Contemplating yesterday how best to proceed with my garden renovation started last year, it dawned on me how much my garden resembles my attic.
A recent attic cleanup effort resulted in many donations and a few trips to the dump–hard work and satisfying. Now someone else can enjoy the colorful elephant and 3D puzzle.
Despite the improvement the attic remains filled with a large number of items that simply entered my life at some point. For whatever reasons they were introduced, collected, saved and are now still a part of my life.
Like the lathe-turned rocking chair, built more than fifty years ago by my carpenter craftsman grandfather, some attic treasures are cherished as a way to remember my family. These items are part of my childhood, my heritage, and I hope one day someone close will want them. There is always enough room in the attic to keep these treasures.
Other things in the attic are oh so very useful, such as the large blue-speckled enameled canning pot I bring out to make watermelon pickles. Never mind it has been more than eight years since the last batch of pickles emerged from a steamy water bath in that porcelain pot. I still embrace the idea this canner still could be called upon any day.
Then there is the other stuff. Some of this stuff is not valuable, like old papers no one else would care about–too boring to look through, but possibly too important to simply discard. There definitely is good stuff too though: photographs, extra Christmas ornaments in perfect condition; numerous books (classics); musical instruments; many useful things maybe someone might want.
So, after this recent, frenzied cleanup effort, the attic still needs attention and organization, and thus it is with my garden.
In the past year I have added a juniper shrub hedge, a meditation circle with a labyrinth and a picket fence around the entirety. I have enjoyed gardening more than ever, weeding, trimming, planting and delighting in the cycles that take blossoms from newly opened toward waning. The garden has some beautiful moments.
Yet, looking out on this wintry day my 10 year-old garden feels like an attic, a quarter-acre room filled with perennials that fondly became part of my life at some point. As I think about plant height, size when mature, color combinations, texture, light requirements, it hits me that I am working with a garden attic full of treasures and stuff.
Just as my grandfather’s rocking chair sits in my attic, sitting in perennial beds are various plants made dear because they were shared with me by relatives and friends. As they bloom each year I am reminded of these special gardeners and the garden seems even more special. Among the treasures are
woodland phlox, an old-fashioned rose, tradescantia and sweet pea, rose campion, dusty miller, columbine–these pass-along plants formed the beginning of my very first garden. They were the first couple of boxes in the garden attic. I love them and can always find reasons to keep them.
Other things in the garden are useful plants I want to keep where they are for the time being. (Remember, I just do not want to make those pickles right now.) Some plants that are reliable through periods of drought or heavy rain or severe cold or those that manage to bloom when it is 100 degrees for 5 days in a row, those plants fulfill a purpose in the garden. It would not make sense to get rid of those or disturb them until there is a good design plan in place to replace them. And so, year after year the lamb’s ear keeps spreading, the daylilies attract deer, the ‘Blue sky’ salvia crowds and intertwines with everything; however, again this year, the garden might need some reliable bloomers, some things to fill up an empty space here and there–better hang on to these for now. So the boxes keep accumulating in the garden attic.
Then there is the other stuff, mostly good stuff too that just needs so much sorting out.
Plants like irises, pink yarrow, tansy, canna and others need to be dug and divided, replanted, relocated. I never seem to get around to it, but when I do, these will yield leftovers to be donated, useful plants maybe someone might want.
The garden has evolved over time and filled up with treasures. Now it needs a strong design plan, it needs structure and discipline. What a great time this would be to organize a serious cleanup in the garden attic. If I do not make some ruthless decisions now, once the spring flowers start blooming I simply will not have the heart to even think about it until next winter.