For those with absolutely no interest in coaxing green things out of dark dirt and wonder "why do they do it?" as well as those with green thumbs or obsessive orchid disorder.
May 1st is always a bit of a personal pivot point for me. I'm often on the road for large chunks of March and April, and my absence usually results in weeds choking my gardens. They impose their chaotic unruliness over my carefully tended beds like an army of Orcs pillaging the good green Shire. Adding to that, deer come and graze on the new shoots of the bulbs I've stuck in the ground. I often walk around with my morning coffee looking for small signs of hope in the carnage, emulating the Michael Jackson look with a single glove for tugging at a strand of ground ivy here and bedstraw there. The proverbial equivalent of peeing in the ocean, but to clear a few square inches of precious garden space from the marauders somehow does my psyche good in spite of the magnitude of the discontinuity.
Around May 1st, I shift from weeding and recovering towards more planting in earnest, as the danger of frost is receding in the rearview mirror. But why the hell do I do it? Given those challenges and obstacles, it's a fair question, worth both the asking and contemplating objectively before I answer it too.
I should note that different gardens have different purposes at our house. The vegetable garden is of course a staple, and having seasonal food grown largely organically in one's own backyard is both a delight and an economic necessity. And most houses have some sort of tidy front border garden to welcome visitors; this one was no exception.
We've added a lot of garden space, primarily for practical reasons. I hate having so much lawn to mow, and when we bought this house there were a goodly number of spindly trees sprouted from stumps that had to be removed. We moved our cinder block fire pit around the backyard over the years, burning out stumps and converting the holes to gardens. Over the years a somewhat respectable if horticulturally schizophrenic patchwork of gardens have developed, inspired by some of the grandiose Virginia gardens like Monticello and cobbled together with a small dash of country smarts, copious gobs of stubborn persistence, no budget, and the generous gifts and kindness of family and friends.
Truthfully, while I love to see the different plants emerge and bloom in the garden, and watch the landscape change with the seasons, it is that last item that really makes gardening special to me. Probably 90% of our non-vegetable gardens came from people who wanted to share, either out of overabundance or wanting us to have something special.
I can't walk my gardens without reminders of the many wonderful people who are in my life frequently as well as once in a blue moon. There is evidence of our time together sprouting from the dark dirt all over our property. And maybe that's the thing of it - sharing garden plants pretty much requires face to face human contact in person. Dirt under the fingernails probably too. "Here, dig this up and you can take it in this yogurt container." "Bring your trowel and a couple of trash bags, we'll load you up." Those statements are an invitation to be part of a story, a conversation, and a memento.
There is a rose that was given to my parents by my grandmother decades ago (she and my mom shared a passion for gardening). My sister rescued it from the shade of an evergreen at my parents house and moved it to her house in Maine, where it was inadvertently root-tilled a few springs ago. Somehow she nursed it back to health, and gave us a couple of the shoots, which are now thriving nicely in our Virginia back yard.
Following Saturday night's lovely concert, we woke up yesterday morning at our friend Susan's house, nestled in the woods in the Blue Ridge foothills of central Virginia. After coffee and breakfast, off we went for a morning ramble, followed by a quick bit of woodland wildflower transplanting. This morning those plants greeted me from my own native wildflower garden, waving at me in the breeze next to dozens of other plants carefully collected and transplanted over the years. It is truly a Gift Garden, or perhaps a Giving Garden, for it reminds me not only of the beauty and wonder of a "natural" ecosystem, but of all that I have been given in this life. And of renewal, and wonder, for each year I am surprised at the return of plants - and memories - I have forgotten since last spring.
So to Sam and Deanne Carman, Steve and Annie Scarborough, Susan Meyer, Sarah Harper, Lisa Payne, Susan Rickard and Susan Giblin. To my beloved bandmate Stephanie. To my neighbors Gabrielle, the Edwards, the Raymonds, the Daleys, the Morrises. To those who long ago had a home and garden in the woodlot next door. To my mom, and my grandma, and my sister. To my ex. To our neighbor Bruce for kindly sharing copious tractor loads of wood chip mulch. To the many other contributors living and departed whom I am regretfully forgetting on this lovely May day morn. Thank you. For the gift of those moments, and those stories, as well as the little piece of living artwork you've contributed to my surroundings.
Three of our many "Giving Gardens", including the native wildflower patch in the upper area around the whiskey barrel.