Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Garden Mifwifery

I’d say over 300 people, all in sensible shoes, traipsed through my garden this weekend during the biennial Toronto Island Garden Tour. Not long after the 50th or so visitor walked up my fieldstone path in a Tilley hat and deeply cushioned soles, it became evident. Gardeners have their own way of dressing, even on a day off. Crocs, Nike, Hush Puppies and Merrill definitely trump Choo and Blahnik.

I wasn’t looking forward to the weekend. As tour weekend approached, I entered into a beehive frenzy of activity (just ask my family members), spiffing up the joint. After pulling the millionth weed, trimming hedges, sweeping cottonwood fluff off screen windows, raking every blade of grass, fighting with my pond’s pump, praying to the nature gods to make the roses bloom in time, and sweeping the sidewalk (seeping the sidewalk?), I rightfully asked myself  “Why am I doing this?”

With the time and energy I put into the garden, I could have harvested a small, developing nation’s entire coffee crop.

So why was I doing all this? The answer was simple. I love the beauty of my garden and I want other people to see it.

I carefully chose the words ‘see it’ because studiously avoiding  the words “I wanted to show the garden off.”  I don’t.

While I’m proud as can be about my garden(s), I feel more like a midwife delivering beauty than I am the creator of. Who’s really doing the work here?  I’ll tell you. It’s not only me. The main labourers are the lush and fragrant magenta roses, drifts of violet-coloured catmint winding themselves through the Solomon Seal and pink coreopsis, and the deep purple and white clematis twisting skyward on their metal spires.

Several years ago, with the help of a good friend and a moment of sheer mania, I turned a jungle-like backyard into a formal garden. I went all out, building brick and stone walkways, a cobblestone-bordered pond, stone stairs to a raised bed, and a beautiful eating area with patterned brickwork for a  harvest table to sit on. 

While this hardscape creates magnificent bones for the garden, it’s not what makes it so beautiful. The lavender borders, apple and cherry trees, climbing roses, clematis, deep green ferns and lilacs do.

One of the visitors to my garden during the tour asked me about a clematis that had just come into bloom. I didn’t know the name for her, unfortunately. But we both stood there and marveled at the delicate muted green stripe that ran through the white petals of each flower. There was something subtly extraordinary about the pattern.

“It takes my breath away,” I said to my guest, also an avid gardener.

“Me too,” she said. “Everytime I look closely at a flower, I notice how intricate the designs and patterns are. I am overwhelmed by the beauty.”

“I know,” I said. “Breathtaking, isn’t it?” I said, realizing I had just repeated myself.

As much as I loved all the compliments my garden and I garnered over the weekend, I was fully aware. My hardscapes and design are creative, beautiful, and yes, special. But they'll never be breathtaking. The Gods of Nature have a monopoloy on that.

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