Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sculpting Space

Some days seem longer than others and today's heat and humidity made my busy day much longer. I was running on my last cyclinder when I pulled into the driveway but the sight of all the flowers gave immediate relief and rejuvenation . There's something about this burst of color that awakens me and makes me want to get back to a project, take a stroll journey along the walkways, or smell a flower fragrance.

After a left-over sandwich from the garden crew and a glass of iced tea, I was ready to get back to the new shade house project. I was making progress but it had already left my hands a mess with cuts and blisters. ...and my back was sending strange messages to my legs. I never liked standing on ladders much and this project has had many necessary ups and downs.

Before I could grab my tool bag and get going, a car drove in. The Delaware license plate suggested a tourist but recently we've met lots of new customers who have bought second homes in the area so my guess could be off I thought. The couple exited their car and stood in awe of the color..... speechless, calm, smelling the fragrances of the Oriental lilies while taking in the rows of flowers in various stages of display.

"This is heaven for sure!", the woman pronounced strongly. "What inspires you to design such beauty?" she asked quickly. My mind raced for an answer but only could arrive at a personal judgment question of "Why at 5 PM do I still have to answer questions?" I didn't verbalize the thought but it struck me that I was justified.

Almost without knowing it, I moved into an answer, part philosophy, part horticulture, as the couple drew closer, genuinely interested in the answer about how our gardens came to be. I told them that I always enjoyed sculpture and that I thought our gardens are a manner of sculpturing our land and air space. I expressed that we enjoyed not only the colors of our flowers but the complementary heights and textures of the foliage. I said that we liked to make places to daydream and places with magic where hummingbirds can fly and feed. I meant what I said but that seemed not to satisfy my visitors. I invited them to walk the gardens as if they were theirs and see if a walk heightened their understanding of how I felt. I explained the layout and invited them to meet me at the shade house if they had questions. We parted.

The land tapers where we began installing a new shade house for sun protection for the end of the hosta row. It's a 20 foot wide by 30 foot long metal pole structure which should have a 50% shade cloth cover by Saturday morning. The slope of the land means it's 7.5 feet tall at one end but almost 9 feet at the opposite end where overflow cars park on busy weekends. I climbed the ladder and began finalizing the support arms. I had picked the largest manufacturer in New England for this product and it seemed that along with an absurd purchase price came some painful blood blisters from trying to force pieces to fit before they were sanded smooth and greased.

The view from the ladder put me five feet above normal and I noticed things I might have walked by. The Cimicifugas, renamed Acteas, looked special today. Gail had planted a 'Brunette' and a 'Pink Spires' next to an antique planter she found in St Johnsbury last year. Three different astilbes and a couple daylilies at the base of the planter solidified the small but colorful vignette. Beyond the fence a single pink Martagon lily stood five feet tall, rising from the middle of a cloud of pink astilbe plumes from 'Strassenfederer', my favorite. The view was spectacular in all directions.

I worked along until I had completed the initial installation of 22 supports. By then I was too tired to make the final adjustments but I had a sense that I had come a step closer to completing a big project. When you're tired your senses don't always register when they should and I was unaware my visitors from Deleware were standing by the ladder watching me catch my breath.

Gretchen and Tom introduced themselves and said they had made an offer on a farm house in Danville and they were certain their bid would be accepted. They'd know by morning if not sooner. Tom, who had barely spoken, said that they were exceedingly impressed by the tranquility of the lower shade garden and struck by the colors they saw everywhere. As I thanked him for his kind words, he continued that we would be seeing them in the future when they were ready to begin their gardens. They seemed to want to be certain I understood the importance of their decision.

I thanked them for their confidence in us after such a brief introduction. We shook hands and they headed for the car. "Bear left until you come to an old piece of blacktop and a heck of a mess someone made clear cutting", I said. "Go right, up to the top of the hill where you'll meet Route 2. Go right there and on into Danville." They smiled. "If you get lost, we'll have supper in an hour. Leftovers". They both laughed.

All gardens are good gardens, each with a special purpose. We want our gardens to represent the way we care for our friends and our surroundings...and we think they do just that. If you're out and about tomorrow like Gretchen and Tom, stop by and see if our gardens give you a sense of discovery. Our guess is they will.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond, where a big moth is trying to melt through the screen and get to my desk lamp,

Gardening wishes,

George Africa

1 comment:

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