I stopped by the old place last weekend to pick up a favourite shovel I thought I had lost, and to visit with former neighbours/forever friends.
When I walked around the corner it felt like a punch in the gut. This was the scene before me:
Scars of ripped out gardens and smears of green asphalt.
Four months earlier it looked like this:
As painful as the scene was to face, the experience was an interesting lesson in the fragility and fleeting beauty of gardens. It also brought home to me how vulnerable the creatures we share our space really are to the human love affair with lawn mowers.
I’m happily ensconced in my new home now, though I have to admit that I get a pang when I look at pictures of my old garden. It’s gone now. Pretty much obliterated.
The best laid plans… ah well. I had made arrangements to move my favourites slowly through October and into spring and leave behind a low-maintenance design. But then my landlady became seriously ill and her rather tyrannical father, who co-owns the house, growled that he wasn’t going to look after gardens. The text message arrived at 3PM on a Friday afternoon telling me that everything was to be pulled out the next day and that I should stop by if I wanted anything. Holy crap.
I stopped by… and since it was all coming out anyway I hauled 4 truck loads of plants to my new home that weekend. And to my regret, I could have taken 4 more. Such a waste.
Needless to say everything ended up heeled into some hastily prepared beds, and I have only a vague idea of what ended up where. I hired two helpers and they worked fast – too fast for me to organize the plants and make sure my carefully prepared labels remained intact. Clematis, daylillies, grasses, surprise! It’ll take a year or two to sort them all out. But the best of my plants are safe. I have no complaints, other than sadness for the creatures who made their home outside my door. Evicted. It’s been paved over with green asphalt.
Gardens go with the gardener. It’s humbling. I somehow thought that by creating habitat for nature and beauty for myself, I was doing something important and changing the world. But I was only changing my little piece of the world, for a little while.
Another week and I’ll be in my new home – my forever home, I hope. Friends tease me that I’m more concerned about moving my plants than my belongings and I confess – it’s true. The weather right now is hot, sunny, and dry… horrible for transplanting! I’m the only one objecting but if you’re a gardener, you’ll understand.
And so, one more look back at a garden that began in grief and has ended in an explosion of colour and joy. What a wonderful place to start my next garden.
Several years ago, while living and working in Munich, I discovered that such a thing as a “Garden Museum” existed in the City of London. Naturally, I took the first opportunity to visit during a business trip to that great city.
The Garden Museum is housed in the ancient church of St. Mary-at-Lambeth in a historically tawdry area of east London called Lambeth/Southwark. Back in the 16th century this area was fertile ground for wealthy manors, gardens, and great plantsmen but by the mid-18th century it was a lawless borough known more for bear-baiting, prostitution, alehouses and bowling alleys than for horticulture and wealthy retreats.
The Church of St. Mary-at-Lambeth was bombed in WWII and a dilapidated tear-down by the mid-1970’s. A determined group of influential horticulturalists intervened and turned it into the world’s first museum dedicated to gardening.
Back in the 17th century this had been the parish church of famous historical plant hunters, the Tradescants, and they are buried in the churchyard. The Tradescants were plantsmen and explorers who introduced to cultivation many of the plants we now grow in our gardens; they also created the world’s first purpose-built museum. The churchyard also contains the graves of Captain Bligh of The Bounty, Anne Boleyn’s mother, and other characters famous but less noteworthy… to a gardener.
So what does this have to do with me and synchronicity?
The “small thing” is a clay tile, a souvenir I purchased at the museum. The first thing I did four years ago when I started the garden was to hang this tile up at the entrance to a makeshift pergola. The quote, “Change this garden then for paradise“, appealed to me. Those words are inscribed on John Tradescant’s gravestone.
Fast-forward a couple of years, when my elderly Dad anointed me keeper of his genealogical research. To make a long story shorter, I discovered that my 2nd great-grand parents were married at St. Mary-at-Lambeth in 1853. I uncovered skeletons and a tragic, sordid story that I’m sure no one has known about for over 100 years. It reminded me that I’m alive today because some very hardy ancestors were survivors.
But seriously – what an odd coincidence. And in just over a month I really am going to change this garden for the paradise that is my new home.
I like daylilies. I especially like the daylilies I got from Jocelain and Alain at Artemesia Daylilies in Kimberley, Ontario. If you’re on your way through the Beaver Valley on Grey Road 13, make sure you stop and check them out. They have the most interesting selection I’ve ever seen!
Dang if I can remember the names of them all though – all except the one Jocelyn named “Pollinatrix” in my honour. Well, almost my honour… he spelled it differently. But I swear I’m the inspiration!!! I had them all labelled but the writing has worn off the metal markers.
I know some people who turn their noses up at daylilies. They don’t “do” anything! By that, they mean, daylilies don’t provide nectar for insects, aren’t a good host plant for caterpillars, aren’t native… Ok ok, but they do something for me. They brighten my garden and make me smile. And this one makes me close my eyes and go “mmmmmmm”. It smells gorgeous.
The garden is pretty much at its best right now, putting on a spectacular show as if to say goodbye. It’ll be mid-September before I officially move into a new life and a new garden, but I decided I wanted to share it now while it looks so nice. So I held an open garden today, and many of my very favourite people from Glen Williams came. It was a perfect day.