Even if I consider picking flowers off potted succulents on my Belltown balcony gardening these days, I realize there are many others who do not. As one friend with a reputation for frankness said, “Succulents need no maintenance whatsoever.”

To which I replied, “Like people, we gravitate toward plants we like.”

“Still, it’s hardly gardening.” (She is one of those friends, and I have a few who like to give me a hard time about living in a condo.)

“This summer, I’m teaching dance in two countries of the Third World, so any more gardening is out of the question.” That silenced her.

After that, she invited me, along with four others, to drive up to the Skagit Valley, and every one of us was excited about driving north until the miles canceled every guilty thought we had about taking a weekday off from work.

How is guilt like this even possible?

We’re a month ahead of the blossoming, but, as my friend put it, “we’re anticipating the color.”

I loved how the wide-open fields gave us something to marvel at — more than how six of us fit into a Mazda2.

“You’re riding shotgun,” she said.

“Sounds perfect,” I said. And off we went. 

Reckless gardening

As for how I used to garden? Well, for starters, I’d scatter poppy and daisy seeds (sure-bets) and plant every bulb I could buy.

Early into my marriage, I planted a container of Night-Blooming Jasmine against Larry’s advice.

“Let me tell you something,” he said in a bit of a huff, “I might not know much about living with a woman, but frost I know. The minute I see a plant that isn’t indigenous, I know what’s going to happen, and it isn’t pretty.”

I told him I’d read that if I placed it close enough to the house it would absorb the reflected heat off the foundation and eventually trellis over the doorway.

“I can show you examples all over the city,” I said. “And why would Ballard’s frost be any warmer than ours?”

The next day, he bought a heater to install overhead to protect what he liked to call my “potted pipedream.”

Nasturtium seeds were strewn everywhere, too, because, to me, this is how to plant: a little recklessly. Because no matter how perfect I try and make things, weeds are still going to reverse roles with the flowers as soon as I turn my back.

I remember Larry saying some women are turned on by strong abs, others by wealth and power and others by tiny seeds in a packet sold by a nursery most of us have never heard of. Will it ever be even remotely possible to smell spring in the air and not think of him saying that?

Living in silence

I used to take refuge in my garden, and if I could have talked to my plants the way I can talk to Larry, I would have told them that, in their company, I always felt 100 percent like my best self.

Gardening taught me a lot about silence, too — things I never thought about before. I learned when to listen and when to ignore my beds when enough is enough. I learned about peaceful silence.

But also about livid silence when deer munch seedlings to the ground, which leads to frustrated silence; and about admiring silence, like when I passed my tomatoes doing a pretty good job of pretending they’d ripen. And the sympathetic silence I felt when I had to leave that garden behind to dig into new possibilities.

New possibilities — luckily, it still satisfies just to say the words. 

MARY LOU SANELLI’s latest book is “Among Friends.” Visit her website: www.marylousanelli.com. To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.