Turn Left At The Cornfield

Learning how to hurry up and slow down.

“Lead us not into temptation…”



“Lead us not into temptation…” should be an early and late spring; early and late summer; early and late autumn; or any other time during the year mantra when this gardener is especially vulnerable to the tempting images and descriptions of gardens and plants in magazine articles, and a plethora of catalogues that fill the mailbox, daily.

This inherited weakness for flowers and plants spans at least three generations of women with the flower loving and growing gene coursing throughout our veins.  There is no better feeling than finding the perfect flower for the perfect spot in a flower bed.  If it is on “sale” or “BOGO” (buy one get one free), it’s a bonus.

Even without luscious covers of perfect flowers in vibrant colors–catalogues–filled with enticing pictures and descriptions of seeds, roses, shrubs, trees, or bulbs tempt this mere mortal into a robot-like trance. Thankfully, one particular catalogue for roses and selected perennials has discontinued the practice of scenting the pages with the enticing bouquets of roses perfume.

‘Twas a mystery why that particular catalogue would arrived a few eves before Christmas. When visions of sugar plums should have been dancing about one’s head, Herculean willpower was required to hide that catalogue until after the Christmas tree lost its last needle.

Flower nurseries were deemed  “dens of iniquity, ” by my mother, since she spent her “mad money” to the last penny on enticing flowers and plants. One good thing about using the Internet to shop for flowers or shrubs is that one can put every desired item in the shopping bag or cart, until the running total of the unfettered buying spree reaches ridiculous, which brings the gardener back to reality before the first-, second-, and third-born children are sold at bargain basement prices. However, the bad thing about using the Internet is seeing beautiful images of the plants online and shopping late at night, just before the “deal of the century” pricing  for the plants expires.

Faulty thinking has affected all of the landscaping decisions made at the homestead.  At first, flower beds were created on the homestead to decrease time spent mowing the lawn.  The first flowerbeds were just defined with cut-up sod skimmed away in the shape of the desired flower bed.  Ironically, that same grass that was so hard to get started in the first place will grow in flower beds like Jack’s bean stalk.

After a couple of years of weeding, mulching, fertilizing, and tending flower gardens, it dawned on the crazed flower garden woman and her ever-suffering, fellow collaborator–the woodsman–that flower beds take far more time to trim, deadhead, and weed than the mowing ever would have.  However, there is nothing nicer than looking out of a window to see birds and butterflies flitting from one flower to another in one of the many flower beds.

On a day when the homesteading pair must have been in the sun too long, they thought it would take less time if the perimeters of the flower beds–ever-growing and expanding–were defined with stonework, known in the landscaping “biz” as hardscapes.

Hardscapes require digging, lifting heavy blocks of stone at least three times; smoothing a base with fine pebbles and sand; placing each and every block two or three times until everything is level; stacking those blocks of stones two or three blocks high; and filling the flower bed with a soil mix guaranteed to provide the best soil for flower and weed, alike.  There is still the weeding and trimming, and pulling water grass from the beds, but those blocks are handy to sit on as those weeds try to hide among the flowers.

With the purest of intentions,  every new flower bed started with a plan, laboriously drawn and re-drawn to scale, and even colored coded for each of the plants, so there would be no crowding.  However, after planting the new flower bed, the plants looked lonesome, the beds looked sparse and sad, and while the next and newest plant acquisitions needed a home.

Within a year, everything grew so much that nearly every square inch was covered with splashes of color from both the carefully spaced plants, as well as the other “filler” plants.  Fortunately, all have multiplied and spread until the weeds have nary a chance for survival.  The beauty of having flower beds brimming with perennials is that those plants multiply and divide into thickets of lilies or other plants.

Once a bed is full, the need for another flower bed calls for more planning and planting to combat the barren and flowerless expanse of lawn, and the vicious cycle of garden bed design begins anew.

There are many beautiful gardening prayers extolling the virtues of beautiful and bounteous flowers; however there should be a paraphrased Gardener’s Lord’s Prayer somewhere that ends with “…deliver me from weevils and gardening catalogues,  AMEN.”

When the flowers bloom in glorious abundance and fill the garden with different hues and scents, those back-breaking days of lifting, digging, weeding, planting, and trimming are forgotten, and the garden is enjoyed when the tired but content gardener sits on a porch or patio.

Gertrude Jekyll must have had the same weakness for flowers and gardens, when she penned these two thoughts about gardening:

“The lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives.”  and “The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.”

Author: Prairie Writer

No one could have predicted that a fourth generation native Coloradoan, in love with the mountains, would migrate east to the Southeast corner of Iowa; and fall in love with rolling hills and fields. Ten years ago, my husband, the woodsman, and I moved to the 200-acre farm he had inherited in the early 1990s; where we built our dream house over a span of five or six years. One of my hobbies is teaching! Although I retired over ten years ago from being a full-time geography teacher, the teaching bug continues to flow through my veins. I have found the perfect way to teach—substituting—where I enjoy teaching something different every day I’m called. My other hobbies include reading any and every thing; planning and planting our flower gardens; sewing; being “crafty” and creative; finishing furniture pieces crafted by the woodsman; and writing. I was the editor for a pictorial book about Van Buren County, the first year we lived in Iowa. Additionally, I wrote two weekly columns for the local newspaper for eight years. Now, I look forward to writing regular posts about living in the country with a cat, a dog, and a woodsman in my blog, “Turn Left At The Cornfield.”


  1. This is a great blog!!! I really enjoyed reading it!

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