I am a gardener. Not the fancy kind. My gardens evolve much like my cooking, an unplanned painting on a canvas where I throw things together and sometimes it is delicious, yet often it needs more. Always more of something. More plants. More salt. More white. More fertilizer, more spice, more TLC. Always to be shared, my gardens and my food.
In the garden, my hands meet the earth, and small miracles push their way through the ground each spring. Plants I forgot were there or ones that I don’t remember planting. Volunteers that spring up because of birds or wind. Wonderful surprises mixed with weeds and worms. The garden is my quiet place after a long week tending to other people’s gardens, a job born out of my obsession with my first garden nearly 30 years ago, when collecting new plants became a habit I just couldn’t kick.
Sunday morning. My absolute favorite time in the garden. The air is cool and still, and no one would dream to call me on a Sunday morning. Quiet time. Much needed, often untapped. The birds sing unchained melodies while gravel crunches under my feet. Walking along paths, I take stock of what happened this week. The peonies have exploded. I’ve never met a peony I didn’t like, nor will I ever tire of them. I have several that I transplanted from my father’s garden after my parents passed away. Old plants. Strong roots.
The garden is my church, the place where I think about the childhood friend I just lost. I think about her kids, her husband. I feel it in my heart. I think about my friends who have lost their children, unspeakable heartache that I couldn’t begin to imagine, a club to which I hope I never belong. I think about my own daughters, young adults in the prime of their lives. So much ahead of them, where will they land? Will they have children of their own? Will they have a home and a garden? Will they welcome my plants into their gardens as I have done with my father’s peonies? And then I think of my gardens. The places where I have laughed and cried through life’s chapters. Sharing so many secrets with my gardens. This is what gardeners do. We plant and we think, and we share freshly cut bouquets hurriedly cut as we leave for a friend’s house for dinner. We drag any interested person to the garden in late spring to see the peonies, because this is a sight to behold and they are gone too soon. Our flower-children. Enjoy them while we can.
I think of that and then realize the funny analogy. I’ve planted my garden and watched it grow, often trying to control what I have brought into my home, and wonderfully surprised by the independence and fortitude, the sheer stubbornness of them doing what they want instead of what I want them to do. My flower-children and my children. The analogy makes me smile. On a Sunday morning.
In Jan Johnsen’s Gardentopia: Design Basics for Creating Beautiful Outdoor Spaces, she provides 135 actionable, inspirational, and stylish tips (with stunning photos) for creating gorgeous gardens. Highlights include:
›› The Mystery of the Unseen
If you want a small outdoor space to appear larger or more interesting, you can use an ancient Japanese design technique known as miegakure or ‘hide and reveal.” This popular approach is used for making smaller yards appear larger than they are. People will invariably walk forward to see what lies ahead, unseen.
›› Meet And Greet
A front doorway is a place where people often stop and talk. This is the “meet and greet” area where you welcome your guests when they arrive, and then see them off at the end of a visit. The importance of this outdoor gathering spot is often overlooked but, if you have some space outside your door, you might consider creating an inviting place to facilitate meeting and greeting.
›› Why White?
A predominantly white garden with snowy, opalescent flowers positively glows in the evening. There are cool whites and warm whites in the plant world. Cool whites are clear and go with silvery foliage. Creamy whites are complemented by warmer greens.