In the beginning, there was dirt.
When I was a child, my father spent most weekends away from us and in the garden weeding. We were jealous of his garden; it received most of his time and affection and he seemed to be obsessed with weeding, raking, planting, nurturing perennials and cabbages, green peppers, carrots, and herbs. I would try to help but always felt discouraged. He seemed to me to be irritated by my presence in the garden, like I was somehow inappropriately entering into the peace and calm of his solitude.
We didn’t spend much time with my father, but the gardens which were the fruits of his labours were magnificent. In particular, some of the happiest memories I have are of weekends sitting and reading next to the large fish pond we had that was bordered by caragana, honeysuckle, and a massive bed of perennial day lilies and flowers. There was a constant drone of bees and the occasional splash from the fish, feeding on the insects that would drop on the water surface.
Having moved into a townhouse with some open dirt that the landlord (a big corporate landlord that shall be named as Park Place Rental Communities and in unison, inspire thousands of readers to spit on the ground) didn’t seem to mind being tended, I discovered through my own efforts why my father was so jealous of his time in the garden. I tended the hollyhock plants that had historically been part of this 60 year old complex, dug a bed in the fill on the west side of the house that thrived given mulch (pulling weeds pre-seed, laying them on the soil, they do not a bad job) and fertilizing, and planted in an attempt to re-create the garden of my childhood summers. I collected stones from a nearby lake to create a border, planted a shade bed by our back step, filled the deck itself with plants and a small water garden.
The one difficulty in beginning in the dirt is that it eventually runs out. And occasionally, other people have ideas they consider to be “aesthetically” better.
This past spring, my landlord informed me that they were going to rip out the flower beds and put down plastic and pea gravel with treated borders because they were easier to maintain. This after telling me the previous three years that they would do this and then change their minds. I had a fight on my hands. I wrote a letter to the manager of the complex explaining that I believed that the hollyhocks were an integral part of the historic value of the complex and in some cases were varieties that were no longer available….ok so I creatively altered the story a little in the letter. Thing is, it worked.
The downside? It doesn’t feel like this garden is meant to be here any more which means that the gardener isn’t meant to be here any more.
Lucky for me, I have a terrific friend. He’s in the process of doing some renovations on his grandmother’s house and in the spring/summer is going to let my brother and I purchase for a very reasonable price. This also means, to my great excitement, that I will have a yard. Two yards! A front yard AND a back yard with a vegetable garden patch that has been tended by a Ukrainian baba for decades and open space. So much open space!
As I write this, the snow is falling for the second time. With any luck there will be two to three feet (or almost a meter) of snow on the ground by morning. While the winter sits, I have planning and research to do. So that’s what this blog is about! I want to journey the process of researching, creating, and ‘existing’ in my own sacred space, my own garden.