There is little that moves you like going home again. You can almost be a child again – throw yourself on the terrace furniture after a fun filled day, your mother has already made you dinner, your laundry has been washed, dried and folded and your father reminds you that you forgot to take your rain coat ( which you didn’t – you simply didn’t listen). It is glorious, at least most of the time.
I love that I can still go home, not just to my parents, but to the physical place where I grew up. Home Garden is the place that made me a gardener, even though, back then, I wanted nothing to do with it. But my parents taught me anyway, through chores and punishments, nice requests and stern looks, I learned to garden. I will forever be grateful. When I stand in my own garden now, I am often reminded of situations from back then (oh my, I am becoming my mother) or things my parents used to do. Out of all of it, grew five lessons I hope to one day pass on to my son. They are vital, not only to gardening, but to life.
1. Whatever you do, do it with joy
I remember winter evenings, my mother would sit with garden books ad magazines and dream up a garden to plant. And the days they came home from the nursery with their little treasures in spring and fall. And all the smiles. They truly love to garden and feel a deep connection to their little plot of land. Of course, gardening is work. But if it is something you do out of passion and joy, it will never be a burden.
2. Focus on what is important and do it well
When I first started planting my garden, I loved buying plants and all the variety to choose from. I usually chose one of each, leading to an incredible array of random colors and sizes. It was pretty, but really a jungle. When I looked around at home garden I realized that over time, my parents had narrowed down the planting to their star performers and just a few additions. One side of their garden is essentially four plants – canna lilies, a drift of shrub roses, a butterfly bush and some allium. It looks stunning. Now I try to edit more then to add. Focusing on one plant and planting it in large drifts, often has a more profound impact then a large variety of plants. Find what works well in your garden and narrow in on those plants.
3. When things change – adjust
When I sit in the porch swing and look up at the canopy of a climbing rose, it is hard to imagine that this was once the vegetable garden. And where the raised beds are now, that used to be my play tower, swing set included. My parents garden has seen many changes. Sandboxes and grass gave way to more flower beds and a brick path, that now in higher age was expanded to a brick patio with smaller beds. The vegetable garden went away and came back with the addition of raised beds. As life moved from one phase into the next, so did the garden. Gradually mostly, but sometimes an abrupt change. Just as in life, a loss can mean an opportunity to develop. When a hedge fire nearly claimed the whole side garden, my parents took the opportunity to rethink the area destroyed, making room for some new roses and peony and a newly remodeled compost area. When change comes to your garden, adjust and see the joy in a new phase.
4. Sometimes, it is what it is
My mother always wanted astillbe. She has planted them many times, but it shall not be. So when I stand in the front yard and admire my blooming shade lovers, I toast to her and send her yet another picture. I really love peony. I have planted them many times. They grow three leaves and then they die. So when my mother sits on the patio by her peony in full bloom she thinks of me. And then she sends me another picture. Accept that sometimes it simply wont be.
5. Be patient
Nowadays we are so expectant on immediate gratification. The home renovation shows and remodel magazines have made us believe that with just a little work it can look like the Atlanta Botanical Garden. But in reality, no amount of work will ever make a new planting look like a mature garden. Even with the purchase of large plants and narrow planting distances the look can only be partially achieved. I hauled plants into the garden on a daily basis in the hopes that it would look like Home Garden, like my vision. And while it looked good it never quiet looked the same. Until one spring morning 3 years into the project, I steped outside and realized it had grown into its own. Plants, shrubs, gardens, they need time. Only patience will get us there. So much of gardening is patience – don’t be tempted to put the vegetables out too early, don’t transplant that rose before it is fully dormant, don’t plant tender annuals before Easter ( that one I fail every year). The lesson is always, be patient and it will work out.