Pleasure and Pain

I have a love-hate relationship with my garden. On one hand I feel pressured by it because things have to be trimmed at just the right time, hoed and planted at just the right time, weeded and harvested at just the right time, preserved or used at just the right time. It’s another burden of must-do’s added to my full plate.

Am I allowed to have a full plate being a stay-at-home mom? Because I always feel like I need to justify it.

But then something like this will pop out of my garden all by itself.

Or these.

Well, I suppose I actually planted them at one point, but they just blow me over by their sunshiny cheerfulness.

And then I’m so happy when I finally plant the indoor tomato seedlings

and seed the spinach outdoors

knowing that one day these fresh organic vegetables will make their way to my table for everyone to enjoy.

So … burden.

(We’re trying to sow grass on half of this to keep the weeds at bay and reduce our vegetable garden to a more manageable size).

And … pleasure.

This is Alistair‘s tree. We planted a peach tree in his honor.
Fuzzy little buds to remind
us of what once was.

So … work.

(The conifer died in this part of the hedge so we replaced it with a sturdy laurel –

– and put some backing on the fence to give us privacy until it grows).

And … delight

The buds are popping out all over the prunus! This is why I painted my kitchen pink. This is what you see out the kitchen window.

So … pressure.

(My neighbor is going to kill me if I don’t trim that bay leaf tree soon and I’m just gritting my teeth in anticipation of the annual profusion of pale pink and pale yellow blossoms side by side – I shall have to uproot that forsythia one day and put an end to this garish eyesore).

And … sweetness.

I had the idea to plant shade-loving bleeding hearts in this area behind the roses; it’s too shady to grow grass and these are sweet little things.

Pleasure and pain all mixed together is my garden. Perhaps one day I will have all the time in the world and nothing else I’d rather be doing. And then gardening will be pure delight.

In the meantime it requires getting a little down and dirty. It’s no wonder I put off painting my nails.

And put off gardening.


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I am the daughter of a symphony musician who was raised in upstate New York, and I simply breathe all things classical, be it music or 19th century literature (English and Russian). I married Sir Renaissance in New York City, and before I knew it, he had swept me up and brought me back home to his own country. So here we are. Three children, a rather ordinary life in a rather exceptional place. I am now ‘A Lady in France.’

Posted in Family, Le Jardin (The Garden), The Garden, Tout le Reste (Everything else)
21 comments on “Pleasure and Pain
  1. OpinionsToGo says:

    Really loved this post…loved the photos…and really loved that sturdy laurel!

  2. chickster says:

    I’m glad you have a mixture of pleasure and pain. Gardening for me is always a pain, but that’s because I’m always trying to grow the hardest thing of all thanks to our animals – grass!

  3. I would love to have a garden. Though I have no clue about gardening. I just like the thought of growing my own vegetables and flowers!

    I think you’re doing a brilliant job.

    • ladyjennie says:

      I know if you ever have a garden you will do brilliantly. I think as a cook you would have that touch with growing things that will eventually make their way into your dishes.

  4. Ado says:

    Why does a French jardin always look more beautiful than a regular old American garden?
    Fabulous. Beautiful photos.

    • ladyjennie says:

      Thank you! I do think French gardens are unique and I know mine is heavily influenced by what I see (and what I’ve inherited here in this house by the previous owners). It would never ever have occurred to me to plant fruit bearing plants and trees. And the French seem to turn every little plot of land into something beautiful. There is even a tiny spot of land just outside my house that the City up-keeps with seasonal flowers.

  5. ayala says:

    Beautiful post and photos :)

  6. Mom says:

    Even good gardeners let things slide, especially if they bite off more than they can chew. So you’re sounding like a real gardener.
    My bay laurel is 18″ tall, so I’m envious. Every time I take a leaf for cooking, I feel guilty.

  7. I muse about moving somewhere to live off the land …
    then i look at the plants i manage to kill in the house and figure we would all starve 😉

    • ladyjennie says:

      I know – I keep thinking what if there is war and famine – I will have to feed our family and our neighbors with my little plot of land!

      To quote Ice Age: “and ya got three melons?”

  8. Ah, yes. Pleasure and pain; full plates, but more to accomplish. The “still” and the “yet” of it all.

    Beauty mixed with sadness and obligation mixed with desire; the dirt and the blooms and the loss and the gain.

    Your garden is the perfect metaphor for life.

    And oh, the buds on Alistair’s tree: those sweet, fuzzy, hopeful future-peaches.

    My friend, you are amazing. Just as you are.

  9. Marinka says:

    The photos! Spring is here, isn’t it. Or le spring!

  10. Galit Breen says:

    Oh I *so* get this dichotomy.

    (You write and photo it so very beautifully, but it truly is a tug-pull, isn’t it?)

    Also? I’m so jealous of your aided garden! Love!

  11. Jackie says:

    The weather is finally starting to get nice again here so we can start to think about planting our garden and what we want to grow this year!

  12. Leanne says:

    Oh, dear friend . . . I’ve been absent from your home for so long. Please accept my apologies. I have been amiss from so much this year, but slowly coming around. I think the sunny days we have been having is helping me. And, these photos are just so beautiful . . . So inspiring. I am going to try and focus on our garden this year, and will use your photos and story for encouragement!!! Hugs and hope all is well. I am off to read up more and try and catch up on some more of your posts!!!

  13. Pleasure and pain – what better descriptor for gardening…or maybe even mothering?

    Even though it’s been in the 70s here all week, I don’t trust that the frosts are done, so I’ll content myself with enjoying your beautiful photos until it’s time to plant my garden.

    I love Alistair’s tree. What a perfect tribute. May it bring you much sweetness in the years ahead. xo

  14. The daffodils are blooming all around my neighborhood. I love them. Whenever I see their bright yellow heads, I know spring is around the corner.
    I would love to have a garden, but alas I have no yard here in the city. Though if I did, I’m afraid I couldn’t get a single thing to grow.
    How long will it take for you to get peaches from Allistair’s tree?

    • ladyjennie says:

      That’s a good question and I don’t know the answer. I know my kiwis will take 5 years to get fruit so I was kind of expecting the same for the peach tree.

      I’ll bet you’re better at growing things than you think. Sometimes it’s not until you plunge yourself in that you realize you have a talent. And houseplants don’t count! Everyone kills those. 😉

I'm Jennie. Welcome to A Lady in France! I write books, and also this blog on faith, French culture and recipes ... ( To continue reading, please click here. )

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