Beautiful gardens don’t have to cost much unless you count “sweat equity” as a cost.
This year, thanks to some bargain shopping, we were able to plant a majestic Dawn Redwood in the front yard to replace the almost-dead Red Haven peach tree. Well, it will be majestic in a few years, we hope. It’s only five feet tall now, but it’s a beauty!
It joins a redbud seedling planted to memorialize a beloved cat, the original redbud and a magnolia that came with the house, and a crape myrtle over the grave of another cat. A few years ago we added a very nice $3.00 sugar maple. A very ugly swamp maple will not be missed once the “good” maple grows big enough to replace it.
In our scarce budget, there really isn’t room to spend a lot of money on flowers, much less good trees. Does that surprise you? Yes, many of the beautiful perennials that grace our gardens (and the top of this column) have been shared by like-minded gardeners, swapped, or rescued from “death by big-box stores.”
Sadly, trees and shrubs don’t fall into those categories. By the time they are marked down for clearance at the retail locations, they often are in such bad shape that they don’t survive.
So this garden went with some “window dressing” of shorter plants while we figured out how to afford what landscapers refer to as the “bones” of the garden. Trees and shrubs are important to “anchor” the landscape, but they don’t come cheap.
Some years ago, as I sold my extra plants to raise money for missions, an idea came to mind for what is now an important, albeit small, income stream.
Thus was born the concept of an actual “garden budget.” Unneeded plants are sold, and the money is dedicated to garden improvements. Some of it goes towards potting soil and equipment.
The new redwood was purchased with these funds, a splurge that would have been more than we would be able to justify otherwise. But the main goal is to save toward a fence to enclose the backyard. To borrow the phrase, “It is corban.”
This word’s only use in the New Testament is in Mark 7:9-13. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for neglecting their duties in favor of pretending to give something to God.
The Jews of Jesus’ time thought that their property or “budget” was so untouchable that their own parents could not benefit from these “corban” funds. They maintained that if they dedicated funds to God, they would not be required to use them to assist their aging parents. Nothing could have been further from the truth! Jesus roundly condemned their false piety as they missed the mark concerning compassion and responsibility.
Alas for my funds dedicated to the fence; one year it was raided for emergency bereavement travel, another year a serious illness drained the old glass canister. Unexpected car repairs took their toll once or twice.
This year, the septic tank needed attention with a larger infusion of cash than the bank balance allowed. After all, one cannot sell plants out of a yard that stinks! The fence will wait yet another year.
If we built the fence instead of taking care of necessary expenses, that would be ridiculous even in light of the original intentions.
If we, as Christians, refuse to use our resources for good because it’s “not in the budget,” we could be in danger of falling into the same trap as the Pharisees in Mark 7.