Thursday, May 12, 2011

Friends in My Garden

Spring is the nicest time in my shady backyard.  I love the yellow green of the new ferns, and the way the hostas and lily of the valley quickly grow, maybe as fast as corn in July.  These hardy plants grow where grass refuses to grow under the dry shade of the maple trees, which further endears them to me. But perhaps more than their hardiness and willingness to thrive despite lack of sunshine, I love them because my friend Kathy gave them to me, oh, maybe in 1992 or 1993, not long after we bought this house and decided to make a woodland garden where the thin grass used to be.

Kathy was an art teacher who lived up the block, and who used to join our little group for Friday morning breakfasts.  Little by little we got to know and like each other better, and part of that was because she had many hostas, ferns, beds of aggressive but fragrant lily of the valley, and was willing to share them with me.  We soon learned that digging in the soil was just one thing we enjoyed in common, and a friendship was born.

She and her husband Dave had a rustic cabin near Rhinelander, a simple A-frame place with no running water, an outhouse, a fire ring, set in the woods by a lake.  Heaven.  One spring she surprised me with a plastic pail of trillium taken from her property.  One or two still survive in my garden, hidden in the leaves of bluebells, but blooming to remind me of her friendship, even though she is no longer with us.

 Another neighborhood friend, Marcia, heard that I was looking for flowers that I could add to my shady beds, and she generously let me dig out a few bluebells.  Now, a couple decade later, I have drifts of the spring ephemerals, so many that I yank out fists full of volunteer plants that sneak into the grassy area where they are not welcome.  In a month they'll die back, and the area will only show Ehglish ivy and hostas, but in May the sea of blue never fails to remind me of the generosity of my neighboor friends.

All these plants are native, so they thrive despite punishing winter cold, summer heat and drought, and general neglect on my part.  Plants that aren't tough simply die out and are not replaced.  Because of their hardiness, I love to share them with other people looking for cost effective ways to landscape.  My school friends and ladies I've met since retiring have hauled away buckets of hostas, ferns, bleeding heart, buttercups, and yucca, and it makes me happy to be able to pas along the bounty.  Perhaps when they see their plants blooming they think of me, as I think of the women who have shared their bounty for my garden. 

Thin little leaves of wood fern, ribbed and toothed
By Frederick Goddard Tuckerman 1821–1873
from Sonnets, Third Series

Thin little leaves of wood fern, ribbed and toothed,
Long curved sail needles of the green pitch pine,
With common sandgrass, skirt the horizon line,
And over these the incorruptible blue!
Here let me gently lie and softly view
All world asperities, lightly touched and smoothed
As by his gracious hand, the great Bestower.
What though the year be late? some colors run
Yet through the dry, some links of melody.
Still let me be, by such, assuaged and soothed
And happier made, as when, our schoolday done,
We hunted on from flower to frosty flower,
Tattered and dim, the last red butterfly,
Or the old grasshopper molasses-mouthed.

1 comment:

JoAnn said...

What a nice post and good stories. Shared plants are the best. I had a fern garden under our trees in my last house, and it was so much fun to see them pop up and grow so fast every spring.