A Garden & A Human LifespanSunday, June 05, 2011
After 25 years young trees planted in what seems only yesterday are large and some of them cast too much shade or grow close to other trees in competition.
After 25 years of collecting hostas and other plants I no longer get upset when some leave me without saying goodbye. It would seem that age not only affects people but plants, too and some have shorter life spans or simply are not good garden plants.
Some of my hostas have been done in by some plants that we have introduced to our garden as ground covers. It has taken some years not to get rid of Lamium which is invasive. Now we have discovered that Oxalis (which includes shamrocks and clovers) is a beautiful ground cover thug that encircles my hostas and strangles them until they begin to revert to their juvenile stages. If I do not remove the oxalis the hostas will get smaller and smaller and then disappear.
But I don’t get upset and I am no longer obsessed with knowing the name of every plant. The metal plant labels rust or disappear when we clean up the beds or rake them. Our garden (as it is Rosemary’s too) has ceased to be a botanical museum and it has become our life’s work for better or for worse.
It was only a couple of days ago that I spied Rosemary sitting on one of our garden benches sipping coffee with her big cat Casi-Casi by her side. This was an amazing sight as it marked one of the few times that I have noticed that Rosemary is relaxed in the garden and not worrying about how bad this bed looks or if that tree is going to die of disease.
The garden is now part of ourselves and as we get our aches and pains and find ourselves taking more pills from our breakfast tray we understand that the garden in its own way has matured and is showing its age. We are more understanding of it in the same way we compensate when we walk up the stairs or find ourselves turning off the light some evenings at 10.
A garden, like a lifespan, is not something you look back on and dwell on the mistakes and the would-have-beens. We accept what we did with or lives and we accept that the garden is what we have made it to be.
It is much too late to plant a young tree or to rip out the mature hybrid rhododendrons that came with the garden. I am jealous of our friend Pamela Frost who in the early 70s grew rhodos from seed that are now mature. Her mature rhodos are species rhododendrons that feature beautiful leaves and fragrant flowers. We have to tolerate and accept the lurid red and pink rhodos with flowers that have no scent that were in the garden that we adopted in 1986. It is much too late now but that does not mean that we cannot love the garden as it is. We have no regrets and I can still assert that Rhododendron ‘Unique’ seen here is just fine even if the scent is not there.