Russian Sage

It’s been 2 weeks since we moved the first rock, and it’s still an unfinished project.

The expression “rue the day” has come to mind many times as my husband and I have labored to move rock—by hand—in order to sift dirt and organic matter out, pull and dig up roots and remove the plants that I originally thought would be perfect in the area around my garden shed. They grew rapidly to fill in the space, threw up their lovely purple spiky flowers heavenward, and the bees loved them. What a great plant! Well.   I have learned that not only am I allergic to Russian Sage, but it is incredibly invasive.

Incredibly.   Hate is such a strong word….yet I have mumbled and spewed the words, “I hate this!” many times as I’ve worked. I know there is a lesson in this, I feel it inside…so I try to keep my heart open as I work and sweat to remove something that was once a beautiful and loved addition to my garden, but has gotten out of control.

Russian Sage in all its glory


I have not always experienced the full weight of the consequences of a bad choice – there are times when grace abounds, undeserved mercy comes to me, and I am grateful.

This is not one of those times. There was no other way to rectify this then to remove the plants. And to do it right, so that it does not come back – we have to get to all the roots—which were growing on top of AND underneath the landscape fabric. Runners that went everywhere. So. Much. Work.

My yard is being featured this summer in our city’s Garden Tour. Even without this side project, there is a lot of work to prepare the yard to be in prime condition to be enjoyed by 500+ people in less than 2 months. And yet, this must be done. I push out of my mind the pressing feeling that I should be doing so many other things—and stay focused on this particularly unpleasant task. For the first few years, I loved the Russian Sage! I wish I had tended to it earlier as I observed it spreading, before it was out of control.

In the past, my thinking about containment has been in the realm of “black and white.” As I have looked at the stories of my past, I see many places where containment was my modus operandi. Webster’s definition of modus operandi is “a method of procedure; especially :  a distinct pattern or method of operation that indicates or suggests the work of a single criminal in more than one crime.”   Deep down, the word fits.

I didn’t learn how to deal well with my emotions, but I did learn how to contain them. I swallowed–in deep gulps–anger, disappointment, betrayal, deep sadness, grief, fear, anxiety, and even joy. I became a master of control and containment. On the outside, everything in order. My insides crammed full with the chaos of what it costs to be in relationship with others and not know how to “be.” I have held in my feelings, my thoughts, my desires, my preferences, my longings. My body has suffered greatly for it. My heart has suffered the most. And lest you think I have overstated this, it has been criminal because it so violates my created design as a person and as a woman. I was made to impact my world and those in it, for good. I have beauty and truth to bring as I engage others. When I contain and withhold, shut down and withdraw—because I am unwilling to be honest with what is real—I join evil. Containment, in this context, has not served me well…and it has not brought goodness to my world and those in it.

The realm of black and white thinking robs me of options. Either/Or becomes a Lose/Lose to me. Jumping from one side of the pendulum swing to the other is to live in the extremes. I have learned that the freedom that comes from the place where And/Both reside…well, it leaves room for holding real life. Real conflict. Reality. And options.

Which brings me back to the garden.

Containment is a pretty good strategy for a plant with beautiful flowers AND invasive roots.

It takes into consideration the plant, its tenacity to grow and spread, and how to best incorporate it into a limited space. There is wisdom in knowing how to use containment for good. I do not think this is the only lesson out of these two weeks of hard, sweaty work. But it is a very good start. As I consider how to finish this project, you can bet my Sunset Garden book will be open beside me.

Ready for new plants


birdies 004.JPGcopy1

Gina Gronberg lives with her husband of 26 years in Colorado. She has 2 gorgeous girls, a handsome son, and shares her home with a beloved collie and 2 cats. She is inviting her heart to risk more, and “kindness” and “rest” are taking on new meaning in her life. Gina enjoys making jewelry, gardening, and taking her mustang convertible out for a spin.