Enjoying a Garden
July was a month of gardens. There was, of course, the late start on the garden here at home, which began with the shade of a couple of market umbrellas, after which came a sort of zig-zag trellis made of lattice panels, and then a pair of larger lattice panels and tallish evergreens flanking the door to the studio, all intended to deflect the harsh sun and create a retreat, a pleasant and restorative place. There are flowers, vines, trees, and shrubs. A patch of grass, a view of more. A lot of sky.
You can look from within, or from a distance
A very small house seems much bigger with an outdoor room, and as someone who works from home, it is handy to take breaks in a “room” that could not be more different than the little white box of an office where I do most of my writing. But the process of making a garden is possibly more important than the end product. One element goes in–for instance, a trellis. It looks great, and inspires an improvement, or a balance, in another part of the garden. In time, the sense of personal space grows, right along with the plants. Old ideas are given a new twist, bad ideas are chucked. Good ideas provide rewards again and again. And sometimes a meditative oblivion sets in during an hour of weeding.
Last week I helped my mother tackle her grass-choked flower bed, but we were only able to rescue a handful of the annuals she had planted in the spring a few weeks before my father’s death. After pulling out the grass (over a foot high, two giant wheelbarrows full), we went to a tiny hamlet where there was a fruit and vegetable mart that still had a few trays of rootbound annuals and a stack of cypress mulch. They charged a little too much, but it saved time and gas to buy things there. It is unclear whether this will be my mother’s last garden, as she weighs her residential options. But for now she spends a lot of time on the porch that overlooks the flower bed, watching the stunted little pinks and ageratum grow a bit sturdier, perkier, and brighter by the day, and watching the cars go by on the highway a half mile away at the end of a soybean field. She finds it quiet and peaceful, in a mix of relief and sadness.
My garden is filled with others’ contributions. Steve laid the paver and pea gravel patio a few years ago, and this week he added more pavers to the gravel, so there are more places to set a chair or four without sinking. His way of laying out pavers is full of character and movement, nothing like the sterile displays in home improvement stores. There is also his work on the trellises, the pear trees we planted when they were twigs (and now about half their full-grown size), the ornaments and plants from family and friends–it’s all in the garden somewhere. A couple of days ago my daughter-in-law encouraged me to paint the door to the garden purple, a lovely reddish purple like the coneflowers; I’ll do that once the rain passes this morning. We agreed that the garden is now a peaceful and cheerful place to play with a baby, which is back on the agenda for next summer.
Gardens, and perhaps their gardeners, have their peak moments, when all the leaves are green and the flowers are profuse, ranging from the final spring bulbs and lilies to the first of the rudbeckias that will last until late fall. The mud and weeds are tamed, there is a shady place to sit, the birds have found the bath, the butterflies and bees have reconnected with the salvia and the daisies. The resident bunny watches, unthreatened, from the lawn next door.