By Jamie Balke Explorebigsky.com Columnist

With spring approaching, I find myself again faced with imminent failure. In my fertile imagination, an appreciation of the natural world should correspond with a green thumb. But in reality, my record with horticulture is mixed, at best.

When I moved into my apartment, which features a second-story exposed patio, I figured it would be simple to transform it into a bountiful garden where I could host dinner parties. How wrong I was. Because it was already July, I went to the hardware store and purchased established plants. Hopped up on the excitement of a new place, I didn’t bother with research.

My mom was in town to help me move, and we picked some bright flowers as well as a tomato plant intended to grow on patios. The flowers fared well, especially in comparison to the doomed tomato. You see, my west-facing porch is cool in the mornings, but broils in the afternoon until the sun sets. I watched with horror as the plant I hoped to nurture into a healthful existence fried in these blazing conditions. Watching its prolonged demise, I felt like a jerk.

With this questionable experience under my belt, the next year I thought, ‘Why not try starting some seeds?’

Because I’m not very good at this, I potted desert flower seeds, as well as a plant by a friend for its name, Love Lies Bleeding, which appealed to my twisted sense of humor. Unfortunately, due to my inept ministrations, it was more of a “love-never-grows-let-alone-blossoms-or-lies-bleeding” situation on my porch. I spent last summer watering pots of dirt.

Although I didn’t give up on the seeds until the bitter end, eventually I had to go plant shopping again. Enter my dad, from whom I inherited this gray thumb. He was in town for a visit, and we went shopping for flowers. The result was a beautiful pre-potted mix of orange, yellow and red blooms. These plants actually did well – as did the chives my dad brought from home in Illinois.

Clearly, significant research should take place before I inflict my good intentions on any more outdoor plants. Fingers crossed, and eyes toward the gardening section of the library.

Jamie Balke moved to Bozeman in the fall of 2009. Since then, she has spent considerable time making local gardeners feel accomplished by comparison.