Today I planted my ugly little garden. I’ve named it the “ugly little garden” after Hans Christian Andersen’s 1844 tale “The Ugly Duckling.” In the story a mother duck is surprised to find that one of her ducklings looks different from the rest. He’s as big as a loaf of bread and gray whereas his brothers and sisters are about the size of a goose egg and soft yellow. Her gray “ugly” duckling totters awkwardly around the barnyard sometimes tripping and falling whereas his much smaller yellow siblings skedaddle easily across the dirt yard.
And like Hans Christian Andersen’s ugly duckling, my garden just doesn’t fit into the neighborhood. The land behind our barn slopes, so we had Dan (our dirt mover and shaker) use his backhoe to take soil from the house building site to pile behind the barn and level off for a garden.
I wanted to begin my first vegetable garden with the big three—squash, beans, and tomatoes. Interwoven between the vegetables I imagined flowers planted to attract predatory insects. By predatory insects I mean –the good guys– ladybugs, praying mantes, garden spiders, and green lacewings that eat –the bad guys– aphids, cabbage worms, and cucumber beetles. The proposed colorful flowers would have decorated the garden with splashes of reds, yellows, oranges, and blues. I had a lovely dream of produce coming to perfection on the vines while bees and hummingbirds visited the bright blossoms. I fear all this was envisioned but not realized.
With moving into the new house I never got around to starting any seed, and the flat garden area Dan created has been overtaken by weeds, while the constructed raised beds I hoped for became old fruit bins from a local apple orchard. These bins were generously given to Bruce by the orchard owner, and, indeed they may turn out to be fantastic raised beds, but they were unexpected. Like the mother duck that did not know what to make of the strange big duckling she found amongst her hatchlings, I’m not sure how my ugly little garden will turn out. If it is a good ending, then my garden will transform into a beauty like the ugly duckling that, surprisingly, grew into a splendid white swan.