|My favorite flowering crabapple in full bloom in early May.|
There are so many lessons learned from the garden, and the inevitability of change is one of the major ones. Every spring I am a little sad to see the early blooms I enjoy so much fade away, and yet I know their end signals the beginning of something new as summer blooms slowly begin to take their place. I am also consoled by the knowledge that they will return again next spring and delight me once again.
Every year, too, the gardener is faced the realization that she has lost some plants, whether to disease, pests, or the harshness of winter. I lost several plants due to heaving, I think, because we had so little snow until late in the winter to protect them from the thawing/freezing cycle. My Knockout roses, which I planted before I called myself a "gardener" and brought with me to this house eleven years ago, look half-dead this year. Why? I have no idea--I mean, how can you kill a Knockout rose??
|'Brindisi' lily in previous years|
The first Asiatic lily I planted, which had grown so huge in recent years and was definitely my favorite, is also a no-show this year. I found it uprooted in the soil when I was cleaning up the garden back in early April. I suspect it may have been a victim of a vole, since Sophie caught one nearby (after digging up a huge hole to find it). I planted the pieces of bulb I could find, and I think a few little shoots are growing again. But it will be a long time before this plant will grow to be the prolific bloomer it once was, if it ever will.
Not every change in the garden is a negative one, of course. Plants grow, sometimes surpassing one's expectations. Hostas in my shade garden have continued to grow by leaps and bounds. Even after moving some to another area, the main shade garden is a jungle of green once again, to the point of taking over some of my favorite heucheras. The same is true in the lily bed, where there suddenly is room for little else.
|'Empress Wu' blooming for the first time.|
The biggest change this spring for me, however, has not been in the garden, but with my mother. During the past year, we noticed she was having trouble with balance, and we were happy when she finally relented and began using a cane. Other changes were more subtle, and it wasn't until she nearly collapsed one day and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance, that we realized just how much her health had deteriorated.
|Hollyhocks in the "wrong place," but I won't cut them down--they're a fond memory of my childhood, and the original plants came from my parents' home.|
I know that many of you have experienced the same issues with aging parents, and I am thankful that my mother has recovered enough to return home. But still it's difficult to see someone once so vibrant and always busy, whether quilting or putting up produce from her garden for the freezer, unable to do so many of the things she once enjoyed. It's hard, too, to see my father suddenly becoming the caregiver, trying to mask his worry with a brave face for my mother. At the same time, the love he has for my mother and the bond that these two have shared for nearly sixty-seven years is a true inspiration for all of us.
|I try to ignore the weeds and the plants that badly need dividing or moving here and focus on the bright red poppies.|
And so I am adjusting, too. The garden, which once was my main obsession during the spring and summer, has been relegated to a lower priority. I am letting go of the need for perfection--not that my garden was ever, ever anywhere near perfection! The weeds are growing and growing, especially with all the rain, and I try to look past them to focus on the pretty blooms instead. A few big projects I had planned for this year will just have to wait--after all, there will be another gardening season.
|A coleus, a begonia, and a few leftover Profusion daisies thrown together in a pot.|
I used to spend a lot of time planning the combinations of plants I wanted to plant in my containers. But when I found myself driving to visit my mother in the morning instead of leisurely mulling over all the plants I had purchased, I started just throwing things together in pots whether they color-coordinated or not. And you know what--I like some of these just as much as those I planned!
|The miniature Japanese garden still needs the dry garden completed and a little more tweaking, but I'll get to that one of these days.|
I have always done every chore in the garden myself, except for the occasional help from the grandchildren. But this year, I'm accepting more help. Best friend Beckie came one morning to finish planting all the containers. My granddaughter has been so busy this spring with various activities, but she came over one evening to help get the mini-Japanese garden in order once again.
She also created this simple little fairy garden in another area where nothing would grow in the rocky soil but sedums. And whenever the rain finally stops, I'm hiring my friend's two granddaughters to help me weed and mulch the garden.
|Do fairies like dogs? I don't know, but I couldn't resist this addition to the fairy garden. It's Sophie-approved and makes me smile every time I look at it.|
As I am slowly learning to accept the changes over which I have no control, I have a new-found appreciation for the constants in my life and those small moments that can bring joy.
|A little Zen time in the garden does wonders for the soul.|
Spending some time in the garden, for example, is one of the best therapies there is. After a particularly stressful few days, I took a morning to work in the shade garden. Nothing major, just a little weeding and planting. But those few hours spent digging in the dirt on a beautiful day, listening to the birdsong with my faithful canine companions supervising at my side, did wonders for my spirits.
|Ever so tiny, there's the beginning of a bloom here.|
And when it comes to constants, there is no plant that is as reliable as my beloved coneflowers. Every year they return in greater numbers, to the point that I have begun thinning them out a little. But I can't bear to pull too many, because they are so faithful, a reminder that while the world around me may change, some things will always remain the same. To me they represent the roots I have in this prairie soil, the land that my ancestors first tilled over 150 years ago. They remind me that we are caretakers of this land for our short time here, but the land will be here for future generations. Change is inevitable, but life does go on.
I'm linking this post to Beth at Plant Postings' quarterly review of Lessons Learned in the Garden.