The Spiritual Gardener: The Garden is Speaking to You
The garden is speaking to you. Are you listening?
After about a month’s run, our cool, dry spring has now veered suddenly into a cool, wet spring, and we are having floods of rain every day this week, with short intermittent periods of mysterious damp and muffling fog.
And yet the garden goes on through its cycles. The azaleas (pictured above) are finishing, and the last to go are the simple pinks in the hedgerow and on the corner, with here and there the flares of some of their crazy scarlet cousins, still clamoring raucously for attention.
The rhododendrons are all going off just now too, adding their cool purples, mauves and creams to the general color stew of the landscape. About to bloom are the cream-colored, old-fashioned ones we have in this old garden; they are the kind you do not see much anymore, the ones with big clusters of small, finely formed flowers like cut and sewn old lace instead of the big, rather gaudy pompon flowers favored today. We have one of these in the hedgerow that is as big as a one-car garage, and it has never looked so prosperous and flourishing as it does now. Its bloom promises to be stupendous.
And speaking of the peonies, they have started their annual debutante ball, led off by the pinks and soon to be followed by the rivers of creamy whites, with here and there just a few already open. I have been cutting a few pink ones each day to bring into the house before the rain spoils them, and inside I put just three of them in a vase with eight or ten variegated hosta leaves; there they unfold quickly to their full glory and just three blooms can take over a room visually and, more easily, with their heady perfume.
In a way it is a shame to have so much rain at exactly this time of year, when the garden is just entering its most glorious period, which it sustains for about a month, and for the middle two weeks of that it is at its absolute peak, when the irises, roses and peonies are all at their height simultaneously. For us, in this garden, heaven.
In the porch bed, I have a growing colony of bold orange poppies blooming now next to a broad rivulet of bluebells and at one end of this, on a porch column, there is a deep indigo clematis; this gives the impression of a cascade of color down the porch and into the garden, where the acid orange clashes interestingly with the deep pastel pink of the nearby peonies. The white azaleas in the porch bed have now grown to a very great size, but the rain spoiled them a bit this year, and their blooming time was cut soggily short; they looked like bedraggled floats left out in the rain after the homecoming parade.
The great thing about them, totally unplanned by me, is that about half a dozen or so very hearty yellow iris blooms push up through the dazzling white cloud of azalea flowers, and the yellow iris blooms are superb with this backdrop.
The other irises are blooming well in the front yard, and I have kept a large vase of them in the kitchen, adding new stems every day and cutting off the spent blooms. Their perfume fills the kitchen as it always does, with its subtle grace. The irises in the crescent bed, in its most open and sunny part, are nearly four feet tall and are actually too tall to cut for the house, in their gigantism.
Several lupines are blooming strongly, and I love this connection with our former garden, where they came from. The columbines, also raised from seed gathered in our Colorado garden, have all come and largely gone, and were very fine this year; most of ours are maroon or purple and their colors perfectly selected themselves to go with the main colors in our crescent bed.
Of the roses, only the mauve rugosas are blooming so far. Work has been more than usually hectic lately, so much so that I come home each night exhausted and wondering how I can go on, and yet somehow one does, we all do. The alternative, not going on, is, after all, just too ghastly. The silver lining of this over-work in my daytime job is that each weekend is like a mini-vacation for me, and I have tried to maintain that feeling by not doing more work on the weekend than is absolutely necessary.
Two weekends ago, Mothers’ Day weekend, I got all the patio things up from the basement, planted the dahlias in their three big pots and vacuumed all the dirt, cobwebs and debris out of the basement. Then our son and I put on a barbecue for my wife on the patio, featuring giant prawns wrapped in bacon, and then grilled.
We have now lived here more than eight years and this house has never looked better, both inside and out. What a lot of work and love we poured into it in the last eight years; it has truly been a labor of love, very like our first house in Virginia which was also old, but this has been much bigger, much older and much more beautiful, we think.