A few weeks ago, toward the end of my second season as an aspiring gardener, I typed up a list of what I’d planted and where and how it had done. I did this because, to my considerable astonishment, I now had so many plants I could no longer remember their names, let alone where I’d stuck them.

I’m looking at that list now. Add up the flowers (mostly perennials), the two bushes and one tree, the small herb garden I dug last year and added to this year, the rhubarb and strawberry bed, the delightful fig sapling a delightful couple gave me (it has lived on the deck all summer), as well as the three plants I have managed to kill (thus far), and apparently I have added some 50 different types of plants to my little patch of earth.

If you saw my patch of earth, you would find this hard to believe. Despite a not inconsiderable number of hours I devoted this past summer to watering, weeding, watering, digging, watering, planting, watering, transplanting, not to mention anxiously looking things up on the internet (What is the powdery mold on my peony? What is the fungus on the Swiss chard? Do foxgloves require staking? Why didn’t the Solomon’s Seal bloom? ad infinitum), my yard remains sadly higgledy-piggledy.

Which may be why one of my proudest horticultural moments this summer occurred when my neighbor Lorelle wandered over to tell me about a groundhog she had captured in her Havahart trap which turned out to be a raccoon. When she reached the small, all-pink bed I’d recently dug just outside my kitchen window, she paused from her Tale of the Ravenous Rodent to issue a neighborly compliment: “Your garden is looking really nice.”

Now it so happened the morning Lorelle visited was the day my lone peony blossom blossomed, and the bleeding heart and foxgloves were showing themselves nicely, too. The spot was wearing its Sunday best. This did not last.

Nevertheless, somebody not only thought I had a garden, but she even thought it looked nice.

If this has been my summer of acquisition, then it definitely has not gone according to plan. When I bought my wee, adorable bungalow in 2015, I began keeping a list of flowers I loved and intended to swaddle it in. The list is populated with romantic, cottage-garden blooms like roses, poppies, hollyhocks, honeysuckle, clematis and cosmos, but none of these flowers (yet?) populate my garden. Instead, my shopping approach has been unexpectedly scattershot. Is it any wonder the garden looks equally scattershot? I call it “my flea market garden.” Flora seem plunked in more than planted.

Funny things happened whenever I went plant shopping. Take the viburnum. Long before I got to the store, I spent more time than I care to confess obsessing about a hedge, the right hedge, to screen me from the neighboring lot. My mind – and Googling fingers – ran from blueberries to rhododendron to holly to aronia, then back again, before finally landing on viburnum. Pretty blooms, pretty leaves, pretty berries, food for hungry wildlife. Done. One decision out of potentially thousands made. I felt relief.

Momentary relief, it turned out. Viburnum, I learned, comes in a mind-boggling 150-plus varieties. Even faced with just a handful carried by a local nursery, I had a small meltdown trying to make up my mind. I came home with a Mareisei, mostly because if I hadn’t just picked something, anything, my saintly sweetheart might have killed me.

Pleased with its growth over the summer, I went to purchase a second (on sale!) come fall. No Mareiseis left. After considerably more hemming and hawing, I lugged home a Shasta virburnum that looked rather worse for wear after its summer in a pot: sere leaves speckled with brown. A droopy, defeated aspect. Two weeks in, and it has not (yet?) perked up. Was this a mistake, and if so, how big of a mistake?

On other excursions, the garden store had what I wanted but in blue when I wanted red, or yellow when I wanted purple. Sometimes a plant that wasn’t on my list, usually one in splashy bloom, caught my eye and insinuated itself into my cart, then into my garden.

Then there were the generous friends, neighbors and total strangers who gave me plants. Plants that were not on my list (do you sense a theme?). In August, I stopped by the West End home of a gardener who had offered lungwort for the taking on the neighborhood internet forum, Nextdoor. I came home with three lungwort plants, as planned. Also four double-irises, two wild geraniums, and two plants I still can’t remember the name of. I was lucky to escape without mint.

I spent a few weekends in the spring poking around some of Maine’s many plant sales and carrying home a little of this and a little of that. I grew philosophical: Since you never know what you’ll find, why not be open to the possibilities? There were so many more possibilities in heaven and Earth than I’d dreamt of. Alas, anxiety followed as surely as dew in the morning: Beyond my vague, romantic notions of a cozy cottage garden, shouldn’t I have a plan?

I did have a plan for roses: three rosa rugosa plants blooming in wild, carefree profusion directly in front of the house; the cook in me looked forward to many years of rosehip jam. My friend Molly, former gardening editor at the Houston Chronicle, was visiting and suggested this rose hedge, and I instantly loved the idea. If you saw her spectacular garden, you would love any idea she gave you, too. Nothing said Maine to me like rosa rugosa. As a girl walking Ogunquit’s Marginal Way, I’d adored them. Last fall, I learned to my shock and dismay from a Maine Gardener story in this paper that the bushes are invasive. Heartbroken, I sent columnist Tom Atwell a note: “Tom, would you plant one at your house?”

“I think I would not plant rosa rugosa again,” he responded laconically.

My journey down the rose rabbit hole began. After the rosa rugosa and I broke up, I fell in love with one old-fashioned variety after another, falling especially hard for the Tuscany Gallica, a big-blossomed velvety rose halfway between crimson and purple. It looks straight out of a fairy tale. It’s clear to me now I was on the rebound.

I tried to buy a few of my rose crushes on the internet in late spring. Out of stock. I paid a visit to Skillins in Falmouth, where I lost my heart to several more varieties. A nurserywoman sensed my distress and came over to help. She sized me up and gently steered me toward easy-care roses. They were pretty enough but hardly the dazzlers I’d been hanging out with.

I left empty-handed. At home, I emailed Molly, who, it so happens, wrote an entire book on antique roses, “Pink Ladies & Crimson Gents,” with her husband, Don. She sent me links to a half-dozen suggestions for hardy roses. I emailed her back: “See? You are proving my point. How is one ever to choose?”

“You don’t choose,” she emailed me. “You dig bigger beds.”

As of this writing, the front of the house still looks forlorn. If your eye is drawn to the bed to its left, that’s not a good thing. The assemblage of random plants there makes for an especially motley crew – tall next to short; pastels next to hot-colored flowers; blowsy blooms in bear hugs with tidy, orderly ones; a fiercely determined weed. Sometimes a lot is in bloom, sometimes nothing.

Roses, it seems, will have to wait until next summer.

But I guess I can live with that. I planted bulbs yesterday. The promise of next year’s season in the garden already beckons.

Peggy Grodinsky can be contacted at 791-6453 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @PGrodinsky

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