Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bit by bit

My first garden project was building a water garden in 2001 – pond, waterfall, rock border, stone path, and a flower garden on the berm created from the soil dug out of the pond. I worked on this water garden every night after work for several hours (I ate after dark), and every Saturday from morning until nightfall. My family was away at the time, and I wanted to surprise them.

The project took me four weeks to complete.

Today, this home of goldfish and frogs is the focal point of my backyard.

The following summer, I cleaned up an area between two spruce trees, an old garden so unkempt that the periwinkle and lilies of the valley were completely intertwined, and most spadefuls I dug out some of each. Patiently, I separated the two types of plants, placing periwinkle in boxes on the right, lilies of the valley in temporary containers on the left. It was the summer I was first diagnosed with lupus, so some evenings I had the strength to dig out and separate only two or three spadefuls. But each evening I persevered, dug and divided.

“I don’t know how you have the patience for that,” commented my husband one evening as I teased apart plants and put them in separate places, then dug up another spadeful of plants. “I would have dug all that up in one day and just bought new plants.”

“But these are perfectly good plants,” I defended. “Just neglected over the years. I don’t mind doing this a bit at a time. Besides, it would be far too expensive to buy enough lilies of the valley and periwinkle to cover the areas I have in mind for them.” I had a vision for that garden, so I persisted.

At the end of the summer, I planted the periwinkle on the right, lilies of the valley on the left, and hostas and astilbes in the center. It’s a delightful and orderly garden now. The lilies of the valley thrive in their separate area; the periwinkle grows profusely in its spot.

Every summer since 2001, I’ve tackled a new garden project. Mostly I’m bringing order to the chaos of gardens planted decades ago, then neglected. The majority of the projects are daunting at first. Putting in a new garden is far easier than making neatness out of a mess.

”As long as you do something every day, even for 10 minutes, you’re making progress,” a coworker once told me. I have recalled those words often.

This fall, I put in a new garden. It hadn’t been in my plans to do so, but when my brother, an avid gardener, died suddenly, I wanted to create a memorial garden using some of the dozens and dozens of stunning hostas from his yard. But I have not been well, so I certainly couldn’t put in a garden in a weekend, not even a small new one. So I’ve worked on it bit by bit. When weather permitted, I broke ground in front of my house. I turned over a few spadefuls of earth. Improved the soil with a bag of cow manure. Installed a stone step or two in the hill. Planted a dozen daffodil bulbs. A couple dozen crocuses. Placed a large rock by the bottom step. Carted compost from the backyard. Planted a hosta. Then another. Baby steps, not major leaps, day after day, week after week.

And now I’m done.

As I was thinking about the “baby steps” I was making on my memorial garden, I thought how this applies to teaching children. I can’t teach my child grammar in a day. Or even in a year. That task indeed is daunting. But if I teach a little every day, bit by bit, year by year, my child will learn whatever it is that I want to teach her. I must remember to have the same patience with teaching my children as I do working on my gardens.


The Koala Bear Writer said...

Wow - what a beautiful garden! I am in awe of people like you who have such talents with plants and soil. I like the lesson at the end too... bit by bit! :)

Faith said...

Thanks, but I think it's more perseverance than talent. I also read a lot of gardening books.

Alasandra said...

What a beautiful garden and what a lovely memorial to your brother.

Faith said...

Thanks for the compliment about the gardens, Alasandra, but the ones I photographed I put in a few years ago; they aren't the memorial garden. I took some construction shots of the memorial garden this fall, though. Hopefully in the spring, when over 250 bulb plants flower, I'll get some nice photos of the memorial garden. Then the hostas will come in and I'll enjoy them during the summer.

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)