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Longing for Sun in a Shady Yard

July 12, 2008

By Marjorie anderson, The Edmond Sun, Okla.

Jul. 12–EDMOND — The street out front looks like a hopscotch grid, and I can thank the City of Edmond for that. Throughout the four summers I’ve lived here, weeds have sprung up through seams and cracks in the concrete. They won’t do that anymore.

Before, it was a toss-up between mowing the pavement or spraying those cracks with Round-up. Now long black stripes zigzag every which way, filling in the spaces where pesky weed seeds once sprouted.

That’s one weed problem solved, but there are others. Here I sit perched on my gardening stool, plucking offenders from between struggling plants in my flowerbeds. How dare they crop up where I’ve worked so hard to exclude them! It’s not right that they prosper amidst my barely surviving geraniums.

I lavish fertilizer, water and love upon those curly-leafed, wishfully mega-blossomed flowers. I deadhead them on the rare occasion when one of them blooms long enough to need it. I actually talk to those stunted, ungrateful plants.

Su-the-weenie-dog cocks her head and looks around for someone to make sense of my garble, but the geraniums aren’t listening. Otherwise they’d know I’m apologizing. I’ve given them my all, but that’s not enough. What they want is sun, and sunlight is at a premium in this yard. I love every shade tree on the place, but you’d think there’d be some way I could have them and flowers, too.

The problem with shade in western Oklahoma, where I grew up, was that there wasn’t any. You appreciate trees once you’ve lived on the open plains where you don’t mow your yard, you sweep it.

An everlasting wind whips up red dirt, along with the seeds you planted in it if you don’t keep it watered down. Flowers in those areas aren’t choosy about where the moisture comes from. They’re grateful for your dishpan water, soapy or not.

Northwest of there, near the little town of Sharon, you don’t try for a flowerbed at all. There’s not a shade tree for miles. A blistering hot sun shrivels even weeds to a crisp, and that’s a shame. You don’t resent weeds in that part of country. You bless every one of them for their efforts to hold down the sandy loam. You’d cultivate those weeds if you could.

I once left a scarf in my mother-in-law’s Sharon yard overnight and never saw it again. Sand had drifted as high as the fence by morning and buried my scarf in its midst. The wind shifted the other direction before evening, leaving the sand flat beneath the fence and taking my scarf with it. The children were little then. I kept a firm grip on them.

In Canada, I could dig up bleeding hearts and lilies of the valley in the woods, plant them in my flowerbed, and they’d exceed my wildest expectations. That’s not going to happen in Oklahoma.

I’ve dug up fantastic wild flowers blooming on the shoulder of the highway east of I-35; nursed their tender roots all the way to my house; planted them with great care in my sunny yard (back when I had a sunny yard), and they were dead before morning. Wild flowers are weeds, but they don’t prosper here in captivity. Not even if they’re encouraged.

My Hennessey gardening friend bought a bag of wildflower seeds, scratched the soil in a sunny spot according to directions, and broadcast the seed throughout. The seeds sprouted and grew into what? Weeds! The kind that mowing and Round-up won’t cure.

My friend would profit from the City of Edmond’s services if he weren’t outside their jurisdiction.

MARJORIE ANDERSON is an Edmond resident.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Edmond Sun, Okla.

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