It’s well below freezing, the ground is frozen, the sun is hiding behind a thick blanket of gray clouds for the sixth day straight and the garden has never looked more fabulous.

A garden always looks best in the planning stage – rough sketches on paper. Every bud blooms, every tender shoot grows tall and every flowering bush is twice the height and width the planting guide predicted. The grass is a smooth, thick carpet of green without a bare spot or weed in sight.

The tomatoes, the same ones that blistered and split open, inviting insects to destroy them last summer, are big and beautiful on paper. They are flourishing and doing so well at the command of my pencil, that I’m drawing in little stick people standing in the garden eating them off the vines as quickly as they ripen.

It’s almost like I feel juice from a sun-ripened tomato running down my arm. Oh wait, I just jostled my coffee. 

Cucumbers do well on paper, too. They are so prolific that more stick people are needed. They have climbed over the wall of the raised bed and inched their way completely off the paper – the cucumbers, not the stick people. These would be the same cucumbers that taunted me last year, waving hundreds of bright yellow blooms in my face, then producing only a dozen or so. They can’t underperform in my sketch garden. They’re producing like mad!

The sugar-cube cantaloupes, the ones I’ve never tried before, but promise to be 30 to 40 per cent sweeter than any other cantaloupe known to man, are growing full and round, in perfectly symmetrical lines on my paper.

Seed catalogues are known to incite delirium. They should come with a warning stamped on the front: “The beautiful images of flowers, fruits and vegetables that you see in these pages will not appear the same in your backyard or in a small container garden. Not even close.”

I am mesmerised by a picture of a tiered garden bed planted in waves of blues and purples resembling ocean waves, and somehow think I am capable of such wonders. I am oblivious to the time someone spent terracing a hillside, testing the soil, planting, weeding, watering, weeding more and watering more.

I study a myriad of sunflower options with their cheerful sunny faces, completely forgetting I took a tennis racket to the bees that swarmed our stand of sunflowers last year for terrorising grands in the sandbox nearby. Maybe the bees won’t come this year, I tell myself. Or maybe the bees will come and then the grands won’t. Erasing the sunflowers.

When the ground finally warms, my rubber boots are mired in mud, my gloves have worn holes in the fingertips and my shoulders ache from turning over soil, my gardener’s dreams will be tempered by reality. I will scale back the plans of grandeur. In the meantime, it’s always good to grow a dream.

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