My perennial garden has provided a great deal of pleasure and sanity-saving for me throughout the eight years we have lived in the country. As a home-schooling, work-at-home mom, most hours in my day are tied up with school or preparing for the next day of school: grading papers, writing out assignments, and leading the kids through any corrections needed on their papers before we do it all again the next day. I squeeze freelance writing and interviews in between school sessions as deadlines approach. Evenings are often taken up with cooking our main meal for the following day and doing other necessary tasks (one must pay the bills and do laundry, unfortunately), with the hour before midnight reserved for some precious “me” time to relax and recharge, usually alone. My husband tends to be the early-to-bed, early-to-rise sort, and I have always been a night owl.
So. All that to say, while I absolutely love spending time with my family, we do see an awful lot of each other, and sometimes I need a few moments of solitude. And quiet. We exchange so many words during our school days, and all that talk, while necessary, can be wearying for all of us. I understand why my kids tend to head for their rooms when the school day is over. They need their sanctuary, just as I do. And mine is my garden.
Even if I don’t have much time to tend it once we begin our school year in late August, I still love to visit, pulling stray weeds here and there, running my hands through the ornamental grasses and breathing in the scents of faded flowers and rich soil. It still needs a lot of fine-tuning and filling in, as I knew nothing about gardening when I started and made some uneducated choices early on. (Hardiness zone–what’s that?) But it’s coming along, becoming a lovely tumble of a cottage garden brimming with plants that can survive the bitterly cold winter winds that blast across the empty fields around us.
Spring has always been my favorite time of year in the garden landscape, with its vibrant greens and brilliant blooming bulbs. It also satisfies the neat freak in me, as plants look fresh and contained, bulbs blooming just where I planted them the prior fall, no surprises.
But I have come to appreciate the soft lushness of my late summer garden. Knockout roses are in a full third bloom, despite (or perhaps because of?) being decimated by Japanese beetles six weeks ago. (I picked off the nasty bloom-eaters nearly every day for two weeks. My chickens thanked me for the crunchy treats). Tall phlox of several varieties hangs on, fresh blooms opening over older ones. While hydrangea blooms are fading to a soft, speckled pink or green, other perennials are blooming for the first time, like the leggy azure sage, with its delphinium-blue blooms and blue-green foliage; lavender-hued blue cardinal flower; pink and white varieties of Japanese anemone; and ornamental grasses, including liriope.
I also sowed some annual seeds rather late in the season, but my procrastination paid off in that I am still enjoying lemon-colored sunflowers, peppermint candy cosmos, sweet alyssum in every color, and white love-in-a-mist, all mixing with the perennials in a laid-back way.
Once, I might have neatened things up a bit, pulling and separating and deadheading. But this year, I decided to let it go, come what may. And you know what? I like it. Gardening is always gratifying, especially when a great deal of hard work, time, and patience are invested. But sometimes a little less work, a little less tending, still yields happy results.