I keep wondering how our garden back in Breckenridge is doing.
Alan and I are away for a few weeks, in Maine. Before we left Breckenridge we tidied up everything, inside and out—cleaning and vacuuming the house, mowing the lawn, weeding the flowerbeds. The daffodils were fading but the tulips were still blooming in red, pink and yellow. In the days leading up to our departure we checked the thick bunches of irises three times a day, hoping the purple blossoms would unfurl before we departed. Right before we took off, one did.
When I first moved to Breckenridge, and moved in with Alan, I didn’t even notice the flower gardens. And Alan, apparently, had not noticed them much either because the following spring the melting snow revealed three plots that were mostly messy patches of weeds.
All that changed in July of that year, after we visited gardens around homes in Frisco, Keystone and Breckenridge during the Summit County Garden Tour. In Frisco, a miniature outdoor train track ran through a forest of allium, lilies, and globe flowers. In Keystone we toured gardens surrounding grand houses filled with daisies, yarrow, black-eyed susans and flowers of every color that I never learned the names of. Up in Breckenridge, at a big, pine-shaded home, we were treated to the spectacle of thick multi-colored groves of columbine.
I was overwhelmed by the enormous variety and complicated requirements of all the different plants; Alan was energized. We began digging out our grass-and-weed invaded flowerbeds. We kept a few scraggly clumps of bachelor buttons and two poppy plants but not much else. While Alan concocted mixtures of peat moss, manure and dirt, I dug out clumps of daisies and yarrow from the backyard to be replanted into the newly prepared flowerbeds. We took multiple trips to Lowes and Neils Lunceford for fancy things like day lilies, globe flowers, and unusual colors of columbine. Neighbors shared plants that they were dividing up from their own gardens.
My birdfeeders were banished to another part of the yard, since seeds scattered by the birds were attracting ground squirrels to the flower gardens. Luke, our lazy dog, got his marching orders too. No more napping on the lawn! Time to get busy chasing chipmunks.
As the years have gone by our garden has become an on-going project, continuing to grow and evolve. What I like about having a garden is its presence in our lives, the way it pulls you outside to see what new might be happening, and to pay attention to small things: one day, in spring, as the snow begins to melt we notice that tiny delicate green leaves are miraculously spearing through the iron hard frozen dirt. And having a garden creates the opportunity for us to have a morning and evening ritual—let’s go see what might be happening in the garden! Look! Something new is coming up!—leading in a meandering way to conversations about other things going on in our lives.
Gardens also provide great metaphors. From Adam and Eve to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, we can, most of us, relate to a yearning to return to a lost, magical time, to go “Back To The Garden.” Or perhaps to purposefully take a break from the tumult of the world, and follow Voltaire’s advice. When Dr. Pangloss remarked that we live “in the best of all possible worlds,” Candide drily noted, “that is very well put, but we must cultivate our own gardens.”
For Alan and me, when we first started dating, talking about the garden was a way to talk about our future. We hoped what we were planting that summer and fall, would blossom in the years to come.
Now, on vacation in Maine, I keep thinking about our garden back home. Finally I get in touch with my neighbor Angela. “Could you stop by our house, and send me some photos of the garden?” I text her.
In the photos she sends, the lawn is now about two feet high. In the garden, bachelor buttons are bursting up everywhere, columbines have escaped the boundaries of the flowerbeds and the weeds, especially, are doing great.
It will be nice to get back to the garden and start putting things in order.
Getting Back to the Garden first ran in The Summit Daily News on July 13, 2019