This summer, I am confronted with a situation that torments the ardent gardeners among us: we are moving.
We have lived in this house for more than eight years, and although I knew that someday we would move away, I could not help but garden here. It wasn’t about the aesthetic. It was the process – the catalog browsing, the weeding, the planting, the early mornings spent hunting sawfly larvae on my roses – that I could not resist.
So I dug and hacked and cut, turned a tangle of Siberian irises into a perennial bed, and made a new bed for the irises. The next year, I moved the irises again and filled that second bed with more perennials. The irises took all this chaos with grace and good humor, and bloomed their heads off every year.
I planted two Meidiland “coral” shrub roses at the base of the staircase to hide the ugly concrete, and I added a Clematis viticella “Polish Spirit.” They all grow together happily and with a minimum of fuss, flowering from June well into October. I love the color combination of light coral and deep violet.
I started a vegetable garden and grew everything from potatoes to heirloom tomatoes. I filled in some gaps with old fashioned annuals such as larkspur and zinnia “State Fair” which I started indoors from seed. I enjoyed watching the hummingbirds and monarch butterflies browse these and the verbena bonariensis that self seeded every year. I always made sure to let some milkweed grow for the monarchs.
I made an effort to attract birds to my garden, and now I feel as if I am letting them down. The hummingbirds will probably have departed by mid-September, and so will the Baltimore and Orchard orioles that have brought their young year after year to the jelly feeder. But what will that small flock of white-throated sparrows do when they arrive sometime in October expecting to spend the winter in my yard, only to find the feeders and the birdbath gone?
I care about my plants, especially the ones that have taken a few years to come into their own. The roses and clematis will still be in flower, and might not survive if I try and move them. I will take some plants with me, but which ones I don’t exactly know yet.
This has been my little piece of habitat, created to nurture birds and plants I like. I guess the operative word is create, since like any creative endeavor, a garden is a reflection of the person who made and maintains it. When that gardener moves on, the garden is no longer hers, and ceases to look or feel the way it did before. It’s uncanny how quickly that happens.
So I will leave this creative enterprise of mine, with its birds and butterflies and the fragrant creeping thyme in the lawn. It’s a pretty safe bet that the new owner of this house will not find it relaxing to poke around in the roses at 7am, hunting for aphids and sawfly larvae. And the birds will move on. There are a couple of trees that will probably be cut down, and no one will know how wonderful it is that the monarda “Marshall’s Delight” that I salvaged from another garden and transplanted here is established and in flower.
Meanwhile, in the new place, I will begin the whole process again, because that is what gardeners do.