I have been at home in my garden for over 14 months. I have been untouched by the direct loss of loved ones. I’ve not been ill. I’m vaccinated, comfortable and companionable with the love of my life sharing this experience. There are many things I haven’t liked about this forced seclusion, but my good fortune has been apparent to me.
I miss traveling to gardens, the opportunity to discover new vistas, new plants, and the stories of gardeners. Although my encore career, a grand tour of beautiful spaces, history lessons, and splendid beauty has been closed to me because of a deadly pandemic, up to this moment, my loss is minor. I have had enough food (more than), space to share, plenty of blank paper and pencils to noodle my ideas about, and foremost, a beautiful garden which I have lavished care and attention to for decades.
Now, as we tentatively consider stepping back out into the world, I sit in my garden in the early morning when the temperature is still in the low 70’s and watch a sunrise, A new view since the removal of my neighbor’s overgrown pine trees during the past year. Now I sit and watch the soft morning light fall on the blooms of Gomphrena fireworks and blue salvia. The Gomphrena flowers are a spiky shape in deep pink with tips of gold. The blue salvia spears combine perfectly with the Gomphrena—both long summer bloomers soaking up the heat and thriving.
My camera phone focuses my view as I explore the blooms, my “red bed,” where I mass a collection of red heat-tolerant perennials to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
The blanket flower (gaillardia) in two varieties has finally established itself, reseeding and spreading generously. The Hesperaloe, red dynamite variety, send out long-lasting stalks of red tubular blooms. Firecracker penstemon blooms for several weeks with red tubular flowers the hummers love. Behind this stands a sizeable red fairy duster. This mass of a singular color is my attempt to help the butterfly find the flowers.
I have a white bed of flowers near the patio, and it is filled with blooms this time of year.
The Yerba Mansa sends up stalks of white flowers for weeks and weeks. My Crinum species, spider lily is blooming. I have four grand stalks of flowers right now. These are so beautiful. I cut one to bring inside and watch it open like fireworks. My white Pentas are blooming vigorously.
These plants are generally treated as annuals, but these are at least four years old. They look a bit ratty in the winter, but I trim them back, and they reward me with nonstop flowers for months. My two Calla Lilies need to be moved as they never bloom; I think the Yerba Mansa overshadows them. If Calla Lillies are in the right growing conditions, they multiply freely, even to the point of being considered invasive! Mine are clearly not doing well. Arabian jasmine blooms here too. In the middle of this bed, I have a bubbling fountain with a small bowl on top. The birds flock here throughout the day, hummers, tiny green verdin, wild canaries, which delight me but the pigeons, grackles, and starlings get thirsty too.
Other bloomers scattered about make it easy for me to gather a small bouquet from the garden. Flowers on my table are a luxury I crave. My Mother would bring in a single flower for the table throughout the summer season. Continuing this reminds me of her and her garden.
At this moment, my garden is a jumble as our home exterior is undergoing painting. Vines, trellis, and pots have all been moved away from the walls—patio furniture is out of place, tarps and buckets stacked at the ready. But, still in the early morning, as I sit under the olive trees looking at the displaced pots, and the light begins to change, I focus on the blossoms of the day, and I am so grateful. I am here to see the beauty of my garden. I live in a quiet, peaceful neighborhood. I have a garden, and I have hope as I eagerly await the next blooms. May you have the same. Until the Traveling Gardener travels again, I wish you buckets of flowers from your garden. Wandering, wondering, and noticing for over 12 years and 900 gardens, I am eager to explore more.