One of my retirement goals was to get rid of the lawn in our backyard and to plant a garden. The plot of land measures about 40 feet by about 60 feet. It is more or less rectangular though I plan to cheat the eye such that rectangularity will not be the foremost impression upon first contact. That will take time. I’ll get back to you in a year or two about that.
It seems that when I tend flowers I am delighted by the possibilities and pleased at the results. Even if I crash and burn on this or that particular adventure, I greet my failures as opportunities for thought and contemplation and rethinking. My pulse settles in the low forties and I move into The Zone. When I tend my lawn, I am annoyed and disappointed at enemy weeds in an endless warfare as one green grass-like thing competes with another green grass-like thing for space in our yard. My pulse goes up and my blood pressure moves in the direction associated with that flat-line sound of bedside hospital monitors on TV.
First it was human-sized thistles. No exaggeration! When we moved in, they were so big (six, seven feet), they stood as malevolent sentries around our backyard. They dared us to have at them. I contemplated the purchase of a scythe like the one Bedstepapa had taught me to use on his New Brunswick North Forty a lifetime ago. I went to the tool rental place but they have not rented scythes in some time. Maybe ever. That was when we moved in. It took a couple of years but we campaigned against the thistles and we won. We have the scars…
Now it’s crabgrass and other annoyances which our one neighbour has been pulling from her lawn, one small patch at a time … on her knees! Each little sprig, each little annoyance, one at a time. I just shudder. When she’s out, I hide lest she find some deft way of insinuating that our lawn is inferior to hers and threatening contagion, especially where the two meet along the property line: “How come I’m doing all this hard work for the sake of our neighbourhood and your lawn looks like crap?” Arrgh!
Anyway, that’s out front. Where our lawn shares space with hers. We’ve done our best for five years. Sodded. Watered. Seeded. Watered. Resodded. Watered. All to no effect. Our front lawn mocks me. But the backyard, now that’s another story!
An adventure has begun.
Blake and I rented a truck, picked out and pick up a ton—or “tonne”; it was one of those—of flagstone and created a series of footpaths around our own North Forty. I’d traced the paths on a sheet of vintage graph paper and designed various gardens within the Garden. Then I used an opisometer in a first step to help me calculate the amount of stone we’d have to buy. And we went to work. An area for hostas here, under the conifers. Daylilies there, by the shed, on an extension of an existing bed. Wildflowers for the hummingbirds and bees over there. And somewhere, near the centre, a place for a swing for my beloved much like the one, made from the re-purposed rear bench seat of a 1954 Buick, which served the adults who invigilated the grandchildren who played naked, save for their diapers, in the occasional warm sun of St. Martins, N.B., sixty-some years ago. (I apologise for that very long sentence. It is simply what was required.)
We’re looking forward to our garden, which, for me and for now, harbours the primitive joy of my simply playing in the dirt. Moreover, I get to add water and to vary the settings on the hose nozzle. What could be more satisfying? We won’t have much to show for our efforts until spring.
Yesterday, on our way home from our more-or-less monthly visit to see Barbara’s mother in Welland, we stopped by a local nursery. We scored a bunch of marked down “clearance” daylilies and daisies, a couple of ornamental grasses and two varieties of creeping thyme. All at a fraction of their original price. I’ve been a forager in the mark-down sections of businesses (Canadian Tire etc.) disposing of plants that didn’t sell when they had flowers and are now less likely to sell given that they can no longer hint, especially without a nice picture on a tag, at what once lay in store. These will become anchor plants for the various smaller gardens but will require a considerable bit of imagination—and faith— in the near-term.
Well, the game’s afoot. I have about 20 plants to put in today. I should mention that the garden meets one additional need for me.
It’s where I hide from my neighbour.
André Lavergne — writing from a settler-descendant’s home on the traditional lands of the Neutral, Anishnaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples on the Haldimand Tract (1784).