Have you read The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett? That book was a favorite of mine when I was a bairn, but not for any of its characters. Instead, its appeal lay within the titular garden: a magical, private nature-place, neglected and overgrown, but receptive to care. Through its fresh moor air and roses, it changes a sullen child into a vibrant one, an imperious brat into a warm friend, and it even manages to heal a shattered family. Near the end of the book, the roaming patriarch of the family hears his deceased wife calling to him in a dream. He asks where she is, and she replies, “In the garden, in the garden!” He gallops home and reunites with his son and niece, who have become robust and joyful by the mere influence of the outdoors. It’s a little dubious, but it’s very romantic.
I suppose my point is that I always expect to be magically revived by gardening — and, oddly enough, I sometimes am.
In front of our house, we have a little scrap of dirt that, each spring, we convert into a semblance of a garden. It’s half-shaded by a bristly pine tree, which is a blessing during Davis’s 90-100° summers: the plants wilt every afternoon, but ultimately survive. There is also an odd mess of pots and bins, which we fill with more plants as the mood takes us.
We did our annual replanting of the garden a few weeks ago, and, despite a run-in with a gang of delinquent slugs, everything we planted is flourishing. (Knock on wood.) We have an abundance of mints and handsome flowers. We supplemented the garden with compost when we planted, and three weeks’ steady watering have called up an army of “volunteer squash,” as my housemate Sarah calls them: tender plants that sprout entropically from old seeds in the compost, whose allegiance we did not request but readily accept.
For those people who are as boring and detail-oriented as I am, here’s a complete list of this year’s garden & potted plants (with footnotes!):
- fuchsia (Fuchsia sp.)*
- Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule)†
- sea lavender (Limonium perezii)*
- parrot’s beak (Lotus x ‘Amazon Sunset’)
- mint (Mentha sp.)*‡
- lemon cucumber (Cucumis sativus)
- amethyst basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Amethyst’)
- Wendy’s wish (Salvia hybrida)‡
- Cherokee purple tomato (Solanum lycopersicum)
- Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechus)*‡
- Columbine ‘songbird mix’ (Aquilegia sp.)
- silver foxglove (Digitalis x heywoodii ‘Silver Fox’)†
- lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina)*†
- culinary sage (Salvia officinalis)‡
- purple sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurea’)‡
- woodland sage (Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’)‡
- clematis (Clematis sp.)
* These plants are longtime residents of the garden that have survived under our haphazard care for at least a year.
† Can you tell that I really like cuddly, furry, and/or hairy plants?
‡ And can you tell that my housemate adores the Mint Family (Lamiaceae)?
Here are some photos of the garden, to give you a better idea of it: