Winter's garden daydreams come face to face with summer's reality

In the middle of the winter they come. Two, sometimes three at a time. And I am always very excited to see them. I take them inside and sit with them on the couch, stroking their lovely covers. Covers that evoke promises of warmth and color. They are a welcome sight in the drab grays of January and February.

Seed catalogs. I love my seed catalogs. Each year there seems to be no end to the number and variety I receive. Whether they offer gourmet vegetables or specialized tulip bulbs, I read them over and over. Their elaborate descriptions conjure up visions of ornate and baroque gardens in my mind.

This year, I thought while I was under their spell, I will dig up and plant the whole yard. The driveway will be lined with weeping willows and welcoming perennials, staggered appropriately according to their flowering time so there always would be something in bloom.

The front porch would have an amalgam of annuals, carefully chosen and constantly replaced so there would always be something seasonal with which to greet my guests. My backyard would begin with an arbor, a beautiful arch to entrance young and old alike and transport them into my personal arboretum.

Walk with me and see what it will be like: On the right is the vegetable garden, an immense garden that's plentifully bursting with veggies-to-be. Take off your shoes. We will walk along the well-mulched paths and pick the ripe fruits that are waiting to be coddled in my kitchen.

"Oh, a stray weed," you say. Not to worry. We'll just pluck this lone stranger and place him on the compost pile. No, no, not that one, it has the ready-to-use compost in it. Place it in Bin 3, I say, because I have organized even my compost that well.

Leaving the well-worn paths of the vegetable garden, we'll tread through the plush, newly mowed grass to the kitchen garden. Just a little hobby of mine, I'll say. Here is where I pick the fresh herbs that will flavor our vegetables for supper. Before the weather gets cold, I will dry them and keep them for winter. The kitchen garden also harbors my miniature vegetables: hot peppers that need special care and a variety of baby lettuces for an immediate salad at any time.

Pick some of that rosemary, will you, and then I'll show you the pond. I overwinter the koi and plant waterlilies to make it more beautiful. Have a seat under the weeping willow tree (I like willow trees) on this cedar bench I picked up at a craft fair and dangle your toes in the cool water. Nothing like a perfect summer day, I think in my daydreams.

Flash forward: It's May. I have spent the better part of a Saturday digging a pea patch. It's three feet long, three feet wide – and maybe three inches deep. I'm sweaty, and my hands are covered with blisters. I decide I need a tractor, but I continue on, determined to make my backyard a haven.

Three weeks later, finally finished with the digging, I have what qualifies as a very small garden plot. I plant stuff. But I forgot to get those little stick thingies, so I forget what's where. Oh well, it will be obvious soon enough.

June: It was almost obvious what was up, but then a rabbit ate some of it, and now I can't tell. I buy some straw to put between the rows, and now the grass won't grow anymore.

The mosquitoes are out. They love the wet little area I call my garden. I take to sitting in my garage and grilling burgers, thinking the smoke will keep the mosquitoes away.

With a little paint, it could be nice here in the garage, I think. Didn't I read something about container gardening?

By July the garden is completely overgrown. I look at it occasionally and pull a weed or two, but inevitably get distracted by bugs or the need for a cool drink. Also, the kids want me to take them to the beach. How can I say no?

In August, I find a couple of tomatoes without bug holes in them and some nice green beans. The rabbits ate the lettuce. They can have it. It turns out lettuce is only 99 cents at the supermarket in August. And it's cool in there.

I drag some early fallen leaves and branches over to my idea of a compost pile. It appears that this is where the children have been leaving their watermelon rinds and apple cores. I think a family of skunks lives under there now.

Fall has arrived, and the garden is turned under. (OK, I actually just threw a pile of leaves on top.) My hopes for another gardening season have once again been dashed by my overambitiousness and basically lazy nature.

On the flip side, though, the inside of the garage is starting to really perk up. And I do have all the new seed catalogs to look forward to.

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