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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cultivating character in the garden


“I am inspired to journey out of doors and to travel inward simultaneously, because spring is everywhere. How can a person not garden in spring? Because every garden is a place of dreams and every gardener a dreamer, we should find nothing strange and much that is symbolic in our own and other gardens. Are the paths straight, or do they curve and wander? What colours appear consistently? Does the gardener worry about ripping out every last weed? When we want to learn something important about ourselves, it’s a good idea to go into our garden. We’ll find that we’ve planted a lot of answers there.” ~ Freeman Patterson, the garden.
If our gardens are meant to be representative of ourselves, then it’s ok that mine is colourful, messy and overgrown. When I dream of the perfect garden, it is a waist-high riot of fragrant blooms. Like me, it isn’t too concerned about tidy appearances. In order to keep the perennials from being choked out, however, I do have to pull the occasional weed. As spring fades into summer once again, I am making a conscientious effort to get outside and work on the garden and flowerbeds while the getting is good.
Early morning, before the heat beckons the mosquitoes, I head to the tomato patch, hoe in hand. I lay a satisfying “whack” at the base of a dandelion plant and another at the foot of a thistle. Where the grass has begun to creep over the edging, I hoist my fearsome “claw” tool, twisting havoc where it lands. Maybe that is why I have a slightly pulled rotator cuff: over-enthusiastic garden-clawing.
At the front of the house, I survey the raised flowerbed of perennials. The daffodils didn’t like it here. Not a single one bloomed out of the several dozen that I planted. I make a mental note to plant them down on the ground in the fall. In fact, I might do what I’ve seen on other farm properties, and just plant them scattered throughout the ditch at the road. I think that’s called “naturalizing”. Theoretically, I should be able to do this all over the lawn but knowing the Farmer, he would have them mowed down before they had a chance to bloom in spring.
The bane of my gardening existence is the wild yellow chrysanthemum thing that someone once told me was called “the outhouse flower”. Good name. The Farmer loves it so it remains, but it needs to be kept under control. It grows five feet tall and spreads across the entire cultivated area if you let it, swallowing anything in its path. This year I pulled out a patch of the stuff and made room for my new plant, the Rose of Sharon. I ordered this from the Henry Fields seed catalogue and I’m very excited about watching it grow.
Along the rock fence facing the house is my shade garden. Here I have six fat, leafy hostas of different varieties, along with columbine, bleeding heart, and perfumed bee balm. I love the names of these plants. Bee balm sounds so much better than Monarda, which is its horticultural name. I once bought a plant because of its name, which was “love lies bleeding”. I ripped it out after the first season, however, because it was so ugly. My guilty addition to this garden this year is the purple lupin, which is something you might see growing across a field in the Atlantic provinces. I hope it gets enough refracted sunlight to survive in the shade of the tree.
Uncle Bill’s heritage peonies have spread to form a hedge at the end of my vegetable garden. I also plant a handful of cosmos seeds here every year, because their soft pastels and feathery stalks remind me of when I first planted them to decorate for our wedding day.
I have always wanted zinnias, so I sprinkled a row of seeds in front of the now-deserted children’s playhouse. For my mother, I planted a row of glad bulbs. In memory of my father, I planted his favourite – a deep red hollyhock. It will grow to be five feet tall and the focal point of the farmhouse flowerbed. We are going to have some beautiful flower arrangements on the Sunday dinner table this summer.

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