For years, I’ve gardened under the shade of a neighbor’s soaring pine trees, it’s branches extending far over my patio, the grill, and my orange tree. Their dark, dense canopy obstructing the light from the flower beds below. Now, the shade, the pollen, the pine cones, the needles, and the acidic air, are all gone. The change is extraordinary. The view eastward is wide open; the early morning sky, and moonrise, are visible.
For over 40 years, we’ve enjoyed the scenery just outside our backyard; a city golf course. Now, we’re not golfers, but this picturesque course gives us plenty of enjoyment as we watch the comings and goings of the wildlife there.
My Desert Marigolds with their bright yellow flowers are growing out across the sidewalk in front of my house. These double petal daisy-like flowers, stretching out toward the sun, are a sign of spring in my Arizona garden. The heavy winter rains have given the perennials a significant boost and extended the blooming period. I watched them edging out onto the sidewalk and so I would trim them and bring them in for a bouquet in the house. I cut again and again, but finally, they were sneaking so far out onto the sidewalk, I noticed walkers kicking at them, stepping on them oblivious to their beauty.
Spring is a date on the calendar. The feeling of spring is what happens in the garden. Whenever it arrives at your door, it is a season of hope, renewal, buds swelling into blossoms, and new leaves unfurling color on the landscape. Spring summons joy in the soul. Even in this moment of COVID-19 when everything seems upside down, the garden grows, ignoring the noise and responding only to the changing light and awakening life.
I go out early in my garden and wander through slowly, looking closely at the blooms and the leaves of the plants and trees. I like to watch the light breaking on the horizon. Some days I find things. It might be a tiny feather, a broken bird egg, or a dragonfly that will hover no more. I pick them up, and over time, create my cabinet of curiosities. I like this chance to look more closely at my garden residents.
Gardens are filled with moments of happiness and heartbreak. For years our garden had a wall of lush green creeping fig (fig ivy). Just two tiny plants had grown over 20 years to create a thick, dense layer of green covering the entire west wall of the back yard. It was nearly 3’thick and rose easily 4’ above the 8’ wall. It crawled over into my neighbor’s yard where it was generally the only thing green to be found there. It blocked the neighbor’s house entirely. I loved it.
I started working early in my garden today. The sky was streaked with pink, orange and blue as the sun rose between the branches of my 40 yr. Old olive tree. Mocking birds were singing, there are so many different songs from this one incredible bird. As I wander through the pathways of the garden I find the deep purple Dutch iris and pink freesias blooming, they are such a brief bit of spring color but so worth it. There is a stand of white freesias further out by the lawn, heavy with blossoms, they need a wire frame to support them.
In this week of Thanksgiving I realize again how grateful I am for gardens. In this world of war, wild weather, and wandering refugees it is hard to see solutions to such complex problems. Yet at this very moment I am lucky enough to be able to step outside my home and walk in my garden. I have a place to sit with the people I love, where I can see the sky and be warmed by the sun. Delighted by wild canaries flying through the view, a light breeze rustles the leaves on the olive trees, and a wind chime plays a trio of notes. I have clean water for my plants and for my family.
This article appears in the September 2015 issue of Phoenix Home & Garden. It features our home garden. The copyright access to the photos expired, so I’ve added a gallery of similar images at the end. Hope you enjoy the tour.
Late last November I planted two Artichoke plants in a sunny spot in one of my new flower beds. I wanted something to grow fast and add some variety of color and shape to my view. They grew beautifully! By March their silvery-green leaves spiked up vigorously at both ends of the bed providing a framework for the smaller plants between them. The end of each symmetrical leaf was punctuated with a fine thistle tip.