Each gardener works her ground for different reasons. Some love the physical labor and breathing the fresh outside air. Some enjoy seeing their planning on paper come to life. Some use their gardens to express their creative core and reveal themselves to others who view and enjoy the resulting beauty. Some just revel in the diverse plant world God has given us with which to work.
I am probably a little bit of each of those gardeners but most of all I am a social gardener. While it is true that most of us actually labor in our physical garden space alone, with the exception of spouses or children who are conscripted into service, there is so much “gardening” that goes on in the world around us bringing each of us into contact with others whose unique gifts, knowledge and experience enrich our lives. Enthusiasm is the catalyst for the movement of ideas among individuals who might never cross the other’s path if not for their shared passion. Enthusiasm is–by its very nature–SOCIAL.
In every city I have gardened I have made friends for whom the seed of our relationship was a shared love of our gardens. Those seeds grew to sturdy plants, blossoming into relationships that grew far beyond our gardens. I think back to my thirties and Mary C. who made many garden center trips with me trying to develop a steep, dry slope into a cottage (hillside cottage?) meadow. Her plant knowledge was far superior to mine and I learned so much from her! BFF Judi H. and I have toured, shopped, planned and planted together for more than 30 years even though we have not lived in the same city since 1997. Beautiful Mary S. introduced me to the wonders of her Southern woodland landscape and a host of plants I knew but had never grown. We traveled the back roads of Georgia to nurseries far and wide, took in classes and events at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, celebrated our successes and bemoaned our failures for a decade. Karen B., also a Georgia girl, gardens in a relaxed style we all could take lessons from–she taught me that not every garden need be weed free and groomed to be a source of pleasure to those who inhabit it. It was always a joy to drive by her home and see her in her broad brimmed hat and gloves picking blueberries or a bloom or two to fill the glass wall vases in her kitchen.
As my Central Valley garden grows in years, so have I. Now in my sixties with gardening friends in their 60s, 70s and beyond, our gardening dreams may be loftier than our knees and backs can follow through on but our enthusiasm has not waned. Ellen H. has expanded my meager knowledge of local birds and their homes in my garden. Ann D. has taught me more about trees and wildflowers than I could have hoped to learn from a book. She has a keen scientific body of knowledge and is my go-to for native plant and wildlife information. We approach with chagrin our shared inheritance of gardens not well planted nor well tended by their previous owners. We exchange knowledge, ideas and plants ‘over the fence’ just as gardeners have done for centuries.
Please enjoy a few plantings from all of my gardens which came to me over the fence from cherished gardening friends.
Parting words to gardeners ‘over the fence’ everywhere.