On a warm, spring afternoon this is likely where you’ll find me. Somewhere amidst the peonies and the primrose, donning garden gloves with holes at the fingertips and tattered garden shoes on my feet. My wheelbarrow follows me around the yard like the dogs used to do, sitting next to me like a loyal friend. With our own two hands, my husband and I have planted every flower, bush and shrub that grows here. There’s not much to see yet this spring, but soon our perennial garden will be bursting with color and life.
This past weekend was the first time this season that I was able to get out to begin preparing it for the summer. The first job each year is to clean up all the leaves, branches and debris that cluttered the beds over the fall and winter. We pull any weeds that have already begun sprouting up (there were plenty), and split, move or remove any plants that spread into unwanted areas.
As I dug and raked I was reminded why I love this place. While it’s right out my door, the peace and quiet here feel worlds away from the noise and chaos that usually echo inside our walls. Like running, being here is therapeutic but in a very different way. Instead of loud music blaring through my headphones, nature’s music is all around me. Birds are calling to each other. This day, two Black Capped Chickadees sing their familiar mating call. “Fee Bee… Fee Bee.” At first there is just one. Then another begins to call back. In the beginning their songs are far apart in space and time, but gradually the calls get closer together. Soon they are singing simultaneously. “Sweet-ie” they seem to say. A few minutes later I can see them frolicking in the tree above me. I notice these sounds year round, but when I’m here in my garden, they are the music that literally keep me whistling while I work.
This day in my garden I came upon a freshly made Robin’s nest. She wasn’t home and neither were any eggs… yet. Don’t worry, I didn’t disturb her work. I stood for just a moment admiring her masterpiece, pleased that she was able to use some of the fountain grass I never got around to cutting back last fall. That’ll be my excuse for not doing it next fall too! How does she do it?!
Pulling up weeds I find slugs and worms, “rolly pollies” and millipedes and I am reminded of a whole other world under the earth. I hold them in my hands and study them for a bit. I wondered how this tiny little slug and his army of friends, can do so much damage to my lovely flowers. I moved him and some others to the woods. I returned my worm friends back to their dark home in the dirt, thankful for the magic they perform in my garden.
Did you know that worms help to increase the amount of air and water that gets into the soil? They break down organic matter, like leaves and grass into things that plants can use. When they eat, they leave behind castings that are a very valuable type of fertilizer. Another of God’s extraordinary creations.
As I work my way around the beds, bringing order and tidiness to what was just littered with leaves and branches, I feel a sense of accomplishment. It reminds me of the order I’d like to bring inside my home, but can’t seem to accomplish with the kids undoing each of my tasks. Not here. This is my place. Their toys may be scattered around the driveway, but other than the relentless weeds, there is no clutter here.
I know that soon these beds will be colorful and lush and I will walk down these stone paths that I placed here admiring God’s aromatic, rainbow of beauty. The pink Anemone, Bleeding Heart, and Peonies, the yellow Black-Eyed Susan and Evening Primrose, the purple Columbine, Spider Wort and Japanese Iris will each take their turn showing off their colors. I marvel at these gifts each year when they return, shaking off the bitter cold of winter, peaking up through the ground providing a beacon of hope that we’ve survived to the warmth of spring.
As I work here I remember planting many of these flowers with my children by my side. Some with them as babies watching from the stroller alongside me. Others as young children eager to help dig a hole. This is our tiny piece of this extraordinary planet, where I become one with the earth on which our home is built and the nature that surrounds it. Not only is my garden full of beautiful, vibrant flowers that we planted as a family, it is full of lovely and colorful memories that bloom again in my mind with the arrival of each new spring.