When Life Gives You Lemons

When the gardens don’t cooperate, I turn to self-watering pots. That way, when the writer gets wrapped up in Chapter 21, the plants survive

Kate Flora: We’ve all heard the old saying, “April showers bring May flowers,” but when April showers become endless May showers, most of the things people are saying are words we cannot print here. If you are in other parts of the country, away from the damp state of Maine, you may not relate to this. I am sure there have been a few good weather days–I think I recall one last week, but for the most part, it has been unseasonably cold and rainy this spring.

Normally, at this time of year, I am trying to figure out how to balance gardening, which I love, with writing, which I also love. At the beginning of the month, when it was gray but not raining, I blew off things like my thousand words a day schedule, to weed and mulch and divide and transplant and fill my planters with colorful annuals. I got much, but far from all, of the season’s prep done, because the work kept getting interrupted by rain. When it was raining, I followed the rule, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” and allowed myself time to pore over plant catalogues and do internet searches, looking for shade-loving plants that the deer won’t eat.

View from the hall

For years, I have had a fabulous hosta bed which cares for itself, filling the shade with many shades of green, green and white, blue green, and yellow green. It held a variety of quilted leaves and broad leaves and narrow leaves, tall plants and medium plants and tiny plants, all topped with tall stems of purple and white flowers. It was lovely. The deer thought it was lovely, too. For the past few years, despite spraying or applications of red pepper and garlic, it has been a deer salad bar. They practically rang the door bell and asked for salt or salad dressing before wandering off to munch the patch into a field of stubble.

This year, I am fighting back. I am planting things the deer don’t like. Right now they are just wee little things, but in time, there will be a new garden that is NOT tasty.

But I am now way behind in the tasks that need to be done. A few days of getting soaked in the garden I can handle. Coming in muddy and scratched day after day? Not so much. And the rain has brought a bounty of mosquitoes and they have driven me back inside.

My father was a wizard at gardening, and he loved iris. I always found they died on me, but these seem to be surviving. And nothing seems to eat them!

We can agree, I think that rain is good for the flowers. What I am realizing is that it may also be good for writers. (More of this making lemonade business) When gardening is unpleasant, writing becomes that much more pleasant. Saved from the temptation to wander through the perennial bed, peering down to see if the “late bloomers” have emerged, I can rediscover the delight of figuring out how Alice is going to kill her husband, and then go research the effects of antifreeze. I can find the patience to sit at my desk, get back up to speed on the new Thea Kozak mystery. I think about the cast of characters I’ve created and wonder where Heidi has gone. Is her disappearance voluntary or has someone taken her? I can go back to subjecting Thea to the torture of trying to protect a school in trouble while worrying about her beloved father’s health.

Of course the weather will have another effect, too. In the book, it will be raining. My characters will be sartorially and visually challenged, just as I am right now. And while the mosquitoes swarm hungrily outside the door, waiting to suck my blood, I can shed imaginary blood right here at my desk.

Not mine, thank you very much. But I am quite sure, given this miserable weather, that someone in this book will bleed.

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9 Responses to When Life Gives You Lemons

  1. Reine says:

    Beautiful, beautiful garden.

    • MCWriTers says:

      Thank you. My gardening style is wild chaos, but I like it that way.


      • Reine says:

        I like that best, too. It’s funny how difficult it is to get the gardener to let that happen. The last time he was here he said, “You’re not like the others around here. With your yard, I mean.”

  2. Heidi Wilson says:

    Kate, give us your list of shade-loving, deer-repelling plants…please!
    And whatever you do, don’t lose Heidi.

    • MCWriTers says:

      I will take good care of Heidi…and if it ever stops raining, I’ll take some pictures of the plants I’m hoping will prove to be deer-proof.


  3. Gram says:

    The deer seem to also love holly bushes. They have eaten so much of them that we are thinking they may not return. Now we have the usual tick infestation. I love to see the deer in the backyard, but do not enjoy the ticks.

    • MCWriTers says:

      I like the deer, but hate the ticks. Just back from the doctor to check on a tick bite that I somehow missed. All seems well…but we shall see.

      Still, I cannot stay out of the garden.


  4. Sennebec says:

    We have extra hosta if you want some.

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