Monday, September 18

The Ghost of Gardens Past

While nosing around on the computer today, I found a couple of pictures that were taken at my old house... the place where my first feeble attempts at gardening occurred.

I made a lot of mistakes in that garden. Some in plant choice, several in plant placement, and still more in garden logistics and maintenance. I must not have taken any pictures of the more spectacular errors--or at least, I didn't save those pictures--because the ones I found weren't too bad. Not great, but not too bad.

It's interesting to look back on these and see that even while I was starting out I seemed to gravitate toward contrasting plant colors and textures. For example, 'Golden Tiara' hosta was underplanted with sedum 'Chubby Fingers' in front of the large rock that dominated the small bed near my front stoop.

Already the melding of form and function was underway, with cut flower plants like echinacea purpurea mixed in with golden oregano and golden sage in my herb garden, backed by a trellis that supported a jackmanii clematis. The planting softened the chimney wall, provided some good flavor for weekday suppers and even filled vases to dress up the kitchen counter.

I found that I had played around with odd combinations of color and texture, like lavender mixed with 'Red Dragon' persicaria and dwarf Siberian iris. I admire my willingness to play with color, but cringe at my lack of consideration for plant habit. I also obviously wasn't paying attention to the big picture or I would have noticed how the persicaria leaves get lost against the nuggets of pine bark mulch.

I thought about saving these pictures to post in winter while my new garden sleeps. However, today would have been my 7th anniversary had my ex-husband and I lasted that long together... so somehow it seemed more fitting to go ahead and post them now. Not for any maudlin reason, because I have no sadness or remorse attached to the relationship, the anniversary, or even the way things ended. But it seems a fitting time to reflect.

I left behind some beautiful plants, like this stand of great blue lobelia, because I knew that they would not fit well into my new sandy-soil garden. I brought with me many more plants--stalwarts like alchemilla mollis--that had reinforced their worth and validity to me over the years.

I took some plants like 'Hillside Black Beauty' actaea that may or may not work for me in the future, but I learned that I appreciate--no, need--to feel challenged in gardening as in all aspects of my life. I know that it's okay if I have a few small failures or make a few mistakes along the way as long as I keep my eye on the big picture and am always working on improving the garden and keeping it healthy and productive.

You could go back through those last two paragraphs and substitute "dreams" for "plants" and "relationship" for "garden"... the parallels are not hard to see. I appreciate the opportunity to start fresh in a new place, with new resources and a positive environment. I hope that the lessons I have learned--and am still learning--will keep turning me into a better gardener, and a better partner.


Unknown said...

I forgot to say, too, that I appreciate that my ex-husband and I are able to remain friends to this day... probably more information than you all needed, but isn't the whole post?

I'm usually not so "confessional" on my blog, but since this is a case of garden paralleling life I thought it might be interesting to consider here...

Anonymous said...

Lot of parallels between gardening and life, aren't there? And we never really arrive in either one; there's always something new to learn and a mistake we haven't made yet, or at least not often enough to have learned from it.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Looking at old photographs can be cringe making as can revisiting our mistakes. But we live an learn - we hope - and press on.

Sigruns German Garden said...

I have also a lot of photos from my old garden, they are paperpics. But I do not look backwards, I always look forwards (;- not always). My new garden is better.


David (Snappy) said...

I only have pics on the Blog of the garden in past times.I love the confessional aspect.Its funny how life/gardens collide and mix together.You liked hosta's too even then.Your planting is really good now, so you must have learnt from the past.

Annie in Austin said...

This is a beautiful essay, Kim, on a subject that resonates with many of us. Whether that past garden/relationship/life is pleasant to revisit or painful to think about, or even just perplexing to understand, we have to figure out what to leave and what to bring with us.

If your blog is representative of how well you're doing - you're getting better and better!


Unknown said...

Janet, that's very true... and honestly I don't think that I'd want to reach the end. What if I'd become complacent or smug? Or bored? Or boring? Eek! lol.

Pressing on is right, John. I can cringe just as much looking at current pictures, but at least they are new mistakes.

Sigrun, I try to do that too--always look forwards! And I think my new garden is better, too. :)

Snappy, thank you for the compliment. The really funny thing about your comment is that... I have never actually liked hostas! They just keep finding me--I might have to think about that a bit and figure out why!

Annie I like the way you put that: "we have to figure out what to leave and what to bring with us." Much more succint than I could manage. :) I'm glad that I didn't sound like I was wallowing, by the way--I do feel like I'm getting better. More like "me" than I've been in a long time, but better.

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