at the time. I would get quirky ideas, like sowing caster oil seeds on the alley side of the fence. (I didn't know they were poisonous.) They grew unbelieveably tall, with huge broad reddish leaves, and, toward the end of summer and into early fall, they produced large conspicuous seed pods. Where the toxin resided. Hey, I said to myself. I can do this! And fate awarded me a green thumb.
Through the years I've had many successes and a fair share of failures too. But, if nothing else, gardening teaches you patience and humility. It also bestows on you a prodigious sense of accomplishment after the endless hours of work and attention to details pay off with gorgeous roses, or impatiens, or dahlias, or hibiscus, or whatever else dazzles the eye and elevates the spirit.
Like many gardeners, through the years, I've gone through phases. The last few years, it's been ferns and hostas, as many varieties as I could acquire. Just before that it was day lilies. Now I can't get enough of landscape roses. Single or double.
Part of the fun of gardening is putting the right plant in the right place. I had a couple of red landscape roses that were barely hanging in there. After feeding and watering and pruning, they still seemed to be on their last legs. I finally wound up transplanting them---one of them twice. They have regained their health and are presently blooming to beat the band.
And the gardenia? I put it in an outdoor planter and expected luscious white blossoms in a few days. (The picture at the top is what it should look like.) No cigar! (The picture below is what mine looked like.) When more and more leaves turned yellow, I decided to get expert advice. I googled. Gardenias don't like direct sun. They love an acid soil. They don't like it too hot or too cold. They don't like their feet to be wet. But don't let them dry out either. Feed 'em with Miracid. Oh, and coffee grounds will help too.
I followed the Rx to a tee. But only after I had moved the woeful critter somewhere else. It's been several weeks since I installed the gardenia on life support. The yellow leaves have either fallen or been snipped off. There is some new growth. But the flower buds stubbornly refuse to get their act together. And at times they droop too.
It has been frustrating, but I'm not conceding defeat. Yet.
Real garderners never do.