Sometimes I wonder what I would be doing if I didn’t have a garden. It’s work, man is it work. But when you love something so much, it doesn’t feel like it. Ok, sometimes it does. Like when the English ivy is sucking the life out of your serviceberry and you have to remove every. last. bit. of. it. Ugh. But it’s done and the robins and cedar waxwings will be thrilled to have their favorite tree restored. I’ve learned to NEVER plant ivy, no matter how lovely a ground cover, again. In retrospect, I’m thankful for the lesson. Plants with attributes like “will tolerate sun and shade” or “fast spreading” and “tough as nails” are glaring red flags. Too much of anything is often not good. Unless it’s chocolate.
Every year brings new challenges, new realizations and plenty of new plants. And as I tuck my garden in for the winter, I’m filled with gratitude for the successes, failures and its constant beauty. Sounds crazy, but I thank them (yes, I talk to my plants) for choosing to grow here, knowing that some may not return next year for an encore. Life is better because of the garden.
Our neighbor’s cat, Ally (that’s her scaling our fence when my redbud was absolutely stunning), visits most mornings and slinks through the garden, weaving between yews and rose bushes, searching for her next treat. I have a rabbit and vole issue so the extra help is much appreciated.
Our yard is a beacon for all kinds of visitors, including hungry praying mantises.
Honey bees swarm the pussy willow trees in February and March when a fine yellow pollen dust blankets their furry catkins. The trees are the earliest signs of spring in my garden and we love to stand beneath them when the bees arrive to enjoy the hum.
The soil has been a labor of love. When we built our home in 2004, the builder backfilled with only an inch of topsoil. Beneath that was compacted clay. I started by digging holes all over the yard to deposit food scraps, placing large rocks on each spot to discourage the dog from digging. It didn’t always work. Without mature trees in the area, I had to rely on other neighborhoods. I loaded my car with bagged leaves left along the curb for collection. I mulched them with the mower and worked them into the beds. Leaf mulching is something I continue to do every fall, without as much help from neighbors. My maples are finally delivering!
A compost bin tucked behind the vegetable garden provides plenty of “black gold” each spring.
And gives us a bountiful harvest every summer. As an organic gardener, providing a safe and healthy environment for people and pollinators is the best way I can show my appreciation. Creating my own compost is one way I accomplish it.
My Favorite Garden Shop
I used to be a little self conscious about how often I went to Green Glen Nursery. What did the owners think? Had I nowhere else to go? Looking back, they were a crucial part of my learning process. With two toddlers in toe, I studied plant tags, touched leaves, smelled flowers and asked questions. Lots of questions. Most of all, I just wanted to be there. It’s not a fancy place, pretty no nonsense actually, but they were cool with my little ones monkeying around in the dirt and chasing butterflies. Many of the plants that found a home here originated at Green Glen. I return there several times a year to see what’s new, say hey to people who’ve become trusted garden friends and of course, buy more plants.
This Constant Experiment
My neighbors joke with me about how I’m constantly moving plants, dividing them, sharing them. Many have pieces of my garden. “Can’t you ever just let things be?” I’ve been asked. I could, but what’s the fun in that? My garden is one giant experiment, sometimes things work, other times they die. That’s the way it goes. I accept it and know that for all the deaths, I’ll find something new to plop in its place, speak a few kind words and wish it well. Almost 20 years of gardening and there’s still so much to learn. And for all this, I am thankful.
What about your garden makes you most thankful? I’d love to know.