By Jamie Balke Explore Big Sky Columnist

I lived in an apartment last summer where I worked hard to transform my patio from a plant death zone to a successful container garden. Since then, I moved to a house with a smallish backyard, complete with a raised garden bed. I was even able to move the perennials from my patio garden and replant them in the bed just before the first cold snap.

The yard is the perfect size to putter around in, and when we moved in it was pretty much a blank slate with no trees or bushes. My dad and I have been plotting garden ideas all winter.

We first took action on our plans when my parents came to visit from Illinois a few weeks ago. Shortly after their arrival, the gardening began in earnest.

Our first step was to check out a fundraising plant and tool sale behind Ace Hardware hosted by a local gardening group. This was quite a lot of fun, and resulted in the purchase of an electric lawnmower to replace our manual mower in desperate need of blade sharpening; two large plastic pots in which to grow hops; and a small sage plant. We considered this outing a great success.

After picking up a super-long power cord for the electric mower, our next garden-related stop was Cashman’s nursery in Bozeman. We bought some beautiful annual flowers as well as vegetable seeds for the garden bed, and had a mostly friendly debate regarding the color of pots that we should choose for the front porch. Ultimately, to my dad’s chagrin, we went with the bright cobalt blue ones that my mom said would “pop.”

Later in the week, my dad and I set ourselves to the task of picking out a couple of trees. For the record, my father and I should never be sent unsupervised on a shopping trip because we both have a tendency to overanalyze options. After spending about an hour and a half at the nursery, pacing back and forth between several trees, speaking at length with the staff about the various species, and drawing diagrams of the yard in the dirt, we finally settled on two little aspens.

Although I know they have a relatively short life span for a tree, I couldn’t resist the idea of listening to the leaves quake, and watching them change color in the fall. Upon arriving home, my dad and I were on a mission.

While trying to discern the layout of the underground sprinkler system, having already had all the other utilities marked, we set to work considering the best possible spots for the trees that wouldn’t bring down the neighborhood’s power grid. This process took a couple more hours.

I’m a bit of a wanderer so living in a place where I can plant a tree is a somewhat surreal experience. There was a time when the notion of committing to anything more than a couple of house plants would have made me feel like hitting the road for another adventure. I’m happy to report that I felt content rather than restless as my dad and I planted the aspens.

I still have a lot to learn about gardening, but am excited to do so in a place that I love.

Jamie Balke should probably go water her plants.