I’ve never had a green thumb or much interest in hands-on gardening, although I appreciate the efforts of others to create areas of beauty and grow good food. Probably this has to do with being allergic to flora–and I mean all flora. As a child I sneezed because of the lilac bush near my bedroom window. In my 20s, living in small apartments, I didn’t think about gardens very often. I had to remind my dates not to give me flowers, or if they did, they were placed outside on a balcony or patio where I could see them but not sniff them. Jasmine makes me nauseous. At my wedding, I carried a special bouquet with scentless flowers. On the tables were simple plants without blossoms.
I resorted to wearing sunglasses and a painter's mask to do any gardening, even trimming the lemon tree. Upon seeing me, my cat recoiled in horror.
At the first suburban house I owned, I didn’t have to worry about gardening. On the east side of Menlo Park, California, the O’Connor tract where I lived had been a chicken ranch in the early 20th century, and the soil was rich with … you can guess. Every seed that wafted into my yard grew, even east coast trees that weren’t supposed to be there.
When I moved to a small condo I considered having a little garden on my patio to accompany the nice lemon tree there. My enthusiasm waned as my eyes teared and my nose clogged. I resorted to wearing sunglasses and a painter’s mask to do any gardening, even trimming the lemon tree. Upon seeing me, my cat recoiled in horror. At this point my doctor recommended that I be tested for specific allergies, so I was poked 40 times along my arms and back with various pollens, molds, and related substances. I tested positive for 38 of them–basically all plants, trees, flowers, and even the natural mold in the soil.
At this point I reverted to my previous strategy of experiencing gardens by looking. On my patio at my current home there are some plants and citrus trees, but no flowers, and during the right season we grow tomato plants in pots. I have to remind my sweetheart that I can water but not dig up soil. Occasionally, if the season and time are absolutely right, I can sit out on the patio for a short while. Mostly, I use my eyes to appreciate the beautiful, varied greens I can see, and the swarming of hummingbirds against the red feeder.
Should the wildfire smoke ever abate, I’ll go back to walks with my painter’s mask (good for social distancing as well) to appreciate the neighborhood plants and flowers, in all their colorful beauty. While it might not be the same as active gardening, looking at nature is wonderful.
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.