After a difficult winter, spring brought me a new job in a new city and a new home, complete with, for the first time in my adult life, a yard. This spring and summer have all been about building a new sanctuary in that yard, and with it finding the healing and the growth and the joy and the patience and sometimes the sadness that I needed to open this new chapter.
Phase the first, the years of neglect.
This is how the yard looked when I signed the lease in March.
Phase two, creating a blank canvas.
April 1, 2016. Moving day. Here are pictures of a garden full of weeds. The first thing I had to do when I moved in, was clear away all those weeds and till the earth.
Of course, I also brought in things to make it mine–some things from the past, some things new, and some things from the past but reinvented to feel new. I brought some of the furniture that I built in Boston and I gave it a nice thick coat of outdoor weatherproofing. I brought in new pots. I hung lanterns and lights from the balcony above to decorate the porch. I also went on an online gardening shopping spree. I ordered every plant that looked beautiful.
Phase three, shaping the yard into a path with plantings.
April 22. The first major decision that I made was to make the entire yard a garden–no grass. That meant designing a way to access the yard, so I created a path that went through it. Once I’d plotted the path, I could get planting!
Phase four, excavation and restoration.
April 30. While I was planting, I figured out that the strange ring of stones in the center of the yard was actually a garden pond that had been buried. I decided to restore it, which meant digging it out. I had no idea when I started how much digging that would entail. SO MUCH PHYSICAL LABOR. (very effective therapy) By the time I hit the bottom of the pond, the top was above my bellybutton when I stood in the deepest part.
I used the dirt and stones that I dug out of the pond to create raised beds around the path. This added some more dimension to the yard and more lines to add interest.
To get away without having any grass, I broke up a large clump of lime green sedum into smaller clumps that I spread throughout the yard as a ground cover. This also gave the yard some consistency.
Phase five, just add water.
May 7. Water, pond bacteria, plants (they look so tiny!), and after a few days, fish.
Phase six, water, weed, fall in love, repeat.
I work on my garden every day. Every day. It needs to be watered daily–twice daily during those awful 90 degree days. The weeds never end. They always come up and need to be pulled, and just when I think I’ve pulled every last one, twelve more appear. But every day something is different. A new flower has bloomed. Another one doubled in size over night. Something I planted didn’t like the summer heat and now its gone. A cat dug up something I need to fix. The water plants need to be thinned again. Oh look a nest of rosy red minnow eggs just hatched!
My garden is full of surprises. I’ve had to learn to work hard and be patient, because the payoff is delayed from the initial labor. I have to deal with disappointments. Sometimes something doesn’t grow or doesn’t turn into the flower that I wanted, but the garden is still beautiful. Growing a garden is fighting with nature a little bit–trying to control it and make it what you want–but sometimes you have to let nature win because nature knows best. Really, these are the lessons that I needed to learn this year.