Gardening, My Other Love
I must confess. I have another love beyond my family, friends, and books for reading or writing: gardening. Flower gardens bring beauty to our landscape. Caring for these gardens teaches many lessons. This year’s garden has reminded me of the importance of patience. If you’ve followed my blog or know me at all, you’ve come to realize I struggle with acceptance and patience at least as it pertains to patience with myself and the changes we all face as we get older.
Keith, my husband, and I started my current flower gardens three years ago, shortly after moving into our present home. Crabgrass filled our treeless, but large backyard. Two strips of foundation plantings flanked the patio. None of the shrubs would produce flowers. Therefore, in my mind, they were virtually worthless. Fortunately, the current landscaping was something we could change.
I’ve always enjoyed backyard bird watching and have tried to create gardens that would attract them. Realizing that to attract birds, we needed to plant something away from the patio, Keith promptly created a planting bed. He brought in topsoil and stone and planted a crepe myrtle and a little gem magnolia. It would also be a perfect place for the rose bushes and other flowers brought from our former home.
With small trees and plants that allowed a careful approach, birds visited our feeders. Our youngest son dubbed this area Tweet-Tweet Island. We attracted a lot of bluebirds, but not so many goldfinches. Goldfinches with their bright yellow bodies and black crest and wings were Dad Comstock’s favorite birds and really don’t like city life. They didn’t seem to like the Niger seed but did like the seeds from my coneflowers and black-eyed susans.
I continued working on the flower beds we created to replace the shrubs along the back side of the house. Our daughter gave me several irises from her garden. Eager for iris the blooms next year, I carried on planting hostas, cora bells, black-eyed susans and several varieties of coneflowers. Asiatic lilies bloomed blood red and orange.
The newly planted black-eyed susans seemed to survive well, but the hostas were a little weak. Their leaves drooped by midafternoon. I fertilized and watered, hoping all would be well. Still, the hostas wilted, and their edges burned. My husband felt they would do better once the plants were better established.
This was a busy one for me. I was writing my memoir, A Crazy Quilt Life, working and visiting grandchildren. I didn’t spend much time in the flower gardens but added a few new plants. Mostly, I was sad because the irises didn’t bloom. They were one of my mother’s favorite plants. To make matters worse, I lost most of my cora bells because the sun was too intense. Their usual variegated dark green leaves turned to brown crisps. Only near constant watering kept my hostas from succumbing to the same fate. I struggled to keep the grass out of the flower beds, especially the newer portion of Tweet-Tweet Island.
One day while I was out of town helping with my granddaughters, Keith called to tell me a client didn’t like the fringe tree he had bought. It’s among his favorites and has long fringe like blossoms with a light sweet fragrance. So, he kept it. He enlarged Tweet-Tweet Island to nearly twice its size to accommodate the tree and additional plants. I added more irises and a few other plants. I vowed if the irises didn’t bloom next year, I would pull them all up. I planted daffodil bulbs in the fall, promising my garden to give it more attention next spring.
As winter turned to spring, I realized I had a full sun garden and needed to adjust. I offered my daughter my hostas. She had just created a partial shade garden in her yard. Trying to keep the hostas alive through another summer just wasn’t workable. She agreed to take them. I’ll just plant more coneflowers and yarrow. They love the sun. Earlier this month, while she was here for a visit, she weeded the mess that was the backside of Tweet-Tweet Island. I dug up and potted the hostas for her to take home.
Much to my surprise, all my irises bloomed—three shades of purple and a vibrant yellow. We’ve already seen the bright yellow of several goldfinches at the bird feeders. They usually appear closer to summer. It looks like my plan for a somewhat controlled, bird friendly English garden is coming together.
I stop to think while enjoying the view from the patio. If I had yanked the irises out last year when my frustration was so intense, I would have missed their beautiful display, which started mid-March and is just now slowing. If I had removed more of the seed heads from the coneflowers and black-eyed susans, it probably would have taken longer for the goldfinches to find us. Not accepting my planting area’s conditions would have led to another summer of intense watering. This would have led not only to higher water bills but to a waste of our natural resource—water. Patience, acceptance. Hopefully, I can apply these garden lessons to the rest of my life.