Envia forced out the knot in the fence with her weeding tool and peered through. Grace’s garden was perfect. The flowers were all Envia’s favorites, and the veggies were ripening to perfection. She threw her weeder against the fence, stood up, and pulled another packet of zucchini seeds from her back pocket. Ignoring the weird looking scrunchy grass encroaching on her struggling plants, Envia cat scratched the dirt and scattered the seed.
She glanced around. Purple. She needed purple flowers in here somewhere. Like Grace’s garden. She pulled her phone from her back pocket and made a note in her garden list. Maybe one of those backyard farm windmill thingies. Red? She looked around and sighed.
“How’s the new garden coming?” Her neighbor’s kind face topped in silvery black curls appeared over the fence.
“I don’t know, Demur. I really don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t have what she has.” Envia jabbed her thumb back at Grace’s house.
“You both have yards, hoses, sunshine, and time. What’s missing?” He took a step up on his ladder to prune a branch growing into Envia’s yard.
“I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder why I even bought this place. I’m out here all the time and it still looks snarly.”
Demur set his loppers down on the ladder and studied Envia. “You do realize a garden is not instant?”
Envia was quiet. Demur smiled. “I’ll be right back.”
Envia wandered back over to the new spying hole in her fence and peeked through. Rows of chamomile and calendula, carrots and kale. Maybe Grace’s yard got more sunlight than Envia’s. That would explain it.
“I’m sure she’d let you look around, you know.” Demur was chuckling at her again.
Envia turned around to see him holding out a pot of marigolds.
“Plant these with your veggies,” said Demur. “They’ll take some of the work off your hands.”
Not her favorite color, but Envia mumbled a thanks and plunked them down on a concrete paver she’d forgotten to remove. Demur returned to his work while Envia abandoned hers.
Two busy weeks later, Envia ambled out to her yard with another packet of seeds and a couple of cute little tomato plants. Her yard was bathed in sunlight most of the day, so she figured with a little water, the plants would reward her with lots of food. She ruffled the dirt down a bit, ripped a couple weeds out of the way, and planted her future bounty in the ground. Envia stood, but her happiness fell back to the earth. Her yard was one giant weed patch. She crawled around, squinting for any sign of the seeds she planted, but the ground had been taken over.
“Arg!” Envia plopped down in the overgrown grass. The squeak of a faucet turning and soft soprano humming filled the quiet morning. Wo-chop! went Demur’s loppers. Toptoptoptoptop went the water from Grace’s hose. Her plants were getting their morning dose of fresh water and singing. Envia glanced at the marigolds still waiting on the concrete paver. They looked as sad as her.
Envia turned to see Grace waving at her from her raised back porch. Envia gave a curt nod and obligatory wave and returned to staring down her obstinate garden. A few minutes later there was a tentative knock on her gate. She sighed, stood up, and walked over to open it. It was Grace, with a warm smile and two cups of coffee. Surprised, Envia mumbled her thanks and invited her into the yard. She waited for the disparaging glance at her garden, but Grace only closed her eyes and tilted her head back in the morning sun flooding the yard.
“I love all the sunshine your place gets,” she beamed. “I’ve been hoping to catch you outside so I could get to know you better since moving in! How are you enjoying the place?”
Envia was about to lie and give her usual - fine, thanks - but Grace seemed genuinely interested so she decided on honesty.
“Well, it’s obvious to me now that either my yard is inhospitable for a basic garden or I’m just not any good at it. Probably both.”
Grace laughed. “Oh Envia, you’re too hard on yourself! Your backyard gets more sunshine than mine or even Demur’s, I think. It really is a lovely space. Ever since you moved in, I’ve been looking forward to seeing what you do with it.”
Envia wasn’t convinced. “You’ve got a near perfect garden over there. I clearly don’t have the right ingredients over here.”
But Grace’s warm smiles only melted more of Envia’s frustration away. “You know…,” Grace began slowly. “I do see you out here quite a bit. But for an entire day maybe only once a week? I think you would see results rather quickly if you set aside just a smaller bit of time each day. You really do have a fantastic space.” She looked around as if inviting Envia to join in with new eyes.
So she did. Envia remembered how she felt when she first moved in. The finished picture in her mind. And it didn’t include purple flowers or red windmills, but lots and lots of multi-colored wildflowers. In her mind, the garden was built around the unique features of the space - the maple against the back fence, the two level rock terrace on the side. There were three long veggie boxes, not the four square boxes like Grace had.
“You know what I’ve always wished I could grow?” Grace’s voice broke in. “Tomatoes. But I don’t have the steady sunlight you do.”
Envia was surprised at Grace’s admission, but Grace didn’t look the least bothered by it. She shrugged, beamed at Envia one last time and left through the gate with the now empty coffee cups. Envia walked over to her spying hole, searched the grass for the little knot of wood, and placed it firmly back in the hole. Then she turned her back to the fence and set her full attention on her own garden. “Where to start?” she said to the thirsty little pot of marigolds.
“Start with the soil!” Demur called over the fence.
Envia laughed. “Ok, Demur!” she called back. “But I can barely see it, there’s so many weeds! Just spray everything?”
Demur’s face popped up over the fence. “Envia, get in there and get your hands dirty. Pull out every single weed, and put those poor marigolds in the ground by your tomatoes. Oh, and I want to see you out here every morning with that hose.” Then he disappeared with a smile.
Envia grinned, rolled up her sleeves, and muttered, “Oh boy. Well, there’s no time like right now.”
Time passed quickly after that, but Envia showed up in her garden every day. And her friends’ words proved true; slowly, all the weeds were replaced with beauty and the empty spaces filled in with goodness.