I'm trying to decide if I should start a garden.

Or if I do, will I turn it into crack cocaine for the menopausal?

These are the kind of questions that occur to me when I have a few days off, between books. I'm supposed to sit on my duff, but I do that for a living, so when I have nothing to do, I tend to get very active.

Last time I painted my downstairs.

Enough said.

This would be part of my tendency to overdo everything. In my view, whoever said "less is more" is wrong. Life is an all-you-can-eat buffet, and less isn't enough.

Less isn't even a good start.

Because of this, I've learned I have to be careful with hobbies. Give me even the smallest pleasure, and I can turn it into work, complete with a Things to Overdo List that never gets completely (over)done, which leads to a generalized feeling of guilt.

Guilt is not the purpose of a hobby.

So I hear.

Anyway, I sort of backed into the gardening idea. It started because I was thinking about fencing in my backyard, because I'd like the ability to let the dogs out sometimes, without walking them. I have five dogs and I walk them five times a day, and you can do the math.

Bottom line, it's a lot of dog-walking.

See what I mean, about overdoing things?

To stay on track, the truth is, I don't really mind walking the dogs, even when people stop me and say, "Got your hands full!" and "Who's walking whom?" and "Are they all yours?"

To this last question, most times I answer yes, but sometimes I say, "No, I'm just the dog-walker. I would never have five dogs. Whoever has five dogs must be crazy. Or menopausal."

Sometimes I even plead the fifth. (Dog.)

Anyway, so I was thinking if I fenced in my backyard, I could let the dogs out to play and run around, which would be fun for them. But that got me wondering about what kind of fence to get, and since I'm not a big fan of fences, somebody suggested that I get a wire-mesh fence and plant Knock Out roses on either side of it, so you couldn't even see the fence.

I never heard of Knock Out roses, but the idea knocked me out.

So I went online and started looking at photos of Knock Out roses, then photos of other flowers and gardens, and before you know it, I got the idea of putting in a "cottage" garden.

You don't need a cottage to have a "cottage" garden.

You could just have a "house."

Wikipedia gave me the idea that a "cottage" garden is a fancy way of saying an "informal" garden, which I translated as a fancy way of saying "garden for lazy people."


So I started looking for books about cottage gardens, and it took me an hour to choose three, since there are 29,474 books on the subject. The books come in, I sit down to study, and in five pages, I realize that a cottage garden isn't for lazy people.

In fact, I learn that the only garden for lazy people is no garden.

And I have that already.

But that only makes me want to garden more, because I'm starting to smell New Hobby That I Can Turn Into Guilt.

So I hit the books, take notes, and draw up planting charts. I learn that a cottage garden should have roses, and there are 203,934,847 types of roses to choose from, though only 39,734,727 do well in my planting zone, which narrows it down.

By the way, my planting zone is 6.

It's my chance to be a six!

I try to decide between Bourbon roses, Noisette roses, Provence roses, and you get the idea, then turn to climbing plants, where I have to choose between European or Japanese honeysuckle.

What, no Italian American honeysuckle?

Then I move on to hedging plants like viburnum and clematis.

Don't ask me what these words mean.

I never heard them before either.

But they sound dirty, like every girl should have a viburnum for her clematis.


Also a cottage garden is supposed to have herbs like southernwood, wormwood, catmint, feverfew, lungwort, soapwort, hyssop, and sweet woodruff.

In other words, Harry Potter, in pots.

I get dizzy from the words and colors and the chance to use four years of Latin.

I knew it would come in handy!

The more I read, the more excited I get about my soon-to-be cottage garden.

The five dogs watch me, wondering if it comes with a fence.

Of course it does.

But only if they do the pruning.

Look for Lisa and Francesca's columns in their newest collection, "Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim." Also, look for Lisa's new novel, "Don't Go," in stores now. You can write to Lisa at lisa@scottoline.com.