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Master Gardener Journal  


S P E C I A L   F E A T U R E



Of Friendships and Gardens

by Sandra Forsey,
Master Gardener Intern


For most of my life I've been driven by a deep passion for both art and nature, often drawing artistic inspiration from the colors and lines and forms found in the outdoor world. I have seldom spoken with others about this passion because I felt they might not appreciate or understand it.

But then I met Sydney.

I first became acquainted with Sydney six years ago, when she moved into my neighborhood. At first our relationship was a low-maintenance affair that benefited us both; we shared many of the same interests, especially gardening, and I found that many tasks were made easier when we worked together. But then, like the aging of a particularly fine wine, our relationship slowly blossomed into a deep bond and friendship as we discovered that we were true kindred spirits. Sidney's calm exhortations of "Why not, let's just try it" would often turn doubt into action, and before long our gardens began to flourish and grow along with our souls.

From throwing eighty bags of dirt over a six-foot fence as the other empties them into raised garden beds in the heat of June, to setting up or repairing drip systems, each of us always knows the other will be happy to help out. We love spending the day at the nursery, learning about and selecting plants and then buying them in bulk. The saying "Our eyes are larger than our stomachs" no longer applies. Now it's "Our eyes are larger than the back of our car."

At the end of each season we visit the other's garden to help trim, rip out, mow, clean up, and load trash into the trailer to take to the dump. We come away achy and tired, but also with a feeling of fellowship and accomplishment that you don't often experience in daily life. Once when the plants in a large flower bed suddenly died, spirits were quickly lifted when the other showed up with a couple flats of flowers and said "Come on lets plant these, it won't take long."



Somewhere along the way we decided our gardens could benefit from the addition of a few pieces of art. We settled on iron, but trying to find someone who worked with iron and thought like both an artist and a woman was virtually impossible. I knew I could meet at least one of these criteria so, I decided to sign up for a welding class at the community college.

Although welding turned out to be much more tedious than I had realized, after completing the course I assured Sydney that I could teach her to do it. We split the price of a MIG welder, a plasma cutter and few other tools and went to work.

As we saw projects progress from vague ideas to a few pencil sketches to final design to the actual welding, our enthusiasm and passion escalated. We set deadlines for completion of our projects, but as with the chess set "Strategy," we were often having so much fun that the deadline became secondary as we worked straight through from six in the morning until after midnight.

With other projects such as the sand pendulum "Inertia" and the red person "Breaking Free," our schedules and commitments didn't allow us to devote that much time during the day, so we waited until we had put our families to bed to go to work. On those occasions we would work until two or three in the morning, and diet coke and Haagen-Dazs never tasted better than they did those nights. We laughingly agreed that no slumber party was ever as much fun.

We often refer to our gardening endeavors as "Survival of the Fittest." (Hence, the inspiration for the sculpture of the same name). We sometimes decide to incorporate a plant that supposedly won't flourish in our zone. When that happens, we cross our fingers and just try it. Amazingly, we sometimes find that we can get it to grow quite beautifully here.



There's a powerful message in my relationship with Sydney that I would like to share with others: If you're very lucky, you might someday cultivate a close friendship at the same time you're cultivating a garden. I feel blessed that the seeds of our friendship were planted in the right season and the perfect zone, and have been able to flourish and bloom. We've formed a perennial friendship, and the plants in both our gardens have benefited from that bond.

I suppose there is one friend in the life of each of us who seems not a separate person, however dear and beloved, but an expansion, an interpretation of one's self, the very, meaning of one's soul.

-- Unknown


Maricopa County Master Gardener Volunteer Information
Last Updated October 4, 2003
Author: Lucy K. Bradley, Extension Agent Urban Horticulture, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
© 1997 The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County
Comments to Maricopa-hort@ag.arizona.edu 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040,
Voice: (602) 470-8086 ext. 301, Fax (602) 470-8092