When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills. – Chinese proverb
As always, my gardening life is concomitant with all other aspects of life.
It has been a season for changes. As much as one is told that change is inevitable, one is never ready. Mainly because, we don’t know what, when or, how this will come to be. So we plod along and then come to a halt when things go awry. It then stands to reason that flexibility is key. Just as the pliable bamboo is able to withstand fierce storms better than the rigid oak, our minds need to react to unforeseen events with a certain elasticity.
It began this year with my ‘checkerboard’ garden. When this garden was first designed and planted, it was spectacular. But over the years, it was not quite so and by last year, it was distinctly ratty looking. The creeping phlox ( P.subulata) was struggling. This was because the area was now shadier as the surrounding trees had grown. A suitable substitute had to be found. I decided on woodland phlox ( P. divaricata) which is often also called creeping phlox. And while I was going to rip up the old plants, it made sense to re-level the whole space which had shifted with the vagaries of chipmunks who had set up home beneath this raised area. With the pressure of Open Day just a few days away, this garden was completely overhauled. I will know next year how this rethinking has worked. I hope the new plants thrive and bloom their heads off next spring. In any case, a change in this garden was much overdue.
The vertical garden was another place needing some change. A number of ferns had not made it to spring. I don’t think it was the harsh winter that did them all in. I suspect it was the breakdown of the self-watering system when we were away last August that killed off some of them. Intense heat and no water is quite the death sentence for a fern. So while we’re still fine tuning the watering system, I decided to introduce assorted Heuchera into the fern mix. I must say, it looks quite lovely. Once again, while no one was home, the system failed and some areas of ferns look ragged if not clearly done for. But the Heuchera still look good. This vertical garden is still evolving and demands that elasticity of mind as well as a good measure of tenacity.
The aforementioned gardens are big projects but there have been a few smaller ones. Unexpectedly, this past June, I had to go to India for several weeks. Till the very last minute I took care of all the garden chores and I gave the family detailed instructions on its regular upkeep. And then I had to let go. Other business was more pressing. I tried not to fret about the garden and was reassured that chores were being done.
It was with a touch of apprehension that I returned. Although there was a great sense of joy in coming home, as soon as I stepped out of the car, I saw the brick walkway bursting with weeds. The window boxes above were gasping their last. And, the front perennial beds were in sore need of some restraint. I couldn’t even dream of seeing the rest of the garden. I’d be lying if I say I was not disheartened. Yet, I was aware of how the family had done their best to take care of matters for which I was very grateful. They’d also been busy with other things and had not quite registered my instructions with its implicit gravitas. I was proud of myself for not saying anything because I know I’d have deeply regretted it. Everybody had tried to the best of their ability. Besides, these problems were mighty fixable.
It would’ve been amazing if I could’ve come back to a pristine garden. But that would be absurd. My garden is never pristine. Even under my own watch. It really was up to my ability to go with the flow. No getting worked up. To accept and adjust to the disruption of plans and agendas. It was a simple matter of things being different from the way I do them. So thats what I did. To the betterment of all.
The walkway was weeded, the window-box plantings replaced and the perennials given a severe, summer trimming. Voilà! A neater, cared for look has emerged. I do however hold Mother Nature responsible for the way the lawn looks. Similarly, other areas of the garden are getting due attention. Meanwhile, criticisms were kept in check and feelings remain unhurt.
This spring and summer, I have learned a great deal. About myself, about those close to me and about life in general. Once again, the garden played a vital teaching role. I hope I have grown and that like the kite that rises with the wind, I too will rise with every wind of change that blows my way.
Enjoy the array of window boxes: