Note: Every writer of a certain ilk must write at least one piece about gardening. I am of that ilk.
For years I had believed, without really thinking about it, that it’s wrong to buy a garden. You're not allowed to have a nice garden unless you do the work yourself. I don’t know the origin of this belief, though it is certainly connected to a sense of guilt about our prosperity, as well as admiration for the gardens created and tended by my friends. But when we splurged with my retirement money and built a glorious pool and deck click, we decided to go whole hog and pay for landscaping.
Bill Copenhaver, a good friend of Joe’s, was our landscaper. I drove out to his nursery and walked with him among the plants, talking about what I like, and why. I wanted native or near-native plants that, once established, don’t need a lot of attention, that tolerate a bit of cold and plenty of heat. I like curving lines, bright flowers, and plants that don’t look too tidy.
A good landscaper is an artist who paints with plants. Along with expertise in plants, Bill has an eye for space, balance and color.
With gentle persuasion over several weeks, Bill convinced me that we should dig up the so-called wildflower bed, a round area in the middle of the yard which I had left un-mowed. It was filled with wild petunias, spiderwort, Spanish needle and fleabane.
A huge red and gold lantana had grown up there, and a magnificent beauty berry. In the summer, clematis (virgin’s bower) covered them with its soft fragrant flowers.
As I list all these I begin to regret that we destroyed them. But I have more clematis farther back in the yard. We moved the lantana and beauty berry to the bed by the shed, and the other flowers will pop up abundantly at the edge of the woods, where they will not be mowed.
I’ve never had a garden that didn’t eventually wither from my neglect. Now I know my plants will thrive. Bill and his son Asa laid drip irrigation tubes in all the mulched beds. He extended them to the citrus trees in the side yard, and the anise bushes at the fence line, which will protect my neighbors from the sight of my naked swimming.
It’s hard to say whether the pool or the garden is giving me more pleasure. I see beauty everywhere I look - out our bedroom window, all around the pool, back by the shed, around the corner of the house where the citrus and herbs are growing. I walk around every morning, sniffing, deadheading, weeding, peeking at buds, looking for the tiny fruits forming.
The Florida blueberries have little berries on them, behind a pink flower. On the drift rose there are blossoms and many promising buds. The yellow jessamine are reaching up to the trees and the border grass is filling in, the dune sunflowers spreading till their tips touch. The princess plant is back from the freeze; the gaillardia burn red and orange. The grapefruit, tangelo, savannah holly and fringe trees are blooming, scenting my afternoon swim, and more lovely smells are coming: native azaleas, lavender, rosemary, and pineapple sage.
clockwise from top: drift roses, gaillardia, grapefruit, blueberries, dune sunflowers
In sixty-five years I have made many decisions, some good, some bad, .. Together, Joe and I have made three which I believe I will never regret: to marry, to adopt Amanda, and to build our pool and garden.
Note: You can reach Bill Copenhaver, owner of LanDesign Landscapes, Inc., at email@example.com
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