Terry Fallis shares a deep, dark secret

A Leaside "Garden of Distinction".
A Leaside “Garden of Distinction” at 143 Airdrie Road. Terry Fallis admires the gardens of Leaside.

I fear I am about to violate some sacred Leaside seasonal covenant and prompt immediate excommunication from my community. What I’m about to admit may well constitute heresy, or at least blasphemy. I’ve sat on this for many years, keeping it buried under protective layers of shame. But I am lately seized by an urgent honesty, though I’m hoping my wife does not stumble upon this column. So, brace yourselves. Here goes.

I do not like gardening.

There, I said it. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy wandering the streets of Leaside, admiring and occasionally exalting in the floral nirvana splayed out before me, block by block, house by house. The explosion of coordinated colour, complemented by well-tended and trimmed lawns is truly stunning in its almost relentless beauty. I get that. I too am moved by it. I just don’t enjoy the extraordinary effort that underlies it all.

Go ahead. I’m ready for the “no pain, no gain” mantras and I’m well aware that perfect gardens don’t just appear out of nowhere. They are the products of careful planning, several expensive trips to the local nursery for shrubs, flowers, bulbs, plants, and the latest gardening gizmo that will change our lives, inestimable patience (or impatiens, if that’s what you’re planting), and endless hours with your knees ground into the, um, ground. I love the destination. I just don’t love the journey.

I figure there are two kinds of people in the world – those who love every aspect of gardening and look forward to immersing themselves in the soil, hand-spreading sheep manure, battling squirrels to save their tulip bulbs, and scouring the Internet for the plants and flowers that are in vogue this year… and then there are those who are depressed and defeated merely by the attempt to coil a very balky and virtually uncoilable garden hose. You can probably discern in which category I reside.

At our home, we have a lovely but mercifully small front garden and a much larger and more demanding back garden. For the most justifiable of reasons, my role in the garden has evolved (or shall we say diminished) over the years and is now limited to planting bulbs (and no, I can’t actually remember what time of year that happens), and ridding our front lawn of enough dandelions so that at least a few blades of grass are visible to a neighbour out for an evening constitutional.

I really don’t mind the bulb planting, and the results (and no, I can’t actually remember what time of year that happens, either) are certainly impressive, provided our anti-squirrel security measures are adequate. I can handle kneeling on a gardening pad for short periods of time, digging holes and stuffing in bulbs. I’m actually quite good at it. It’s the annual dandelion offensive (and believe me, I do find it offensive) that is the tough part. I am getting better at exterminating them, but there are still many other ways I’d rather spend my time, and visiting the dentist may soon be in the running.

Back in the bad old days, we could use various chemical “exterminants” (it’s possible I just made up that word, but you know what I mean) to do the job swiftly and easily. I would simply wander happily across the lawn aiming quick blasts of dandelion-kryptonite never even having to bend down. But, for all the right reasons, those days are thankfully gone. Now, I employ what looks like a medieval instrument of torture to rip the unsuspecting dandelion, root and all, from the ground. It works quite well if you insert it in the proper location, but often, I merely tear up a section of the lawn, the sneering dandelion completely eluding me. I even tried a new gadget this year that shoots a high-pressure stream of water down under the root, apparently loosening it and making it “easy and fun” to simply pull out the entire weed in one enjoyable motion. Yeah, right. By the time I gave up, I was utterly drenched, and our front lawn looked like Woodstock after the rains.

Anyway, I love gardens, I really do. It’s just the gardening that gets to me.

About Terry Fallis 28 Articles
A two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Terry Fallis grew up in Leaside and is the award-winning writer of six national bestsellers, including his most recent, One Brother Shy, all published by McClelland & Stewart.