I’m not much of a gardener. Digging around in the dirt has never appealed to me, and there are about a million other things I’d rather be doing on a summer day in Colorado. Sitting half-submerged in Boulder Creek for one, reading a good book and watching kayakers float by. Hiking in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, one of the most beautiful places on earth. Swimming outside at Spruce Pool, going to the Farmer’s Market and walking the Creek Path…as I said, a million other things.
But I had a small space in front of my old house where there was a garden, so every year around the 4th of July, I would haul a couple of flats of flowers up, and spend a few hours sticking them in the ground.I’d dig shallow holes (who wants to be doing this anyway?) and shove the poor things in there, with barely enough room for their squared-off roots. Then I’d pile some mulch over the whole thing and go for a hike. When the deer ate everything, or the plants would die, I would shrug. “Life is transitory” I’d say, and go do something else.
The truth is that when it came to gardening, and other aspects of my life, I couldn’t really envision the future. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, in a “live for today” kind of family. I didn’t know how to dig deep and plan for the long term. I was an annual, rather than a perennial kind of a gal.
Then of course, came the wildfire that ate my house and destroyed my land. Afterwards, my land looked bombed-out; nothing but ashes, burned sticks, and grey desolation.
Contrary to popular belief, my land would not have recovered on its own. If I hadn’t jumped in immediately and started rehabbing it, my meadow would have become three acres of tall, sticky weeds and thorns. So all of a sudden, I had to become a gardener on a grand scale. Imagine trying to clear, and then plant two football fields of land, by hand, mostly by yourself. That’s what it was like.
I pulled weeds, tossed bags of seed, scattered bales of straw and hauled hoses and sprinklers until I was ready to drop.
Which brings me to the front of my new house, and the big empty space that was designed for a garden. Sigh.
After I moved in, I stared and stared at the empty garden, trying to envision… something. I had professional landscapers do drawings and give me estimates, but by that time I’d used all the insurance money rebuilding the house. When the lowest estimate came in at twelve thousand dollars (!) I decided I’d rather actually have furniture, so the empty garden just stayed empty. For four years.
Then, one morning in spring, I looked at my mostly-empty garden and saw something in my mind. A pattern began to emerge, a vision, a picture. Of big bushy lavender plants, and yellow cinquefoil, and creeping ice plants and blue verbena. I saw bunches of bulbs, blooming in the spring – daffodils and iris; wind chimes and a small fountain bubbling… I could see it, I could hear it. I jumped into my car before the vision faded, and excitedly bought plants, and a birdbath, and a watering system to install, and bags and bags of soil. I was enchanted with the names of the plants I was buying – Basket of Gold, Snow in Summer, Crystal River Veronica. The woman at the store said, “You’re quite the gardener!” and I just had to laugh.
When I got home I planted carefully and deeply. I laid out the drippers and sprinklers and sat the plants on the ground before I put them in, to see what it all might look like. It was like painting, like composing a photograph. It didn’t feel like drudgery, it felt like art.
Today my front garden looks like this.
It’s not spectacular, but it’s a beginning. I sit outside and look at it in the morning, admiring the feisty little survivors growing up here at 8,000 feet, and smile.
In the fall I’ll plant a little aspen tree, and surround it with lots and lots of bulbs for the spring. I can imagine the flowers emerging after the long winter — iris and daffodils and tulips and lilies — tiny shoots reaching for the sun; full of color, full of promise, full of hope.
Somehow, in spite of everything, I have learned to see into the future. Somehow, I have learned to dig deep.
Wishing You and Yours a Beautiful Summer,