The gardens at Friends House this year are better than I’ve ever seen them. The rewards of copious amounts of rain? Yes, I think so, but we also are fortunate to have a new gardening crew. Ones who know how to prune and trim and allow bushes to look like bushes instead of tortured constricted balls. Antonio spends entire days selectively weeding and other days in spreading mulch and tidying up the edges of flower beds. We residents reap the benefits of his expertise and gentle approach to the plants living here with us.
Secondly, resident Ginny’s son Eric has helped improve our landscape. Last year for Clare, he designed and planted a new garden that included plants to attract butterflies and a bird feeder. He planted a low-maintenance garden for his mom; then designed for others, and then for me. He pulled and chopped and pick-axed at the little space out my back door, leaned on his shovel, and asked, “What do you envision here?”
I told him white, yellow, peachy colors. No blue or pink. ‘Lavender is okay. I’d like the garden to be loose, and blowzy, sort of a drought-tolerant cottage garden just in case the weather turns dry again.” He planted Queen Anne’s Lace, Mrs Geum, fever-few, salvia, several lavenders, a couple of day lilies, and a show-stopper red dahlia. I added shasta daisies, a small rose, sweet peas, and 21 white tulips which I planted the day after the election so I’d have something serene to anticipate.
The tulips shoved up and burst forth just as the Queen Anne’s lace nodded and bloomed and the fever few began. A lovely moon white garden. When the white garden faded, it was replaced by controlled chaos of color. Sweet peas, the color of watermelon,10 feet tall. Oranges and yellows everywhere. Big red poppies, a struggling little apricot rose. The dahlia died in the winter frost.
My garden reflects my passion for color and surprise and freedom. Other gardens reflect their owners. Lynn’s is as meditative as she is; Charlotte’s displays her talent at arranging. Not only arranging a garden, but her house, and the quilts she designs and makes and gives away. Nancy’s garden has always interpreted her artist’s sense of color and mass. Maureen’s shows her sense of energy and myriad enthusiasms. Another Lynn has a garden that mirrors her sense of organization and tidiness.
Some gardens are sloppy, but so are their owners. I find them, both the gardens and their people, painful and pathetic. Some gardens have little tiny plants arranged precisely by their daintily precise creators. Some, those belonging to people who would prefer to sit inside and read, are minimalist, orderly, getting along as best they can with occasional water and rare weeding.
I googled gardens and their philosophical significance and could devote my entire life to that study. Suffice it to say that “gardens inform human thinking about mortality, order, and power.” Also, I think, gardens refer to eternity, the cycle of life and death and the beauty of each phase. The delicate Queen Ann’s Lace blossoms faded into dry frilly seed heads, wonderful in dried flower arrangements.
Gardens seem to be a metaphor for the human condition. Can it be true that as we tend our gardens, so do we tend our lives?