The thing about a garden is that it changes, whether the gardener is involved with it or not. On a Sunday evening the garden is enchanting. Everything is orderly and peaceful. Weeds are eliminated, or at least not evident. Tall plants are staked, lawns are trim. It’s hard to leave it all and go in the house.

Over the course of the working week, visits to the garden may be hurried — quick sessions of watering, picking a lettuce or two or some herbs. Then comes Saturday. The gardener anticipates a return to enchantment.

The garden is fuzzy around the edges. Plants flop and lean; some have collapsed. Twigs and other debris from the midweek windstorm litter the grass. Bloom have become a mass of ugly deadheads. Everything looks like hell. And maybe the sun is hot and glaring or it’s one of those cold, windy days (so common here on the West Coast in summer). Suddenly a trip to the mall seems like the best option.

But you can’t just put a garden aside like a piece of knitting, to be picked up someday when you have more time or interest. There comes a moment when you have to decide to keep going or give up rip out all those plants and sod it over. Even giving up requires action.

The gardener needs re-enchantment. The only way to get it is to go out and start doing something, anything, however small. Pull that weed, set that stake and tie up the sagging plant. Get the watering can and go to the aid of the wilting. Clip that edge. Strangely, clipping the verges of the lawn next to perennial beds makes an astonishing difference. The garden becomes a garden again, instead of just a mess. Suddenly you want to be out there, working in it.  (Of course, it helps if it’s early evening, with the light coming in at the flattering angle, if the wind has dropped and coolness wells up around plants revived by dew or the attentions of the hose and sprinkler).

It comes down to this — a garden must be gardened in. That’s its real purpose — to be a place in which to garden. Have you ever tried just sitting in your garden, doing nothing? How long is it before you notice something — deadheads to snip, a leaner to prop up, or something that simply must be admired at close range? You get up and do it, and then the next thing and the next. By that time, it’s getting hard to see because it’s almost dark and you have to tear yourself away from your little Paradise.