In Praise of Disorganization.


There is truly something to be said for disorganization.  A disorganized person like myself is often delighted by little surprises, making life both spontaneous and unpredictable.

This situation can of course be taken to extremes (like the time we found a long missing rubber mallet under our teenaged daughter’s bed!), but in general, it makes for some interesting discoveries.  As I clean and straighten around the house, I am sometimes surprised by old photos stuck in drawers, by missing eyeglasses in the bottom of the bathroom magazine rack, by  a missing shoe found hiding under a sofa.

I find that my lack of organizational skill is most interesting and exciting in the garden.  I have never quite gotten the knack of planning my perennial beds, even after taking two Adult Education classes. (Did you know that you are supposed to consider blooming time, color, shape, height and foliage patterns when you plant something? Did you really?) 

Every year I tell myself that I should make a sketch showing what is planted , and should carefully plan where to place each new plant. Once I even made such a sketch (on the computer, no less!)  Then I carefully put it away.  It hasn’t yet popped up in one of my cleaning sprees.

This morning I had some time to myself, and the house was empty and quiet.  I mowed the grass, weeded the few veggies that are in the ground, and turned to the perennial beds.

I think you have to sort of picture this to get the idea clearly: our house is a blocky split level, with a walkway leading to the door. I have spent the past twenty one years composting and creating good soil to line the walk and both sides of the front door.  I have accepted every offered perennial gift, and sprinkled countless little seed packets.  Sometimes I go to craft fairs or farmer’s markets and am smitten by a lovely blossom.  I take them home, stick them in an available spot and walk away.

And so I found myself this morning walking along and looking at the incredible profusion of blooms and greenery.  Holy cow…….! At the moment, I have two lilacs in bloom, a handful of late tulips, some yellow iris and about ten million forget-me-nots.  Oh, and under the forget-me-nots are dozens of beautiful little lily-of-the-valley, filling the air with the most incredible perfume. 

I dropped to my knees, and parted some of the leaves, just to see what was emerging.  I saw my peony, taking pride of place under the bay window, just about ready to open.  She is flanked by two columbine plants, a clump of something that will bloom purple (Veronica perhaps?) and guarded by three mounds of almost open pinks.

Across the walk I found iris, both Japanese and local, a funny little plant called “Fox tail” and some hostas (also known as “deer food”).  There are Tiger lillies and phlox and shasta daisies there, too.  I planted them all, in a crazy patchwork quilt, and I knew where each would show its head this spring.

But as I dug, and poked and explored, I also found what looked to be three clumps of Black eyed Susans, one of my very favorite flowers.  Did I plant them and forget, or are they “volunteers”?  If I were an organized person, I would know this!  If I had planned my garden carefully, I might now be faced with the unhappy dilemma of whether or not to pull out those wildflowers.  I am so thrilled to have been surprised!   I called out my delight, patting the little plants on their heads like happy children.

I moved along the beds, pulling some grass, parting the wilted leaves of daffodils, making braids of them.  I found a new cluster of leaves, and I am baffled.  They look something like asters: could they be the purple coneflower that I found late last season and planted in some forgotten spot?  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

I finished my examination, finding two more unknown plants and a forgotten clump of Coral bells.  Just before I came back inside, my eyes dropped to the woody stems of my old rhododendron.  It had been a Mother’s Day gift to me from my husband, our first spring in this house, when I was pregnant with our second child.   Last year, just before both of our boys moved out of our house, I realized that it had outgrown its spot, and was crowding our front door.  We tried to transplant it, but the roots were too large and too entwined.  With a very heavy heart, I asked my youngest son to help me cut it down.

Today, just as I finished my walk through my garden, I found the sweetest of surprises.  To my delight, and accompanied by some tears, I knelt down and brushed away some brown leaves to find three new shoots coming from the stump of that plant.  My Mother’s Day gift is alive!

If I were an organized and careful gardener, meticulous in every detail, that stump would have been dug out long before today.

Life is full of happy surprises!!

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