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Gardening with a city girl

Updated on July 20, 2011

In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful. (Abram L. Urban)

I love gardens. English, French or Japanese gardens; they all have their own appeal. Unfortunately I have always lived in cities and never had the necessity or the inclination to do any gardening. When I have had a garden, I have luckily always had a gardener to take care of it, so there was nothing to do except enjoy the garden. But this changed when we moved to France and bought a house with a big garden.

My dream of a garden

The garden was abandoned, but it had great potential. It had two enormous pine trees, different levels of stone paths, raspberry bushes, wild strawberries, carrots, pink, red and yellow roses, tulips, wild violets and lots and lots of weeds. We even had a "chicken house".

I was delighted; I could see myself walking around my garden with a straw hat and a long dress holding a straw basket with delicate but colourful roses, with little birds singing around me. Not very realistic, I know, but that was my vision of a garden.

Starting the work

After we settled in the new house I started looking for a gardener. One, two, four, six months passed and I could not find anyone to come and do my garden. Not even offering double the rate would convince anyone to work as a gardener. In this part of France, everybody is supposed to work their own garden; and I mean everybody with no exceptions. I used to look at my sixty year old+ neighbours working in their garden, digging, planting and cutting with the energy of twenty year olds. Meantime, the weeds in my garden were overgrown and the paths had disappeared from sight. It was a wild jungle and I did not dare step outside for fear of snakes and any other wildlife including worms and caterpillars.

harvesting cherry tomatoes
harvesting cherry tomatoes
our courgettes
our courgettes

One day I just had enough and braved the jungle and went outside to get rid of all the weeds. To be fair, we made it a "family day", and the whole family went out working, digging weeds and clearing paths. By the end of the day we were rather proud of our work. Unfortunately, the day after it started raining and we had a mixture of rain and sunshine for the next few days. During all that time I forgot about the garden until about a week after when I went out and almost fainted at the look of the weeds. Almost in tears I went to see my neighbour who kindly explained to me -as if I were 5 years old- that if you move the earth before the rain comes, you only increase its productivity. In my case, my garden was over productive, and in a week the weeds were waist height and twice as much as the previous week. Too late I learnt that this was not the time of the year to move the earth!

Still, that did not break my will to have a dream garden. I decided to do my own gardening and bought some gardening books. This time I was going to learn HOW TO and WHEN TO do things in the garden. I spent entire afternoons reading gardening books in a paved patio that we have; having a cold drink, a cup of tea or a glass of wine. I tried to memorize the names of plants, when to plant what, what to plant next to what for organic gardening, and all that. But still many more months passed and I couldn't gather the strength to go outside and face the garden.

Fortunately for us, I had an aunt from Peru visiting me. She is seventy years old but she has the experience of having a farm in the Peruvian jungle, several acres of land and animals, mainly chickens, which of course she takes care of on her own. As soon as she saw my garden she was horrified. The next again day, she woke up with the sun and off she went to the garden. On her own she started clearing weeds and paths in record time. Of course I could not wait sitting down seeing my seventy year old aunt doing all this, so I put on a pair of gardening gloves and went to face our jungle.

I had never done any gardening before so I was surprised at how much I was enjoying myself out there. My aunt taught me the basics and together we cleared the garden and started a little vegetable patch and a fruit patch. She also taught me how to make compost and how to clear paths! It was a great experience. I never thought of ME, who always screamed at the sight of a snail or caterpillar, working the earth with so much pleasure. When the summer arrived we were harvesting delicious juicy tomatoes, sweet fat raspberries, bell peppers so colourful that they could be in a painting, and courgettes that were almost obscenely good. With the arrival of autumn we harvested pumpkins. It was a wonderful year for our garden thanks to my Amazon aunt.

Of course I have not become a good gardener and I do not do any work without garden gloves, but I am slowly learning how to become a gardener and to love my patch!

Things that a city girl needs to do the gardening:

A straw hat: During summer days even if you start gardening very early you will need a straw hat to protect you from the sun. You will not notice and you will get carried away through the hottest part of the day. A straw hat will protect not only your face from the sun, but also your hair.

Sun screen: During the summer you will need a good sun protection for your face, arms and legs.

Lip balm: Lips tend to get very dry when you are outdoors, both during summer and winter. Do not forget to splash on the lip balm with an SPF to keep your pout moisturized and protected.

Gloves: I do not do any gardening work without gloves. You will need a pair of heavy duty gloves for handling rose bushes, and trees. I also have in my gardening basket plenty of latex medical gloves which I use for delicate work such as planting, taking off old leaves and re-potting.

An apron: I like to use an apron while working in the garden. Not only it keeps my clothes clean but also the pocket in the front is very handy for keeping my mobile phone.

A pair of garden boots.

Hand cream: Even if you are wearing gloves your hands get some rough treatment, so always have handy a pot of moisturizing hand cream. I actually put cream in my hands before putting the gloves on, that not only gives an extra protective layer for your skin but the heat activates the components of the cream making it more efficient. Try GreatSkin® Moisture Mitts Hand Cream Sample Samples

A gardening basket to keep small garden tools handy when you are out there.

A kneeling sheet or a small tool where you can sit on or kneel to work.


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    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 9 years ago from France

      I will Dottie, I am a dreamer :)

      ripplemaker : I am happy I put a smile on you, that on its own makes this hub worthwhile for me.

      gwendymom : I would say that the children take after their mom LOL

    • gwendymom profile image

      gwendymom 9 years ago from Oklahoma

      Princessa, your children are Beautiful. I love how you had the picture of the plant in the bra, I't like you added a little extra Princessa personality to it. This was great.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 9 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hi Princessa, your hub with all its candidness and picturesque sharing made me smile. :)

    • Dottie1 profile image

      Dottie1 9 years ago from MA, USA

      I love people with big dreams. Good for you. Keep them up!

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 9 years ago from France

      Dottie1: I have always been a bit of a dreamer :)

      Anna Marie: Thank for commenting.

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 9 years ago from Florida

      Great advice!

    • Dottie1 profile image

      Dottie1 9 years ago from MA, USA

      I love your garden quote and your vision of a garden with the little birds singing around you.

      I know what you mean about the fear of garden sandals in the garden for me.

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 9 years ago from France

      mistyhorizon: at first I was doing the gardening with a pair of old high heeled boots (I knew I needed boots, but I didn't know what type!) But I was leaving holes all over the place, it was then that I discovered these lovely garden boots in all colours and designs and I bought myself a light green pair with butterflies and flowers... They are so "flufy" they make my husband laugh!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Such a great hub, and also kind of humorous when I look at the list of 'things a city girl needs to do gardening'. I think the only things on the list I use are the boots! Brilliant and a real example of how even a non-gardener can be converted :) :) :)

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 9 years ago from France

      Thanks for stopping here Bob.

      SweetiePie: They are my "Little Princess" and "the hooligan" :)

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I love your tips Princessa! Your daughters are very cute by the way.

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

      A delightful and informative garden tale.

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 9 years ago from France

      Patty: It is amazing how quick children take into new things like gardening; they just love seeing things grow in their patch. Even better, I discovered that this is one way of making them eat vegetables :-)

      Steve: I never imagined that I would enjoy a day working hard at the garden... I guess life is full of surprises!

    • SteveSnedeker profile image

      SteveSnedeker 9 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      Great post, actually very moving for this gardener. I loved the detail of your "conversion". Your grandmother deserves an extra bowl of manna in Heaven for teaching you how fun making stuff can be.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Great go at gardening! Kids should always learn to grow soemthing, I think. :)