“Creating a garden is like learning to speak. First you discover the words by getting to know each plant. Then you put a few phrases together by combining two or three species that go together well. Then you make a complete sentence and finally a story.” ~ Beth Chatto, English gardener and garden writer
I copied the above quote from a waiting room magazine because it spoke to me both as a writer and a gardener. It hints at the challenge inherent in creating a beautiful garden and just how long and ongoing a process it can be.
Indeed any gardener knows you’re never done. After the design and planning stage is complete, you need to acquire the plants from a nursery or friends and get them into the ground. Weeding, watering, fertilizing, deadheading, pruning, and dividing are ongoing processes. Not to mention coaxing them along when they appear intent on dying.
Once they’ve got the basics down, every gardener I know begins to decorate their outdoor space with pots, stepping stones, chimes and other decorations. Structural pieces like gazebos, pergolas, arbours and benches are often next. Luring birds and butterflies through plant selection and feeders adds another dimension to the mix. Some gardeners want their space to evolve into one of the popular theme gardens (e.g., Zen, English country, xeriscape, formal, wildflower prairie or some combination).
As the 2005 growing season sloshes to a cold, overcast close, I’m just glad it’s nearly over. I’ve never seen chickweed so healthy and so invasive in my life. With the rain, most of the annuals and perennials really performed. Who knows what may have happened if we’d gotten some heat too. Squeezing grass cutting in between showers this summer took very cunning homeowners. Many of my flowerbeds are mature and need a serious thinning of particularly invasive perennials. Certain shrubs will need to be moved come spring.
By far the biggest flaw in my yard is the lack of underlying preparation and structure to the various areas. I think we need to spend some serious coin and days of grunt work to more clearly delineate bed edgings, amend soil and add mulch for better weed control. I’m usually so grateful for the generosity of fellow gardeners that I just accept the offerings and plunk them in wherever there’s room. This is not always the best idea.
There’s something seriously wrong (either with a garden or a life) when more time is spent working at it than enjoying it. I find myself questioning and recalling. Where has the summer gone? We didn’t have a single fire this year. I missed the blooming of some of my finest plants. I did sit on my swing a few times between showers and watched four or five hummingbirds swoop and play. I did smell the rose bushes and the stocks just not nearly often enough.
With God’s grace, I will get another chance next year to work at creating an outdoor sanctuary. Until then, I just dream : a real joy, from where I sit.