I’m about to fail my formal gardening class.  Again.  Luckily I’m  homeschooled, and even more luckily, the state truancy laws don’t cover thirty-somethings.

I absolutely love formal gardens.  You would not guess this from looking at my yard.  It helps me, though, that I also like all the other types of gardens, though I’ll admit it took a long time for the "suburban neglect" look to grow on me.   But the clincher in my formal-gardening failure is not neglect — that can be cured with time and diligence.  It’s that I’m not ruthless enough.

When I was studying in Paris (politics, not gardening, though my grades in the former weren’t all that great either), I learned the secret behind those lovely french formal gardens: a hardened heart.  The gardeners at our school didn’t have the least scruple about yanking out plants that still looked okay, and replacing them with a fresher batch. 

Having learned this lesson years ago, I cannot plead ignorance.  When Mr. SuperHusband spruced up our kids’ yard this summer, he bought a little planter to put on their new little patio, just outside our new little screen porch.  I knew — I even told Mr. SuperHusband in advance — that in order to keep the planter looking tidy and cheerful, we would have to do like the french gardeners, and yank out the old to replace with the new.  We resolved that we would buy replacement packs of annuals from Lowe’s on a seasonal basis, to keep that one tiny little planter fresh with nice-looking flowers. 

And now I realiize I just don’t have the heart.  Our marigolds from this summer are getting quite scraggily.  It’s time to put in fall mums.  It was time about three weeks ago, actually.  But the marigolds are still alive!  They have bloomed again! How can I do this to them??   It’s either muster a little heartlessness, or fail Formal Gardening.

Thursday is our day for hands-on projects. We’ll see if the marigolds finally get the boot, or if they manage to escape eviction for another week.

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