We bought our home three years ago from an enthusiastic gardener. She was a single schoolteacher, retiring from the profession and downsizing in Arizona. She had spent her summers off and weekends fanatically tending to the garden and house. Both were neat as a pin. When our realtor showed it, the yard felt like a secret garden, with blooming plants, thriving rose bushes, dedicated herb gardens, raised planter beds, and neat little stone pathways. When I told another realtor friend we’d bid on the house, she asked, “Is that the one with the gardens?”

The previous owner swore that maintaining the yard wasn’t too much work, and gave me some verbal directions on how to care for it all. As a bonus, she left us her gardening tools, Round-Up, and rose growing spray in the shed. As a non-gardener, I had my doubts, but I vowed that I’d try my best.

The first year, I did a decent job watering the greenery, weeding, and we even grew a few tomatoes and cucumbers. What a treat to pick groceries out of your backyard! As serial city renters, neither of us were particularly interested in gardening and we had zero qualifications. This was made painfully clear at our last rental, a duplex; the veggie garden was overgrown with weeds, and the creatively landscaped front yard wasn’t cared for until my parents visited and took it upon themselves while I read a magazine on the stoop. There were so many other fun things to do besides yardwork!

However, this was going to be different. We owned the home. We had skin in the game. The immaculate yard was once the pride of the street! I donned my inherited gardening gloves and got to pruning rose bushes.

By last summer, Dave was in grad school, I was taking a grad course, we had jobs, one great toddler and a new baby. The once-bountiful veggie garden was a distant memory. We ripped out the planter beds because they’d become four raised weed havens, and the wood was beginning to rot. Herb garden? Where was that again? The white stones that once lined the garden path were dirty brown, when you finally located them between the plentiful dandelions. When I had a few moments, I’d pull some weeds but my availability- and interest- were limited. Sometimes, I found the work therapeutic, and fleetingly understood why some people love to garden.

Dave cut the lawn, but not much else. Oh wait, he did have a personal vendetta against hosta, which makes no sense because they’re such low maintenance and attractive shade plants! He dug much of them up and gave them to family, with a far-off dream of planting grass and putting up a swing set. That area is now overgrown with weeds too, no swing set in sight.

Last week, I finally had a landscaper come by to give us an estimate. Our yard is beyond a tune-up: we have projects. I’m a planner, so I requested an action plan, with time-phased action items. I told him my yard is a source of anxiety. What was once a secret garden is now an eyesore that we can’t manage alone. Even though I try to give myself a break, the truth is I’m self-conscious about it. He assured me he’s one part landscaper, one part therapist.

Needless to say, he’s hired. I still think there are so many other fun things to do besides yardwork.

This is the Before photo. I'm too embarrassed to show you the After.

This is the Before photo. I’m too embarrassed to show you the After.

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