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The first house I bought had an ugly back garden. The previous owner used to park his truck on the pad where the old garage used to be. The area around the concrete pad was waist-high in weeds. This is what it looked like after we had cleared the weeds. Pretty ugly eh?

Because we had lived in an apartment in three-story walk-up with no balcony or outdoor space, I longed to have a shaded spot of my own. A spot where I could read the paper on an early Sunday morning, scribble in my notebooks and have a BBQ. So after we had cleared all the weeds I decided to create my own secret garden – a matchbook oasis in the middle of the city.

This was quite an ambitious project for me as I have never had any success with houseplants. I was sure the Ontario Horticulture Society had me on their list of ten most wanted serial herbicidalists but I was determined to grow a green thumb and that is how I became a garden ‘ho.

It all started innocently enough with a stroll through the garden section of Home Depot. “I just want to get a few ideas”, I guilelessly claimed. A bag of topsoil here, a clematis plant there, an envelope of morning glory seeds, and soon I found myself trolling garden centre parking lots for sales on bags of mulch.

I was shameless, brazen even in my pursuit of perennials and garden accessories. I would hustle complete strangers for information about the plants they were buying, bat my eyes at the resident garden experts and smile smugly as some brawny teen loaded my car with my purchases.

After I installed the fountain and started ordering pea gravel by the yard I knew I was beyond redemption. In my mind saw a riot of colours, climbing plants and sweet scented flowers. It took me two seasons but I finally achieved what I had envisioned – a glorious grotto.

Although I love my life here at the lakeside lair, I sure do miss my old garden.