Our yard is a green canvas, thoughtfully planted in every shade of green imaginable, with flowering shrubs, graceful trees, and flowerbeds. From the deck visitors see an orderly sprawl of long lawn carefully lined with flower beds.
“This must take a lot of time,” said a guest recently. Another said, “When do you sleep?” I’m always astonished at such questions because a labor of love isn’t remarkable.
Our pie shaped one-point-six acres began as a subdivided plot in the early 1940’s, purchased by an engaged couple before he left to serve in WWII. The plot would be the couple’s site of their dream home; only he never came home and she, devastated by his death, never married. When she was seventy, she decided to sell the lot.
I think of her often, how she had wanted a family to fill their home with laughter and life, for its vibrancy to spill out into the yard, for children to chase each other and take turns at the tree swing. How she could have grown tomatoes and picked beans or filled vases with roses and peonies in May.
Instead for thirty years she had a vacant lot bush-hogged while she held onto a vision that never materialized — at least not for her. I was the one who sculpted the vision, crafted the design, photographed the playful children, laid the paths, hung the tree swing, picked the vegetables, and filled the flower vases.
Many players have had a hand in the results seen from our deck. I alone cannot claim the labor involved. My first husband played an important part with his enthusiasm for the property. We built the house. He mowed, he tilled, he dropped trees. A friend’s daughter helped me plant our first landscape. A neighbor taught me how to use a chain saw. My son cleared the last half acre of wild shrubs and trees. Cambodian refugees cleared a fence line.
And then Herb. It was a second marriage for both of us. I said I’d like a berm in which to plant perennials. All he asked was where did I want the berm? I came home to a huge pile of dirt beyond the walnut tree. “This ought to test us,” he said, as we began shoveling for days and days until indeed we had a berm. That same berm is now bordered by a flagstone path and filled with oriental lilies and peonies.
I’d like a bigger deck, I said one day. A son-in-law and Herb built a huge deck. I wished aloud for a waterfall and two miniature ponds, a greenhouse, a holly garden, a cut flower garden — these wishes slowly took shape year after year.
I wondered if we could clear the privet shrubs encroaching on our lot. I wondered if we could take out more than twenty trees one summer. “Mark and I can help,” said a daughter.
This year, we removed a gravel path we no longer needed. The grandchildren have outgrown imaginary games along garden paths. They will play frisbee on the lawn and still swing in the tree swing, as do I, but evil witches and space invaders no longer dwell behind the hydrangeas or beneath the cedars.
May has arrived, and with it, weeds. Seeds from redbuds, hackberries, and maples have bombarded the ground and taken root. Wild grapevines are shooting upward into the cedars. Bindweed clings to the hydrangea stems and dances above the false indigo.
Rain has loosened the soil. The weeds are having a party in the yard. I pull on my heavy jeans and loose t-shirt, slip into my garden shoes, and collect my garden gloves and a weeder. I will be crawling along the ground for a couple of hours while the birds entertain me and my dog follows.
I really don’t mind at all.