I am not a gardener, more of a putterer. I admire gardeners and I enjoy the effect of a garden. My back and knees don’t want to garden, though. (They are protesting as I write this because I am itching to go and putter in the garden.) There is something so elementally pleasing about watching things grow and thrive.
Last year I read an interesting book called Founding Gardeners. I realized that I had something in common with Jefferson, Washington, and Adams besides a vested interest in the ongoing success of the ideals that created this nation – I enjoy a lot about gardening but wish that I could hire people to do the hard parts like they did. Sometimes I manage to get my son to step in.
A few years ago I decided to create a garden area in my backyard in my mom’s honor. We call it the Grandma Garden. The object was to add plants each year for Mother’s Day and my mom’s birthday. It was a way to stay close to her. For many years it didn’t look much like a garden and plenty of the plants that were added didn’t make it. (Often times thanks to the dog or other creatures, darn them. The dog inexplicably dug up a sand cherry repeatedly and I kept finding her playing with it until it died.)
Last year I got a bunch of mostly evergreen plants from my sister early in the season. I put a few in the Grandma Garden and for the first time it started to look like an actual garden area. I had to move around a couple of boxwoods – moving plants was a revolutionary idea to me that has changed my puttering entirely. The dog hasn’t been too kind to the boxwoods – digging near their roots unless I am vigilant. They have been tenacious though.
I worried about my new plants during this past harsh winter. The deep snow cover protected much of the plant bases but I have noticed signs of stress on the upper parts that were subjected to the wind and bitter cold. I tried waiting to see if they would revive, and then a bit of trimming.
I just had to pull up one of the boxwoods. The larger one, the one that had been more successful. Because it was larger, it got greater doses of the winter punishment. Now there is a big space which I am currently pondering.
One of the points of the garden was to find things that made me think of mom and the stories that she used to tell. She wasn’t a gardener, but she had an appreciation for nature and she liked to dabble (a step or two more distant from gardener than putterer happens to be) in planting now and again.
There were large bushes in front of the house that she grew up in and every year when her dad got out the pruning tools, mom would pester him to let her trim. That’s what the boxwoods were representing. For now, the stunted little one that remains represents these moments in my mom’s life all by itself.
We think of plants as stable, but when you start to work with them you realize that gardens are ever changing. Things thrive and things die – sometimes it doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes the changes are subtle and sometimes dramatic.
Do you pay attention to the landscape around you?
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