Saturday, September 19, 2009

September Song: Before and After

Our other house in Newport Hills is a vacation rental. We've tried this for a year and have learned so much in the process. Here's what it looked like when we first started renting it out:

And last week it got a makeover:

We went from wild abandon to low maintenance in two days:

For over sixteen years (the longest I've lived anywhere)I attempted to mold my suburban garden into the Wallingford English cottage garden of my dreams which we couldn't afford in 1993. This house was affordable for us, and had the large yard in which I could allow full scope for my imagination. The neighbors looked on indulgently as my hard work began to take shape. And then my back went out in 1994 and I had to have the third of three back surgeries. Trying to keep up with a two year old AND what was becoming a fairly high maintenance garden was beginning to look impossibly difficult.

But I stuck with it and did what I could. We planted the fruits we loved, the flowers which would survive periodic summer droughts and the shrubs that I knew would provide scent and interest in the winter. We had parties in the backyard and robins set up housekeeping in the overgrown camellias that flourished outside our bedroom windows (although the rain never reached them under the eaves they seemed to love it there). Every spring the mama robins launched their fledglings out of their nests, sitting in the nearby sycamore tree, singing "come hither" songs and keeping a vigilant eye out for our cat.

One year it was roses. The next it was hardy geraniums. Then I wanted alliums. Lilies became my passion. We had a standing order with Cedar Grove compost. My husband graciously shovelled much gravel, compost and mulch. I became known in the neighborhood as "she who is never happiest than when she has a pile of dirt in her driveway." We began running out of room.

A dear friend built us a pergola where one could sit and watch the lilies and roses grow. Soon vines of kiwi, clematis and grape overtook the structure and a shady bower was born. We put in bird baths and fountains, patio, paths and a firepit.

Every birthday, Mother's Day, Christmas holiday, and anniversary usually brought forth something for the garden. Sticks in cardboard boxes arrived from Raintree Nursery and, when planted, became grapevines, cherry trees, fig, pear, apple and crabapple trees. Usually. I ordered roses from Old Heirlooms in Oregon with names like Jude the Obscure and Abraham Darby, planting each one in honor of a friend who was ill, infirm, moved on, and in one especially sad case, died. It was Mark, the builder of our pergola.

And then we moved. None of us really wanted to, but it was time. For a number of reasons. So we held on to the house for sentiment's sake (the best kind, in my book) and thought we'd rent to families here for weddings, reunions, work--by the week, by the month...and in summer they could enjoy fresh herbs for cooking as well as a bountiful harvest of plums, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries and grapes. Strawberries in the spring. Fresh-cut flowers. Maybe the odd fig, kiwi, apple or pear.

But trying to nurture everything through a disastrous drought between tenants during what proved to be a very busy summer season turned out to be too much.

So I let things go.

The bones of the garden remain. Most of the blossoms are gone, but they'll return as they always do. A blank slate for now.


Blogalot said...

Lovely post, Robin.
You know what this means, don't you? Time to go to the nursery and pick out some new plants!

Anonymous said...

The rose you gave me when Mark died gets a little bigger every year. The beautiful deep magenta, deeply scented blooms always remind me of him and of you and your kindness.