Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
“Gardens and chocolate both have
~ Edward Flaherty
The end of May in New England is marked by Memorial Day and the official start of gardening season. It means it’s safe to plant. Given the harshness of our winters we wait; knowing Mother Nature might have one last laugh up her sleeve. But garden therapy beckons.
This weekend we are preparing the garden for seeds and seedlings. There is a timeless element to a garden. The cycle repeats itself in the rhythm of the seasons. I live in Massachusetts where gardening is defined as May through September; outside of that its chance and the hope of an Indian summer. This is my favorite season, unless I count the fall, which is also my favorite season.
My husband has placed the antique sundial on its stone post, where it tracks the passage of the sun. The words “grow old along with me” circle the dial, his gift to me on our wedding day. The scent of fresh bark mulch fills the air. Hemlock and cedar mingle with newly tilled soil and compost. Spring is here.
The Visual Garden
My spring garden begins with the tiniest of things—grape hyacinth, lily of the valley and forget-me-nots. Then come daffodils, forsythia and some straggling tulips. Depending on the year, our golden chain tree may or may not produce, and lilacs fill the air with their sweet perfume. The earth offers visual proof that spring has found us.
This week the Siberian Iris have begun to open and the peonies will be right behind them, creating explosions of color. False blue indigo and wild geraniums are in full bloom. I am filling pots by the gate with a variety of nasturtiums—a favorite flower of my Dad’s.
Perennial herbs like chives, dill, thyme and oregano begin to show themselves. Each year I have more than the year before. The wind scatters their seeds and I see random patches of dill in the grass. Because it is invasive I keep mint along the far edge of the yard. Crushing a leaf between my fingers releases a calming fragrance and reminds me of mojitos – the reason I planted it! When the kids were tasked with mowing the lawn they said it smelled like toothpaste and dill pickles.
Several years ago I planted a butterfly and bee garden hoping to attract said visitors, and to lure the hummingbirds I knew were there. I use a mix of annual and perennial flowering plants including cosmos, phlox, cone flowers, bee balm, hyssop and butterfly bush. An overlapping blooming period insures there is plenty of nectar available. If you plant them, they will come.
A hummingbird feeder hangs outside the kitchen window, giving us a close-up look at this jewel-like bird. They return every year, often looking for the feeder before we have a chance to hang it. We are careful to maintain them with weekly cleaning and fresh sugar solutions that complement the other nectar sources and insects.
The Edible Garden
We have been to the garden center and selected a variety of tomato plants. Not just the reds, but heirloom purples and yellows. They are too hard to grow from seed in this region. My husband has tilled the ground and put landscape fabric down. I love to garden, I hate to weed. I have at least one early tomato and eagerly wait for the fruit. We grow enough to share. This year we are experimenting with Tabasco peppers that are destined for some pepper jelly.
Produce sold in stores is shipped thousands of miles and requires gallons of fuel to get to your table. A backyard garden saves money and gas and growing your own vegetables means you know exactly what goes into your food. You also know exactly where it comes from. A garden is Mother Nature’s therapy—it requires labor but offers tangible, fragrant and edible results.
My garden is limited to the New England growing season so it has a defined beginning and end. In these months I find therapeutic joy in the planting, caring and harvesting it requires. I compliment the flowers and vegetables with a small herb garden. Food gets its glam on with the addition of fresh basil or parsley and if you haven’t cooked with fresh rosemary and oregano you must give it a try!
A backyard garden is an excellent way to ensure bees and other pollinating insects survive and thrive. Garden vegetables like cucumber and squash have flowers that attract bees, but planting flowers and herbs will make them even happier. Don’t forget to add a source of fresh water – a bird bath with small pebbles or marbles in the bottom works really well.
The Magical Garden
A garden is a sacred space. A well-placed bench offers quiet reflection and a reminder of the delicate balance among all living things. Each of us has a relationship and responsibility to the environment and a garden is the perfect place to keep our perspective. It reminds us that everything has a purpose in our ecosystem and this planet we call home.
The attentiveness required of a gardener creates a personal relationship with soil, plants and animals, showing us how all things work together to create beauty. Sitting quietly in this beauty is enough to slow my mind and restore my soul.
I believe there is magic in a garden. I have no proof that faeries are here, but neither have I proof they are not.
“Always remember the beauty of the garden, for there is peace.”
~ Author Unknown
Related Post: Seven Things My Perennial Garden Taught Me