I have relatives and colleagues with obsessive compulsive disorder, and from time to time, I find I understand them very well. In the morning in the gym, when I put my shoes in exactly the same spot as the day before, and the day before that, I understand. When I put my favorite water bottle into one of my shoes, I understand. There is something about making sure I don’t lose that water bottle that gives me control over my world.
Then there are certain things I do every year. Starting at Christmastime, I save the skins of yellow onions so that I can use them at Easter to dye eggs. They turn out the most amazing shades ranging from pale yellow to deep maroon tie-dye. These eggs delight me over and over again.
And in the spring, I plant nasturtiums. I have twelve (isn’t twelve a wonderful number?) galvanized window boxes, an even dozen fitting perfectly along the tops of my porch rails. I used to buy plants, but I found that nasturtiums grow reliably from seed, at least they do with a little care. Soak the seeds overnight, nick each one slightly to give the burgeoning plant life a start, and plant them. Miraculous!
I am an enthusiastic but not a very good gardener. In the back yard, I have a circular herb garden in a space once occupied by an above ground pool. (Now that was a bad idea. Never got the maple leaves cleared out, and really, I am not the pool bunny type!) Gave it away to someone who regretted accepting the gift, hauled in a load of topsoil, and presto chango! It’s an herb garden.
I specialize in invasive species. I pretend I am a gardener, but sometimes I think all I do is weed out Siberian iris, lemon balm, mint, and fern-leaf tansy. A few old reliables come back every year—oregano, chives, catnip, and horehound—without taking over. Thyme is fussy, as are lamb’s ears. Lady’s mantle and peonies are steadfast. I take great comfort in the return of plants that do not run rampant. I am so happy to see them.
Out back, there is much that is unexpected. But on the front porch, there are twelve window boxes planted with nasturtiums. They grow reliably and they look beautiful. I am obscurely grateful to them for being a gardening project that I can manage. I put the seeds in the ground, they come up, and the flowers come. How amazing is that? None of my other gardens act like that, and I love them for their wild and crazy nature. But I love my nasturtiums for being exactly what I expect them to be.