My earliest childhood memories are of my great-grandparent's backyard. Amidst the blackberry bushes, the fig trees, the vegetable rows lined gently in East Texas soil, I entered a dreamy world of imaginary play.
Maybe I want to return to this simplicity, or maybe I want to recreate it for my daughters; either way, one of my goals this year is to start gardening.
After relative success with my flower-box herb garden, I think I’m ready to experiment with some easy-to-grow fruits and veggies in my pre-existing beds. If this does well, I might even attempt a raised garden next year. We’ll see. I’ve watched my mother (The Designer) patiently work her yard for years, even helped on occasion. Pretty much all I know about gardening, I either learned from her or from British literature.
She’s not afraid of dirt or worms or sore muscles; she works hard to nurture her plants, and every spring, she re-evaluates their status, often transplanting and rearranging in order to find the ideal combination of soil, sun, and water for each one. It’s always a process, never quite complete … but process is part of the beauty, right?
We’ve celebrated two weddings and a host of birthdays, holidays, and lazy Sunday afternoons in the yard she created. That landscape is the backdrop to much of our lives. And this teaches me a few things.
Pics from top to bottom: Brady & Mckenna's first dance; Brady & his groomsmen, including our dear friend and "brown brother," Sunday Ibok, who we lost two years ago; Aaron & Caroline's beautiful wedding ceremony; Ellie & Evy's "Alice in Wonderland" birthday party, featuring Cheshire Cat Evy.
Here are the lessons I’ve learned from the Garden:
1. Growth takes work. It takes bending, kneeling, pulling, pruning. The immediate result is often an achy back, sore knees, dirty hands, and a lot of sweat. But in the long run, it's worth it.
2. The work is continual; it requires constant tending. If you don’t stay on top of it, weeds will grow, aphids will come, soil will harden, and ultimately, your plants will die.
3. You only get out of it what you put into it. The Designer has logged hundreds of hours in her yard, and it looks like it; in contrast, I’ve logged dozens of hours in my yard, and … ahem, it looks like it too.
4. Location is important. Some plants hardly survive under certain conditions yet thrive when relocated. This is why it is essential to know when to transplant.
5. Sometimes you have to ask for help. Last week, I had to pull some roots while prepping the soil for my new garden, and a couple of them were simply too deep for me to manage, so I needed my husband’s help. I know my mother has similarly required assistance from the muscly men in our family throughout the years.
6. You need to practice patience. It has taken The Designer about 6 years to get her yard “just right,” with full, mature plants perfectly suited to her conditions. Likewise, I don’t expect the English ivy I planted yesterday to cover my fence by next week or our new blackberry bush to produce much fruit this season. But hopefully, in a few years, I will also begin reaping the fruit of my labor (pun intended :-)
7. The “fruit of your labor” blesses others. Lovely spaces foster hospitality and community. In fact, this is the cornerstone to Jordan Taylor’s design philosophy. It’s all about bringing people together. After a few days of pruning and planting, I’m already envisioning my daughters’ birthday party in our back yard, and maybe in a few years, I’ll produce enough organic fruit and veggies to share with friends and family.
What lessons have you learned from your garden? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.