Tired, tattered and scrubby tufts of grass in the mottled front yard. Defiant dandelion regiments springing up in attack formation. Well-worn grass along the side of house to meet the backyard. Blocks of rectangular utilitarian cement dropped unceremoniously, slicing a path like a lumbering liner through waves of exhausted overgrown grass toward the driveway. Not a flower, not a shrub, save for the wild and crazed appearance of a parched honeysuckle that clung to the side of the back balcony as if to save itself from the sea of overrun savagery.
Such was our garden our first summer in our present home. But, I was undaunted and focused.
I walked slowly from front to back, caught up in what I knew could be. A vision unfolded before me. Springing up was a brilliant kaleidoscope of color in foliage and flower sidling up against the front balcony and under first floor windows, and a wooden fence softened with creeping flowering hydrangea and graceful tendrils. Majestic cedars would rise to frame an arbored entrance to the flag-stone pathway that would meander alongside our new house through a dizzying array of English garden blooms and scents. Mum’s lily of the valley would have to be planted along the foundation so their delicious perfume would waft into our windows in the early spring! The path would widen to a patio where wicker lounges with generous poufy upholstered cushions would invite weary travellers a moment of rest. Maybe a glass of lemonade, iced Red Zinger tea? A glass of cold, white wine? Off to our left, we’d see an enlarged balcony with potted palm trees, their frawns waltzing in the gentle breeze. A small bistro set would be nestled in the corner for the occasional intimate souper à deux. Hmm… A small pot of coral geraniums would look nice on the table, and maybe a planter or two of herbs at easy reach from the kitchen. Don’t forget to water them, and not too much!
From there would be wooden steps up to our fenced-deck where a wrought-iron table and chairs, a barbecue, and a small, warm and handsome sitting area would fill its expanse. Vibrant, lush and fragrant annuals would spill from large terra-cotta pots dotted around its surface. Strung around the large canvassed patio umbrella would be rustic outdoor lights to softly illuminate animated (very animated) conversations and easy laughter that would stretch into the slowly darkening night. Back on the field-stone patio and off to the right, peering through the two regal trees, would be my grandmother’s phlox and bearded irises, Mum’s daisies and lilies rising up in front of the protection of cedars stationed around the periphery of the small back garden. Perhaps there would be a small bird-bath with the neighborhood mummy sparrows chittering whilst washing their chicks. And around this majestic maple, what about a fun little play area where our future children could play, imagine and climb? Over here, what about a small raised vegetable and herb garden too? In front of us, the patio would end at the stairwell that would spiral down toward the driveway.
I had not the faintest idea if these plans would come to pass in the small spaces afforded me. I saw the immense potential, and it was exciting!. Inspiring. I knew that more than likely, the plans would need adjustment as more detailed surveying would take place. They did. Exposure to the sun. Shady areas. Drainage. Water source. Condition and character of the soil. Pests in the area. Lots of pests in the area. Mr.-and-Mrs.-squirrels-pests. Nest-condos in our majestic maple tree for the nourished-and-fattened-by-our neighbours pesky squirrels. Parents Richard and Isabelle, as we named them, favored the heads of our tulips, and would hide their stash of nuts in our terra-cotta pots. Their children, Harold and Emma would bury theirs under upturned roots of flowering daisies, liatris, sweet peas, and Sweet William. None of them remembered where they’d buried their treasures. All of them would frantically dig up our garden in search. The aftermath of these quests dotted our garden like beds in an emergency ward. Little inconveniences. Things reorganized and amended my plans, but plans I still had.
It would be several years until any of my vision came to be realized. Several battles with Harold and Emma, and ambulatory trips to the garden center; several under-watered and over-fertilized episodes sprinkled with seasons of outright delight at the abundant and luxurious growth.
It never did and never will stop. Planning in deliciously pleasurable perpetual motion.
This is what, I understand, many real gardeners find, and come to expect. First, they walk the lot, and based upon a myriad of conditions that they test and take note of, vision takes shape and coalesces in their mind. Planning and determination follow. The goal of nudging this patch of land into one that joyously shouts of abundance and glory begins. No terrain is beyond reach of transformation. No patch is too small. No challenge overwhelms a solution that will produce profuse and copious flourishing. Making and remaking. Planning and re-planning. Always on the move.
Our Master Gardener is in perpetual and undaunted motion as well, undeterred by any and all obstacle, and resolute in determination. He is caught up too. He is inspired not by what could be, but by what will be. He knows the plans he has for us – faint ideas they are not. But I wonder what he sees when he looks upon the garden of my soul, of my heart.
Does he sigh and see a condition beyond any hope of restoration or rejuvenation, or does he relish in the potential that hums beneath?
Does he despair at the overgrowth of the underbrush, or does he delight in the prospect of rolling up his sleeves and digging in to uproot and refresh?
Does he anger at the neglect and rebellion, the infestation of pests, and throw up his hands, abandoning all hope, or does he choose to gently tackle this little corner and then that, and so on, so that renewal slowly but surely spreads like a blossoming aromatic wave that coaxes and engulfs the whole?
Does he see me standing in front of some patches, forbidding him from entering? Dark and foreboding places? Places of profound hurt, deep shame and debilitating guilt? “No terrain is beyond reach of transformation,” he softly whispers. “Don’t be afraid. Let me in to warm it with my light and life.”
Do the alarms that sound really come from his direction, or from my very insecurities, harmful habits and attitudes where he is kneeling, bending to gently uproot, to remove and replace with confident and exuberant beauty?
Does he bulldoze his way through, or does he extend a trowel or spade toward me, and invite me into his infectious enthusiasm, to partner with him in clearing the brush and unearthing the me whose hairs he counted, and eyes he painted?
It is said that no two gardens are really truly identical just as no two gardeners are. Each garden reflects glimpses of the gardener’s natural style, and their unique personality. It is also said that a garden is amongst the only places where you could create a splendiferous world, one as you would very much like it to be.
Oh, the splendiferousness the One and Only Master Gardener would very much like for each of us, his parcels of elegant loveliness! Extravagantly and outrageously splendiferous. Triumphant in gentleness and goodness. Brimming in faith and joy. Rich in hope and peace. Brilliantly gleaming with kindness. Glistening in character and self-constraint. Gloriously exquisite in marvelous uniqueness, spilling over with his family resemblance. Exquisitely marvelous and intertwining plots of wondrous beauty trickling and spilling into his expansive, vibrant and lush carpet of flourishing in magnificent Kingdom splendor. And he will not stop until his purpose is fulfilled in me, in you, in each of us.
Will I pick up the trowel and join him?
But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!
Habakkuk 2:2-3 (Living Bible)
“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.” Luke 12:32 (Living Bible)
Soil and Seed