I suppose it’s an inherited thing, a legacy from generations of gardeners. Each of us with our own style, our own purpose, of our own time, beginning, that I know of with my Great-Great Aunt Jen.
Now, one thing about this Great Aunt is that, like many ancestors of the time, her name was not actually ‘Jen’. No, instead her name was actually Judith Jane, and I guess ‘Jen’ was a nickname she was known by.
So, Great Aunt Jen is known for creating the first garden at the Homestead back in Dodge. With elaborate paired trellis’ that once graced the front, arching with rambling roses, at the drive she planted some sort of heavy scented beauty we’ve yet to put a name to, with crisp white double blooms. Just outside the back door of the house once stood what mom always referred to as ‘the elephant poop’, a mound of snow on the mountain, which was one of the few remains of that once lovely Victorian landscape when I was growing up.
To this same garden my Grandmother added her practical touch, with a veggie garden out back, feeding us throughout the summer with fresh veg, and zucchini bread to die for, and jams for toast all winter long.
By her time, in the early 50s, most of the Victorian trellis and such were decayed and falling down, but still around the house a ringed old fashioned Hostas and those vintage Ostrich Ferns rampant where the outhouse used to sit, the mystery magical scented shrub and a couple faded vintage lilacs remained, and in the early spring sweeps of purple Scilia bulbs still wash over the remains of the terrace.
After Grandma died, once we had been there for a while, once I had moved out, married, about a decade and more, we, mom and I, caught the gardening bug at about the same time, and thus she embarked on the next phase of the homestead garden. Mom re-envisioned that old garden for herself, with a much larger than she had intended pond out front.
In those first years with the pond, she fussed and worried over the lack of frogs, the fish didn’t fair well, and the little ecosystem she had created chugged along, but it didn’t flourish; much to her dismay.
When mom died it was on the front porch we stood, her family and close friends, as the undertaker took her body away, as we stood lost looking up to a full moon that Halloween night back in 2001, with the pond waterfall turned off so late in the year.
Yet, that next spring it was like everything had just once and for all been brought to life from the beyond, and fish flourished and frogs spawned tadpoles galore, and today on a hot summer night you can find my sister and her family out there on that front porch, maybe on a Saturday night, visiting with friends, listening to the soft sounds of the water sweep over the rocks into the pond. In the morning the frogs croak out there, well, whatever it is frogs are saying, rrRIBBIT rrRIBBIT rrrRIBBBIT.
Now myself, well I picked up that gardening bug in my late twenties, here and there, wherever I happened to be I created and eventually walked away, one way or another, each has been lost along the way. Yet, I persevered, I couldn’t help but want to, I suppose, through time create and plant and get my nails dirty. Well, except for the few years after mom died when everything I tried turned to dust and I walked away from almost everything I had known, in sorrow and loss I turned to strangers and new experience as a way to somehow fill the loss of her.
Well, but long story shorter, here I am today, another rented garden perhaps, but do we ever really own the earth beneath our feet? Can we truly know without a shadow of a doubt that the ground beneath our feet is ever truly ours?
Today I have created this little wabi-sabi woodland garden, my temenos, my sacred space I created to get away, to listen, to watch, to learn, to get my nails dirty once again, and watch things grow and change, just out my door. This small corridor that runs along the side of the house, with the hedgerow of cedars engulfed by this rambling & wild Virginia Creeper, is mine for now if not forever.
Few years back I grabbed some of those old Victorian Ostrich fern ladies, to be waited on by a couple Lady Fern hybrids, and scrambling along the ground a carpet of golden Creeping Jenny turned Chartreuse in the shade.
Out there underneath a large Black Walnut Tree I watch the birds flit by, the Nuthatch, Chickadee, Cardinal and Sparrow. Worms mate, bugs and bees come in on the breeze, and butterflies flit along through on their way towards the flowers in bloom out front.
I watch it all, lost in how the light moves through the day, sitting in the cool shade where no one can see me.
Anyways, that’s what is bred in my bones.
“The little boy nodded at the peony and the peony seemed to nod back. The little boy was neat, clean and pretty. The peony was unchaste, dishevelled as peonies must be, and at the height of its beauty.(…) Every hour is filled with such moments, big with significance for someone.”Robertson Davies, What’s Bred in the Bone