The Garden. A Love Story.
It’s Valentine’s Day and love stories abound.
The one between me and my garden is one of my favorites.
And like love, it has its seasons.
The spring garden is ripe with promise.
Yet, like new love, it is fragile. A time of emptiness surrenders as an opportunity for hope springs up, like the snowdrop bravely pushing itself through the snow. Or the crocus straining towards the sun. Still, the spring garden can be full of worry and concern.
Will that late cold snap kill ripening flower buds? Will the deer munch the tulips? Will the snow load prove too much for the small snowdrops? Anything too weighty, at this point in the development, could prove disastrous. So much promise, yet so much risk.
The spring garden is not unlike new love and the success of both often depends on good roots.
The summer garden is a feast for the senses.
It is a sumptuous, intoxicating buffet with beauty everywhere you look as spring’s small beginnings give way to a larger potential. Peonies flirt with our noses. Coneflowers woo all kinds of pollinators.
Hummingbirds dance between the salvia and fuschia. There are no negatives to be found in the summer garden. Not unlike the early, carefree days of love. Bad things only happen in other gardens, we smugly think.
The sheer volume of beautiful distraction can allow creeping weeds and powdery mildew to advance unnoticed.
The fall garden shows its true colors.
As the beauty of summer fades the garden reveals its character. Performers with long-lived attributes will carry the show. Summer’s flowers are replaced by beautiful foliage. The memory of fothergilla’s white summer flowers fades as I marvel at the reds, oranges and yellows on the leaves of a single plant.
The mukdenia convinces me that its time in my garden has been worth the wait as its leaves tinge burgundy. Clethra, loved by my bees in the summer, is loved by me in the fall as it turns butter yellow.
The fall garden, like a more mature love, values a beauty based on character rather than beauty based on looks.
The winter garden is real.
Deprived of flowering distractions and colorful leaves this is the heart of the garden – the “bones” of the relationship if you will. This is what is left standing when everything else fades. The winter garden will require dependable performers. Evergreens that remain faithfully green, despite freezing temperatures and buffeting snow.
Or great structure plants, like Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, that welcome the chance to show off under a dusting of snow.
A well-designed winter garden is not unlike the relationships that have gone through the years, and weathered the storms to find the roots still hold.
This Valentine’s Day I encourage you to consider falling in love with your garden. I can guarantee it will be an exciting, wonderful, enduring relationship. And you might even get roses.