Sunday, June 15, 2014

Time and Tides In The Garden (with apologies to Andy Goldsworthy)

I used to have lavender on each side of the garage doors.  It looked very French, and it smelled great as you brushed past.  Then it smelled great as you drove by, because it overgrew the door and the incoming tires crushed the branches.  

I finally had to take them out.  It was either that, or park in the street.  There was a brief interregnum with an orangey climbing rose whose middle name was surely mildew, but that, fortunately, did not last long.   Sometimes you have to prune with a shovel. 

Now I have boxwood cones, neat and trim and formal.  In poor soil and with not a lot of water, they seem happy.  And mildew free, at least so far.  I have learned never to say never in gardening.

This morning as I was knocking the cobwebs off the boxwood cones (spiders are one of the plusses - and minuses - of organic gardening, but more about that later) I was thinking about how much my garden has changed in the 12 years we’ve been here.  And it's not just the trees getting taller.  

There are many things that didn’t make the cut (pun intended).  The Myrtle leaf orange trees I thought would look so great flanking the front door, and be so good for flower arrangements were in fact a scale factory, and they weeped.  Refused to hold their branches up.  A tree curling to the ground may look great on the other side of a pond, but right next to the front door it  just looked weird.  And don’t get me started on how much the rats liked those trees…makes me shudder just to think.

Plus I am not the flower arranger I thought I was when I planted them.  I love the first day or so, the surprise of that fresh green on a table, the fragrance that fills the room.  But then having to fill the arrangements with water (when there's almost no place to get the spout of the watering can in, when you also have to find a way to stick your finger in the vase so you don't overfill and ruin your table) - it takes the fun out.  And then there are the dying flowers and, if you're not careful, stinking water...not fun.  

My mom prefers her flowers in the garden.  She has a point.

I agonized before I took the oranges out.  I always agonize - those are living things.  But I have realized that once they’re out, I don’t look back.  Not a twinge.  And that’s making it easier to contemplate taking down a tall skinny curly willow that lists badly and is rubbing the eaves.  

It also made the decision to take out a diseased Quince simpler -  I didn’t want the disease to spread, so out it came, roots and all.  And that has been a gift, for it has opened up a view all the way across the garden, to the old oak in the furthest corner, and that view has made the garden feel both more intimate and more expansive.  I don't know how that's possible either - one of the ineffable mysteries of gardening.

Sometimes the things that look like disasters at the time are really gifts in disguise.  That’s a good thing to remember in the garden.  And it’s a good thing to remember in life.

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