Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I Have Been Watching....

Those of you who know me, know that I am an avid gardener. Self-taught and pretty controlling. I started my garden from a plowed- down backyard that was all kudzu and blackberry thicket, in the city. By the time I was ready to design, I had about a quarter acre in full sun and knew where that sun rose and set. I also knew that I wanted only certain colors ( no orange ) and certain shapes and a moonlight garden, a water feature, a cutting garden, a vegetable garden with lots of lavender and culinary herbs, a greenhouse, a potting shed and bench, David Austin roses, no annuals, etc, etc, etc.

My garden was to be the culmination of all my hopes and dreams for a creation equal to none. I have been teaching childbirth preparation and early parenting for a long time. Today, as I was walking through my garden, it occurred to me that almost all the folks I have met while teaching have a plan for how their kids are "going to be ". A plan not so dissimilar from all the dreams I had for my garden.

So on my walk this morning, while doing my "walk- by- weeding " and cavalierly tossing out the weeds, I looked around. My garden is the culmination of all my creative juices; I love it. I love it enough to continue to live in a four story house that I don't need just because I can't ever envision a time when I could leave my garden. It bears no resemblance to the original plan.

There is quite a bit of orange. The moonvine from the moonlight garden became a scourge of tangles. The sweetpeas also took off viney and never flowered. The dianthus is gone. The saffron crocuses remain but bloom when everything else in the bed is brown. The hellebores have obliterated the hostas. The trees have grown so tall that it's mostly shade and not at all conducive to growing much of anything that is edible. Even the figs don't hang on long enough to mature.And the Pawpaw trees ( non- fruit bearing, of course ) are not a patch anymore but a grove. I never use the green house and the potting shed is all but empty. The water feature which is constructed out of six incredibly heavy old claw-footed bathtubs hasn't been turned on in ages so that it requires mosquito dunks and is mostly overgrown with oat-grass and Louisianna iris that can't bloom for lack of light. Not a David Austin rose ever could grow in this humidity; Atlanta is not England.

Just like my children and yours, we make our plans; we have our dreams. Never do they "come out " like we thought they would. But those camillias which I never thought I really liked have become the only winter blooms in my garden. The tea olives which look like regular old  shrubs emit the most incredible perfume when nothing else is doing a thing. And the creek bed? Well, that was the bane of my existence for years. It grew every sort of nuisance weed and grass and the bank never did hold up through the torrential rains of February. I'd traipse down there past the "back forty" with a slicker, an umbrella and rainboots only to watch my attempts at taming that raging disappointment gush past my property line. Everything I ever attempted to use to civilize what I knew could be the crowning jewel of my creation failed.

And then, I gave in. I decided I would do only what I could, given what I had and what I "got". And you should see my garden. It is so much better than I could have dreamed. It does things I didn't know could be done. I have foxgloves volunteering in shadey beds and ferns in where there should be roses. I have native ephemerals in spring and the banks of my creek are strong, sturdy and lush with sweetgrass. I just got a sunny patch where I had to remove three of my favorite cypresses and now I have tomatoes and eggplants, watermelon and canteloupe thriving on only the rain, no irrigation down there. I have a frog family that serenades me in the stagnant water feature. I perch under the eaves of the potting shed and just listen sometimes, to the symphony of serendipity; not something I composed and manipulated but rather a work of art that evolved all on its own.

So that's what I learned from my garden. Long after I could have put the knowledge to good use when I was raising my brood. Mostly, have faith and leave things alone. Let the seedlings take the lead in deciding where they should root. And instead of saying "no, that doesn't fit with the plan", say, "why not, let's see what will grow. "