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Gardening in a Time of COVID
Ruth Leopold

I’m a bit of a Looney Tune when it comes to gardening. Every year around the end of January, I start dreaming of the “perfect” gardens I will start creating as soon as the threat of frost has passed. I re-read through all my gardening books envisioning new layouts for my front, side and back gardens. I search the Internet hoping to find some new cultivars of my favorite plants, and to see what fool-proof annuals have been developed which promise glorious blooms the whole season long. Basically, I live on Fantasy Island throughout the winter.

So, when March of 2020 rolled around, I was geared up to hit every garden center in the area to find the perfect annuals to intersperse among my perennials and fill my burgeoning collection of pots. Enter COVID and my best laid plans went right into the dumper.

Carolina Meadows immediately went into quarantine mode.  All of the residents of CM were included, not just those in Assisted Living or at the Health Center. We could only leave to keep medical appointments. While we sheltered-in-place, delicious meals would be delivered to our doorsteps; there would be regular Zoom exercise classes, socially distanced outdoor concerts and Zoom meetings to keep us abreast of local conditions. We could walk the streets and trails of our whole beautiful campus. BUT THERE WOULD BE NO TRIPS TO NURSERIES AND GARDEN CENTERS. My pots would remain empty, my planting beds would be full of bare mulch. I grew depressed and had an awful tendency to snarl at my spouse when he tried to cheer me up.

And then, three things occurred to rescue me from gloom. The first occurred when our neighbor’s daughter was authorized to deliver groceries to her parents’ doorstep every week. One week she told them that she’d be visiting a local garden store to pick up some supplies. Could she pick something up for them or their neighbors? I jumped on the opportunity to order two flats of Ageratum. (I love Ageratum because they are low growing and the deer don’t touch them.) They arrived and my front border problem was solved.

Next, with Carolina Meadows assistance, residents staged two plant sales. Herbs, tomatoes and a variety of annuals would all be offered. Buyers had to sign up for a time slot and could select only two herbs or tomatoes plus nine annuals. I nabbed Basil, three Angelonia, three Penta and three Petunias. I had a start to my front garden bed. To my delight, a second sale took place soon after the first,  and this time we could select more annuals.

Finally, I started browsing several Home and Garden chains. I discovered that while the chains wouldn’t deliver annuals themselves, they would arrange with their affiliated nurseries nationwide to have annuals shipped directly to my Villa. I ended up with twelve Calibrachoa, three magnificent Mandevillas and one glorious Hibiscus.

COVID may have shut down things like the travel, hospitality and entertainments industries. It compels us to keep social distancing, wearing masks and staying home. But it will NEVER, EVER defeat a determined gardener.

Ruth Leopold

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