A Lesson From My Garden

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“The Only way to make sense out of change it to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
Alan Watts

The day I bought my house. March 23, 2010

The day I bought my house. March 23, 2010

When we moved into our home back in 2010, the gardens were minimal. In the back yard, there were 6 small garden plots set into a large patio of concrete pavers. In three of the plots were freshly planted Crepe Myrtles about fifteen feet tall. They have lovely white flowers in the summer.

April 25, 2015

April 25, 2015

Another held a red Japanese maple, and another a river birch, both about the same height as the other trees. None of them were tall enough to provide us with shade, so we added an awning to the back of the house.

I planted shrubs and flowers that needed full sun in order for them to grow and blossom. I continued to do so until last summer when I realized those sun loving plants weren’t doing so well. Over the past five years, the trees have grown so large that now our once sunny patio is a beautifully shaded garden that now has to be redesigned. And the awning? We use it on sunny days in the spring and fall when there are no leaves on the trees.

IMG_1446I began making a few changes last year when I replanted the bed where that marvelous, Japanese maple stands with shade loving plants. I moved Hellebores from the front of the house to the base of the tree, and added several kinds of ferns, hostas, and coral bells (heuchera), some with purple leaves, others with lime green leaves with reddish pink highlights. Pale blue, shade loving phlox are set off in one corner. It was gorgeous last summer, and this spring it’s back and popping with color. The plants are larger and fill the space nicely.

IMG_1457In the one bed without a tree,and receives sun most of the day, we planted strawberries. It was pretty thin last June but I did manage to pick about a dozen or so sweet, juicy berries that taste so much better than those bought in the store. And they’re organic. Over the winter those plants sent out runners in all directions and we now have a full strawberry patch. If their white flowers are a sign, they’ll fill my larder with a large crop of berries with which I may have to make some jam. That is, if I can get to them before the squirrels and birds do.

IMG_1449A few years ago, we put a raised bed in a sunny corner where I grew tomatoes, eggplant, and sweet peppers. But with several amazing farmer’s markets in the area, I can get all of the fresh summer vegetables I need without the extra work. I’ve turned it into an herb garden. In it I plant basil, parsley, sage, rosemary, chives, cilantro, and dill. Several types of thyme and oregano are tucked into a rock garden that runs below the old stone wall that separates my yard from the neighbors. It’s an area that gets both sun and shade, and most plants tend to do well there.

IMG_1450The rest of the beds are still a work in progress and this spring I’ve already begun to pull plants up, and move them to sunnier locations. In their stead I’ve planted some new hellebores in colors I didn’t already have. I also planted more heuchera, and as the season progresses and new plants continue to arrive in area nurseries, I’ll be adding more ferns, hostas, and whatever else strikes my fancy and loves shade.

heuchera or coral bells

heuchera or coral bells

During my social media sabbatical I never did get far on the weekly visual journal that I’d longed to start. Though I began filling in background for one page, I never finished it. I’ve carried my frustration into the spring, but now my longing to make visual art is sated, as I’m creating and painting my garden with plants. Gardens are constantly changing. Next year I will likely need to thin things out and continue to move my happy plants around a bit more.

I hope that the seeds, bulbs, and  roots you plant in your garden will flourish and fill your days with grace.

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
Winston Churchill


  1. I love your garden Joan! You have my favorites 🙂
    I have a birch shading the back patio and a red maple at the front.
    I’m a big fan of hostas and hellebores … my heuchera hasn’t done so well in my soil, so I tried astilbe with great success.
    Ahh … don’t you just love this time of year for pottering?

    • I sure do, Val. It’s funny that you have trouble with Heuchera. I can’t seem to grow Astilbes. I’ll send you some of my soil if you’ll send you some of yours. 🙂

  2. Joan, how very beautiful! I just love crepe myrtle and Japanese maples. Thank you for sharing your visual art. I love all your herbs. That is what I grow in my kitchen garden, because like you we have a lot of farmer’s markets around us. But cutting fresh herbs for dinner is divine…

    I thought you were going to show us a picture of your house today at the end. Hint, hint… 🙂 Beautiful home.

    Thank you for sharing your visual art. And I hope you pick up the journal again… when the time is right.

    Wishing you all the best in all your endeavors.

    • Thanks, Saloma. Freshly cut herbs are heavenly. Adding a few springs of mint, rosemary or dill added to a small bouquet of flowers brings aroma therapy into the kitchen while I add more to the meals I prepare!

  3. Beautiful, beautiful. I am not a gardener, although I deeply appreciate the visual and edible fruits of others labors!

  4. Your home and garden is a work of art evident in your broad palette of color choices. It’s a place of serenity and spiciness too, now thinking of the herb garden which looks a lot healthier than mine at the moment!

    Recently I have been writing about planting sweet potatoes at the edge of one of Daddy’s fields. We had a Japanese red maple tree too beside my childhood home and took seedlings from it before the house was sold. Lovely post, Joan!

    • Marian, Thank you. It is a place i like to spend a lot of time in, especially late in the afternoon, when I make myself a cup of tea and sit in the shade admiring the show my plants put on for me. Late summer it tends to lag a bit because by then the rain isn’t quite as bountiful unless a hurricane or tropical storm comes our way. And then it’s gorgeous again in the fall as it begins a new array of color before the deep sleep of winter.

  5. Your garden is flourishing , Joan. I agree it looks like a work of art. Thank you for sharing all this beauty!

    • You’re so welcome, Kathy. Gardens are a place I love to visit when I’m feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and generally not at the top of my game. The plants help to sooth me, bringing peacefulness. I’m so glad you liked it.

  6. My stars and garters, Joan your garden is breathtakingly beautiful. The photos alone are therapeutic, I can only imagine what being there in person must feel like — Heaven!

    • Laurie, thanks so much. The stars and garters are much appreciated and definitely add to the visual effect! 🙂 This garden provides tranquility in the creating and once the hot weather arrives and I’m done digging and planting, it provides more tranquility in the late afternoons and early evenings.

  7. Lovely garden, Joan, as a result of your work and creativity.

    • Thanks so much, Linda, for stopping by and taking a peek. I’ve been out all morning scouting out more plants and have returned with a trunkfull of treasure.

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