Friendship is the invisible ally of gardens, either given freely or sought.
This weekend, a friend came by with a bright, tight bundle of French Marigolds, Tagetes patula. I know this was a special offering as she had grown them in a thick patch from seeds that another friend had given her. And so we continue an unending circle of garden stories.
Gardens have a way of attracting people – all kinds of people – green people who have plants and stories to share. I’m one of those now. It isn’t unusual in the growing season for the end of our driveway to have a series of pots or cut flowers being offered free to a growing home. Honestly, that’s the sign that I put up beside the offerings so that no one feels anxious when running away with one, two or three. Seeds are shared, plants provided, conversation ensues – often over years.
Now that I think about it, it would be hard to leave this garden as there are so many footprints of others so well rooted here. That sprawling mugo pine, Pinus mugo? The first plant we put in when we bought our home – a gift of love from my mother. I prune it back each year it’s true, but gently.
The lilacs, Syringa? Well, my gift to Pete of course so he could have sweet smelling shade to enjoy in future years. That deep purple one? A planted memory for a friend now gone.
The glossy mat of blue periwinkle, Vinca major? A spreading memory of another who was celebrating the adoption of her baby daughter. Invasive? Always risky but not here – it spreads slowly and is well managed by this gardener.
Those blue flowers scrambling up the wood support of the birdhouse, those lovely unending trumpets and heart-shaped leaves of Morning Glories, Ipomoea? Planted knowing they are loved by a friend now in the city.
Sharing could be as easy as someone coming over unbeknownst to us and planting something in on of our beds. Guerilla gardeners. Right there, beside the small pond, I now have the dark leaves of the Leopard plant, Ligularia dentata, complementing the riot of day lilies, hostas, sedum and astilbe – it blooms a bright orange in this semi-shade garden and flowers later in the season. That same friend also gifted me with a tall, stately Fairy Candle or Black Cohosh plant – a name much more interesting than Bugbane. Did either one of us know the name of the handsome plant? No, it would take another friend, a horticulturalist, who came by and casually asked if I’d smelt the wonderful perfume of my Black Snakeroot, Actaea racemosa . So much to learn!
The garden grows through the generosity of others. However, fair warning, that even friendship might go a bit too far when sharing plants that climb, clamour and root far and wide. Much like our Bugleweed, Ajuga, or as I should have known by the charming local name of Marching Soldiers, we realized after the fact that it had a rambunctious nature – but we learn.
The garden grows in spite of this pandemic year and offers up a space for repose. And the story is told that friendship and green learning is a many layered, ongoing adventure best shared both in quiet contemplation and in the company of others – leafy or otherwise.