I’ve been gardening obsessively ever since I moved into the stone cottage by the falls. What took me twenty years to accomplish at my old house I seem to be determined to install during one relentlessly rainy spring and summer. It’s like I want to get to where I’ve been in order to settle in.
And yet, I’m not trying to recreate my old garden in this new place. It’s different—different exposure, different microclimate, different soil. Back at my old place, it was all clay and shale. Twenty years of digging out rocks, and I still couldn’t sink a shovel without hitting one.
Here, the soil is rich and dark, like chocolate cake. Don Burlibaugh down at the Historical Society says my neighborhood used to be a swamp—“full of cougars, bears, and malaria.” Maybe so, but, it left behind a fine layer of topsoil. My next door neighbor says she used to grow tomatoes as big as pumpkins.
Every place I’ve lived, I’ve tried to grow blueberries—and failed. Here, I will try again, in acidic swamp soil. I plant my eight bushes, and hope, and compete with the birds for the occasional berry.
I have more room to play. Where my vegetable garden at my old house cowered on the east side of the house, here I have a large plot rototilled in the sunny back yard. Watermelon? Why not? Cantaloupe, too. Carrots and beets, though I’m the only one who’ll eat them. I’m trying different things.
So out goes the barberry and arborvitae, the pachysandra and English ivy. In goes the perennial border, the woodland garden, the herb garden. All the plants I love—roses, peonies, iris, Lenten rose, hydrangeas, salvia, poppies, trillium, and jack in the pulpit. And some new acquaintances—like Solomon’s seal and summersweet. I ruffle the beds with hostas and plant a climber next to the fence.
The owners of the local greenhouse smile and rub their hands together when they see me coming, knowing they can make another payment on the boat.
The physical labor is a good counterpoint to the cerebral work of writing. It frees the mind. My shovel bites into the dirt, and my mind tangles and untangles story.
“When?” my husband asks. “When can we sit on the porch and drink adult beverages?”
“Soon,” I say. “Soon.”