Thursday, April 2, 2015

Requiem for a Garden

Nearly three weeks ago we had errands in town and decided to drive out to our old place in Gradyville for a quick visit to the Millers.
As we approached it was evident that work had been nearly completed on the new harness shop--a building which enclosed and greatly expanded the little garage which Jim had used as a work space.

It was not until we were nearly at the top of the drive that I realized the site of my perennial garden was now covered with an expanse of crushed rock.
"My flowers!" I gasped. 
A mound of muddy earth had been pushed down to the former location of my lower flower strips--where each summer cosmos, zinnias and sunflowers had flourished.
Here and there the broken roots and branches of my cherished heirloom roses protruded from the cold tumble of dirt.
On the other side of the new building Mr Rogers' grape arbor had disappeared as had the admittedly wobbly clothesline.

We met Mose Miller on the wide porch which runs along the east side of the new shop; from within came the sound of hammering. The hum of the gasoline engine which powers Amish industry hung on the damp air.
Jim exclaimed approvingly over the new shop.  I stood shivering and staring numbly at the area where I had spent five summers setting out perennials, weeding, dividing plants, tucking in yet another new lot of seedlings.
During a break in the men's talk I turned to Mose.
"The flowers are gone," I said, rather stupidly stating the obvious.
I made sure my tone of voice was neutral.

"Yes," agreed Mose. "The flowers are gone, but see the nice parking lot for customers, for the trucks that deliver supplies."
Then, kindly enough,  "Go on in to see Anna.  She will show you her new kitchen."

I was better prepared for the changes in the house. Our 'modern' electric range had been moved out, the fridge sat in the car port--plugged in, I noted.
The small rank of drawers which  flanked the stove had been moved to stand near the built-in buffet. Laminated hardwood replaced the kitchen linoleum [the only room whose flooring we had 
not torn up.] 
All was immaculate and orderly, as I have come to expect of Anna Miller.
The table had been moved into the addition which houses a traditional Amish kitchen. 
Anna's new Kitchen Queen range--smaller than the one left in our present house--had pride of place.
I spoke enthusiastically of the changes, noting that the addition allowed for south facing windows--a definite lack in the original arrangement.

At last I had to mention the flowers.
"I did not know the flower gardens were to go," admitted Anna, ruefully. "I would have tried to dig up and save some of the plants.  But--I looked out and there was a machine pushing it all away."
Anna's gentle voice took on a firmer note. 

"I was not happy about what happened to the garden. I am still not happy about it!
Mose has said when the weather is warmer I should go to the nursery and buy more plants. I can have another garden."
She paused a moment for emphasis.
"I told Mose--but those plants were settled!"

We looked at each other in shared dismay over this sad reality of a garden sacrificed to male common sense and industry.
"Men!" I announced, crossly.
"Yes" agreed Anna, "Men!"
I reminded Anna of the peonies well established by the Rogers.  I had, in the second year of my occupancy, divided the clumps of iris dotted about the yard and set them around the peonies. This strip, I was assured, had not been touched.
Anna led the way to the front porch where we inspected the clumps of day lilies, so recently thrusting their pale green shoots from the cold earth.
I pointed out the achillea, started from seed, noted that the nandina had suffered from the long freeze of February and would need severe pruning. 
We speculated which of the herbs near the back door might have survived the unusual blast of 
cold weather. 
Anna sighed. "The builders tramped  across the herb garden even though I reminded 
them it was there!"

We spoke then of quilts and of the relief of the coming spring time.
When it was time to leave, I assured Anna that I hoped she would visit us at the Pellyton farm which had been her family's home for over two decades.
"We've made changes," I warned her, "It will seem different."
Anna smiled serenely, "It is your place now. And I would like to visit and see what you have done."

Sleep eluded me that night. Mentally I reviewed my lost garden: the swath of clove pinks which perfumed the air for weeks; the sturdy blue salvia; tall lilies whose fat bulbs increased each year; the tangled mat of lemon thyme along one edge; the billow of Russian sage, the distinctive fragrance of the southernwood bush; coneflowers, achillea, catnip and clary--all nurtured from tiny seedllings.
 The roses--guarded from the onslaughts of Japanese beetles, the self-sown poppies which held brilliant sway. so fresh on a May morning.
I've thought back to the late autumn days when I finished packing our bits and pieces, carefully scrubbed the little yellow house in preparation for its new owners.
Several times I gazed over my gardens, longing to take away at least the rarest and most treasured of my plants, but feeling that would be unethical.
I remembered the wrench of leaving my Vermont gardens in 1998 when we moved to the harsh and arid high plains of Wyoming.
Those gardens had been eighteen years in the making!
For me, it is more difficult to leave behind a garden than a house.

I have comforted myself that I have here some of my peonies--moved last May to the interim house in Cane Valley. There are roses growing near the front porch. Daffodils grow in a sweep of yellow and green around the mailbox at the foot of the lane.
Several of the seedlings of lavender and thyme which I tucked in near the steps clung to life during the precarious winter.

Today Jim drove me to the Mennonite garden nursery. 
While he chose cabbage and broccoli plants, I selected two large pots of clove pinks--one in a deep carmine red, the other a clear rosy pink.
I bought two veronicas, a Munstead lavender, a tiny slip of common sage.
I have marked seeds and plants in my favorite catalogue.
Jim has warned that with so much needing done, he will have little time this year to spare for making and maintaining a veg garden. The implication is that I need to restrain myself in my 
dreams of flowers.
 I know this!
My elderly knees have registered protests in prior years of weeding. 
I cannot manage as large a planting as I covet.
It won't do to raise a battalion of seedlings and have no space prepared for them.

My mind tells me I must move on from this sadness about my lost garden.

My mind tells me I must be practical and realistic as I plan a new garden.

My mind tells me these things, but I'm not sure my heart is ready to listen!


  1. Oh Sharon - you must be broken-hearted over the loss of your beautiful garden. I know I would be. This will take some getting over and probably not properly until you have gotten a lovely new garden established in your new home. Oh I agree, MEN! They obviously do NOT see plants - the plumbers we've just had here put the bits of copper piping they removed on top of Cowslips at the front of the house. I hastily removed all and put it in a wheelbarrow as a subtle HINT of where to put rubbish.

    Oh, I am SO sorry - all that hard work for nothing. I think buying some fresh plants for the new garden, even if they have to live in big tubs or planters, will do something to heal your gardening soul . . .

  2. I am always saddened when I drive by a property that had a certain beauty, then see it gone. It hurts, it wasn't even mine, but something is now missing.

    I am so sorry for your old gardens. That hurts.

    May you enjoy your new gardens as they set down new roots and bloom and grow for you.

    Happy Easter ~ FlowerLady

  3. I can understand completely. Like you, it is more difficult to leave behind a garden than a house. We had a garden I built from scratch, for 8 years putting my heart and soul into it. The new owners made so many changes, not for the better, cutting down an old Egremont Russet tree, through which 3 different climbers scrambled. that was the final straw. I decided I couldn't bear to know any more.
    I'm sure you will feel a little regret and sadness, every time you see Mose's new parking area. It is a good thing that Anna valued and saved some of the garden.

  4. I feel your pain! Once we went back to a house we had sold and all the flowers were gone, rock covered the flower beds and they'd removed the beautiful weeping will we'd planted, and they'd painted the house a light orange. I swore I'd never go back to a former home.

  5. Oh, that is so sad. I understand. We had a beautiful Japanese maple at our old house that my husband wanted to dig up and take with us, but I told him that surely the new owners would not appreciate it and would want it. When we drove past the old house we noticed that they had cut it down. They had also painted the house a bright blue, after years of carefully restoring the old place to it's historical accuracy.

    I'm glad that you are planting some old fashioned clove pinks. They are one of my favorites and I have tried to plant them here, but they just continue to die out, no matter how much I baby them. At least I'll be able to enjoy yours!

  6. So strange, women nurse a garden like their own child, men must tidy, tramp and obviously not see the living beauty of flowers. Keep dreaming of those flowers and start this next garden in pots, until you can find and dig the room for them. Does Anna have any to rescue, or even cuttings?