I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in the garden. The combination of preparing and up-keeping and transforming and discovering offers both mental and physical space for processing the heartbreaks and chaoses of the wider world, as well as tough stuff that may never appear in a newspaper or social media site, but is personal to me and those I love.
I have found that the gardens, like long road trips, offer balance to such things… Life’s strangenesses, speed bumps, and levelers, along with its magic and miracles.
Important note: These days, the gardening tends to cost a lot less than the road trips.
So, to the flowers and plants and weeds I retreat… or advance… or just go… as often as I can.
And sometimes, along with the aforementioned ‘processing the heartbreaks balanced with celebrate the miracles’ thing, gardening is just flat out funny.
Case in point:
The other day – a gorgeous, late May day on Maine’s midcoast – I’d wheelbarrowed a dozen or so new plants to the new ‘Oudolf Bed’*. Varieties of Aruncus (goatsbeard), Digitalis (foxglove), Erengium (sea holly (love!)), and Delphinium (Delphinium) gazed up at me from their nursery pots. I gently placed them in the open spaces between existing grasses and meadow rue and master wort and Joe Pye weed and stuff (technical term). Once satisfied with the layout, I got to planting.
All but one plant was settled in the ground when I paused. The remainder was a Delphinium, called ‘Summer Skies Pacific Giant’. Growing four to six feet tall, in bloom it has these gorgeous powder blue and white flowers. I’d already planted two of them, and noticed that this last one already had a stalk of buds, two of which had begun to open. They were so pretty.
I expressed my gratitude, and welcome, to my latest freeloader (they never contribute to their room and board) and placed it in its hole. Carefully replacing and pressing down on the soil, then adding some mulch, I sat back and admired my work of the last two hours.
Which was when it happened.
Both Blaze and Belle are kind of astoundingly good, coexisting with the gardens. Neither digs big holes, and Blaze has only gifted me one plant in all the years she has been on this planet (a very nice, newly planted dwarf rhododendron that she pulled out, all in one piece, and dropped at my feet (she was very proud)).
But the other day?
The other day, Belle walked over and stood beside me as I admired the Oudolf Garden. My projection was that she was also very fond of it.
She even took a step toward it.
And then into it.
She leapt up and did a play bow.
And then she spun around, dragging her back feet over the newly planted Summer Skies Pacific Giant Delphiniums… all three of them! All three that would one day be four to six feet high with powder blue and white flowers! This day was retreating farther away with each bow and spin!
Here are the things I remember saying…
And she just bowed and spun…. bowed and spun… tongue out, excitedly inviting me to join her.
I turned around – just rotated one hundred eighty degrees on my bum – and did that thing where you block your ears and try to cover your eyes with the heels of your hands. Also, I couldn’t stop chuckling, even through my pleading whispers of, “no no no no no!”
It took a minute, but Belle stopped what she was doing to come over and investigate me. I put my arm around her, took a deep breath, and slowly turned – still on my bum – back to the garden.
I stood up.
I was stunned to see that the damage was limited to the three delphiniums. And they weren’t even totally decimated, more tipped over-ish and smooshed into the dirt.
They looked… salvageable.
Well, except for that stalk of buds I was admiring earlier.
That was broken off, and had flung itself off to the side in an attempt at self preservation.
I was gentle in my attempted reestablishment of order from chaos. When I was done, I walked back inside with the broken flower stem. Carefully snipping the bottom, I settled it into a vase with fresh water and a little faith. Then I placed it on a windowsill lit by the sun.
Sure enough, it came around.
Small miracles are often the best kind… the ones that matter in the moment, and add up over time.
For a few more days, I’ll appreciate my rescue flower stalk blooming in a small glass vase.
Beyond that, I’ll appreciate the memory of a play-inspired hound dog going bananas in a newly planted garden, dirt flying and greenery strewn about. And of me, turning away in panic (albeit laughter-infused), but turning back with hope.
I’ll take it all as a win.
Thanks for readin’ ❤️
*The new Oudolf Bed is named for Piet Oudolf, a Dutch garden designer (and author and speaker and…) whose designs are focused on perennials planted in a way to be appreciated throughout their lifecycles (e.g., big focus on interesting seed pods, pollinator/insect attraction, etc.). I love his work… a lot.
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