My First Garden

My first apartment had a tiny backyard garden that was tended to by my elderly neighbor. It was paradise: a little patch of soft grass surrounded by lush foliage and small trees. I loved it out there. I always think better outside, in the green. And it made me dream of having a garden of my own one day. 

  My dogwood this spring.

We moved into our condo (which feels more like a little cottage) last summer and it came with not one, but two private patios with French doors and plenty of earth to play with. If I couldn't have a fireplace, then French doors opening out to secret gardens would be a perfect second choice. The previous owner hadn't done much in the way of landscaping.  What was there was haphazardly planted and — my guess — was probably what had been on sale at Home Depot. I wanted to wait the season out to see what grew over the summer and fall before planting anything, and while that didn't make for a beautiful garden last year, it gave me a chance to really think about what I wanted things to look like. 

  Just arrived!  Lavenders and grasses from  High Country Gardens .

Just arrived!  Lavenders and grasses from High Country Gardens.

This is my first experience tending to plants that aren't in pots, and so far it's been working out nicely.  I love my patio gardens for what they're evolving into. I can now hang string lights in my trees!  I feed the birds (and squirrels and chipmunks), and on nice days I take my office outside to work under the umbrella.  Sherman and Miss Kid often join me.

  Sherman, my orange tabby cat.
  Miss Kid, my little old lady cat, photographed with a pot of lavender.

I've been photographing things in black and white too, which makes me happy.  Gardens are so full of color, but there's something about catching their quiet moods in monochrome.

  The Japanese maple.
  Columbine seed heads.
  Coral Bells

At first I was nervous. I'm pretty good at keeping house plants alive, but outside gardens seem like professional territory. Fortunately I remember the encouraging words of Gayla Trail, author of my favorite gardening books. She says something to the effect of “Don't worry so much. Plants want to grow." Somehow that gives me great comfort! And it's true: even the old plants I ripped out and piled in a corner for the compost bin have continued to thrive despite my complete neglect. I am impressed!

I'm finding out that - like a lot of other things in life - keeping a garden is really mostly about paying attention. I start the morning and end the day saying hello to the plants. It always amazes me when something changes!  Overnight, the hibiscus tree has an insane amount of flowers! ... the green bean seeds sprouted...  there’s a tomato nestled in the leaves that I didn’t notice before.  Best of all is picking my own fresh herbs for cooking. My fingers smell delicious all day. 

  My box of herbs.
  Lavender.
  The first cherry tomato.
  The hibiscus tree.

Sadly but inevitably, I had my first garden casualty: Sherman got hold of a shrew (I had to do some research to find out what it was... not quite a mouse, not quite a mole, not quite a vole...) and he apparently played with it too long.  I buried the little guy under the ferns in the front garden...

  Shrew in the ferns.
  Fern leaves.

I am told a garden is never finished. I suppose how can it be? It’s a living thing, and there will always be something to do, to weed out, to transplant or switch around.  I have to let go of wanting to feel "done."  It will always be a work in progress.  I have ideas for what's next but I want to give this year's plantings a chance to settle in. There's no rushing a garden, I'm already finding out, but that's becoming fine with me. 

p.s. - Did you spot Valentine (my little green bird) in one of the photos?