Recently, at the insistence of my co-writer, I have been contemplating the seven deadly sins and how they relate to the world of gardening. We gardeners tend to wrap ourselves in virtuous terms when it comes to our pastime, forgetting that gardens are by definition anything but natural.
We love to think we are helping the environment by spraying chemicals and spreading fertilizers around the garden — but are we really? Organic gardeners, puffed up with pride, thumb their noses at us while the native plant enthusiasts turn their wrath on us because we have dared to introduce a camellia into our landscape.
We lust after a particular plant, searching high and low for it while we demonstrate our greedy side by ordering more plants than we have room for. On hot August days when our plants are suffering in the heat, we, filled with sloth, beg for a day off, pining for the days when the children (our plants) will go to bed. Gluttony appears when we plant far more vegetables than we can ever consume.
Envy comes when we see a garden that we will never be able to obtain. And pride occurs when we smugly show people around our gardens, assuring ourselves that our gardens are special.
Therefore, I find myself contemplating the seven deadly sins.
Lust seizes my heart uncontrollably and suddenly, usually when I’m confronting a masterful plant for the first time. This happened when I first encountered Crinum “Super Ellen,” a plant that can survive beautifully in a zone 6a garden. “Super Ellen” is truly the queen of crinums: She’s majestic, commanding respect — I the moment I saw her I knew I had to have her.
Now this bulb plant doesn’t always throw out bulb babies easily. One has to work on acquiring a “Super Ellen,” one has to be deserving. Jim Massey, the grower, stated that I was second on the list and could have her the following year, if there were two bulblets (my name for baby bulbs) available.
Fortunately, when I called Jim in the following spring, ‘Super Ellen’ had reproduced and I carried off my prize. I sited her carefully as crinums not only develop huge bulbs, but they resent being transplanted. It took her two full years to bloom — but her blooms sent me on the way to another deadly sin, greed.
You see, I found myself thinking, “If one ‘Super Ellen’ makes me happy, think how much happier I would be with three ‘Super Ellens.’” Now this is a large plant, at least six feet in diameter, perhaps even more. A suburban garden only has so much sun room. Needless to say, none of these qualifications stopped me. I didn’t care if I had room, I was going to have three “Super Ellens.”
That’s the thing about lust combined with greed: Reasoning doesn’t work. In my rose mania, I have ordered way too many roses, going on the assumption that one can never have too many roses — conveniently forgetting the following words, “provided one has wthe room.” Consequently, I have squeezed roses in niches where they are scrunched up too closely to other plants. I have forgotten where I have planted some roses, only to be surprised by blooms in the following year in a place I had forgotten a rose possibly existed. And this, dear readers, is a sign that I’m filled with both lust and greed. Perhaps you are a sensible gardener, incapable of dipping your toe into one of the deadly sins. I commend you, wishing I could follow suit. However, if I had to wager, I’d bet that there are more gardeners out there who find themselves filled with lust and greed.
Absent from their gardens, Kit and Lise enjoy roaming our region exploring the intersection of horticulture and suburban living. More on Instagram @AbsenteeGardener or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.