Tuesday, May 13, 2014
The garden half full
There was a moment Sunday morning on the Atlanta Botanical Garden tour when it hit me that there were so many garden dreams I had for so long, and I never fulfilled any of them.
First of all, I'm usually in church at the moment I was in Ryan Gainey's garden in Decatur (above). I had great intentions of going to Sunday School, then heading out to see some gardens before I started my 1:30 - 5:00 shift at a garden in Brookhaven (more about that wonderful place later).
So, I was already off-kilter, having stopped by church for a few minutes to take photographs of the flowers - something I do every Sunday - and running out of time. After I left, I wasn't thinking clearly and took a long, circuitous route to Ryan's garden. I could have been there in 15 minutes, and it took me a good 45 with downtown traffic at a standstill.
I don't know how many times I've visited his garden in the last three-plus decades. Every time I discover something new, and every time my heart beats with inspiration and hope. Things I remember that were there are gone now ( Parthenocissus tricuspidata 'Fenway Park', for one), but then there are areas that have been completely redone (a new parterre I hadn't seen before). That's just the nature of a garden's evolution and the changing of the owner's tastes, or simply the passage of time.
But walking through Ryan's garden is magical. It is still a great example of a cottage garden. There are formal shapes and hedges that give it definition, and then there are plants in profusion - roses, for example - that cascade from long-hidden structures that connect to form allees where you can look up and take in the fragrance and beauty.
The latter is what I had long dreamed of - to have a cottage garden such as this - one where clipped boxwoods made the outlines, and everything else could be a bit chaotic, but still beautiful. There would be garden "rooms" (how long did we talk about that concept?), where you would enter to find more delightful surprises. Ryan still has those.
I would be very discouraged, thinking I could never have anything approaching this, but for one fact. Margaret Moseley, now age 98, was 79 years old when I met her. She had not even reached her stride. In her 80's and early 90's, she was the darling of the garden media. And, she was planting madly - trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs - anything she read about that interested her, or anything that caught her eye in a nursery or in someone else's garden.
I certainly don't have the foresight and genius of either of these gardeners, but I am a good copy cat. And, having seen how both of these gardens have changed just in recent years, I know that as long as I am able, I can fulfill some of my dreams of roses in Ryan's garden or camellias in Margaret's. If Margaret had stopped at 79 when she assumed she was entering her "twilight years" (see Margaret Moseley's A Garden to Remember), then her garden would not have been as beautiful as it is today.
So, on Sunday, I started off seeing my own garden as half-empty, or more like 3/4 empty. But, having reflected on these two long-time gardeners, I'm seeing all the potential. I have a long way to go, but that will be the great part of the adventure - the thrill of a new iris, some areas of sun opening up that I didn't have before, a navy blue hydrangea I've always wanted.
After racing from one garden to another on this weekend's tour, I gleaned a lot of ideas - things I could do that wouldn't break the bank. And, there are other things I'll try to save for - like miles of iron rebar and retaining walls and stone steps. I think if I already had my garden full to overflowing, I wouldn't have the anticipation I feel for the future.
And, I have to remember. I have two new garden areas that I didn't have this time last year. With another wedding on the horizon, I will have to be content with smaller things, but that's okay. Already, I saw what others had done that I could do here while I'm waiting for my ship to come in. And, if it never does, I can still move things around and make brick outlines and divide what I do have. Already, I'm beginning to see the garden is perhaps, after all, not all that empty, but at the very least, half-full.