In my opinion, gardens should be lush, with places for fairies to hide. Yards with nothing but grass make me feel bored and hopeless. I prefer shadowy yards full of secrets, full of surprises. Full of possibilities.
I grew up in the lushest backyard, created by my mom and dad. It fed my imagination and provided my sister Kris and me with endless "ingredients" for our games. Wearing eye shadow concocted from daylily pollen, we strolled about under elephant-ear parasols and fanned ourselves with canna leaves.
My parents never had much money and our house definitely lacked for pretty things, but the yard was different, another world. It was flowery and fancy, lacy with ferns, curtained with Spanish moss, a realm of beauty and abundance.
There were so many "rooms" in the yard (separated by trees or overgrown hedges), including a riotous vegetable garden with peanuts, corn, tomatoes, and okra, and a secret garden containing my dad's prized hybrid teas. In a woodsy spot, Kris and I built a little cemetery where we buried the poor moles that our cats hunted. The cemetery was landscaped with haircap moss and protected by a delicate fence of toothpicks.
As kids we were never bored, because the yard was an inexhaustible source of entertainment, with climbing trees, a swing set, and a trampoline. There was always something to do in the yard, something to discover. You could find treasures—ripe blackberries, maybe, or wild violets or maybe a peach or a plum. The yard was like a magician's hat, seemingly bottomless; you could always pull some new delight out of it. Yes, it had rabbits. And it had box turtles and owls and even a Mississippi kite!
As an adult I've tried to re-create the yard I grew up in. In other words, I've spent a foolish amount of money on plants. For 14 years now, I've been cramming my yard here in Quincy with wild azaleas, needle palms, bluestem palmettos, and dozens and dozens of trees, and the place is finally becoming just how I want it to be—green, jungly, tangled, and wildlife-friendly.
I've created shade and secluded spots. I've set the stage for mystery. Sometimes in the morning, I'll come outside and find deer or raccoon tracks, or I'll spy a new nest or an egg, and I'll get very excited knowing that in my absence there have been secret doings, sacred rituals, that I've made a safe place for such things. My arm hair will stand on end. I'll feel as if I just missed God by a minute.
|Perle d'Or rose|