In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. ~Margaret Atwood
I couldn’t take it another minute, I had to get dirty. I had to make my way to the nursery, not the big box store where they wouldn’t know a frost date if you paid them, to look around… I had to venture into the greenhouse passed the sign that said STOP it’s too early to plant these to see what I could see, to smell the fertilizer and take in the rows of color.
I have to be in my garden, my tiny little piece of land with shitty soil and no sunlight, in order to fully recover from the winter. There is only so much I can do now, no tilling or turning or mulching in or pulling volunteers or dividing or sowing seed is necessary anymore. And it’s the anymore part that sometimes gets to me. Sits me down on the step to wonder what ever happened to my lovely Oaktree Garden?
This was the second time this year I became nostalgic about my once upon a garden. The first time was during an episode of Parts Unknown: Detroit with Anthony Bourdain. In all the ruin that has become Detroit there are “ghost gardens” in and around the abandoned mansions that once were manicured to perfection. And I wondered what ever happened to my lovely Oaktree Garden.
Himself mentioned once that it still comes back each year. Perhaps Sydney Eddison, Horticulture magazine, was right when he said, “Gardens are a form of autobiography.” Perhaps I, too, have left a ghost garden. That thought gives me some solace even though I believe it may have come back with a lesser vigor. It is no longer tended with the blood sweat and tears that came from the life and frame of mind that conceived it.
On that same street, right next door is another beautiful garden that I truly hope endured. My friend and fellow gardener, Harumi, could make anything grow. She was generous with her knowledge and her cuttings. I remember to this day the dew on her lady’s mantle and the lilacs and wild iris. And Benno’s vinca!!!
It occurred to me that ghost gardens are all around us, there is a tiny tulip that comes up on the other side of my porch each year, planted by someone that received it for Mother’s Day. Same with the two or three hyacinth that come up along another porch in our complex, of course I had to ask…
I wonder if Jeanette’s garden comes up on Woodside Avenue in some form or another with its rhubarb and pumpkins and gladiolas. I wonder if anything finds its way to the surface from my Grandmother’s garden on Taylor Street. The fruit trees are gone, but I’m sure the hosta and lily of the valley have remained. I hope…
I was comforted to look around my tiny little garden space to see the hosta peeking through, the redbud is about to bloom and the wild ginger has sprung back to life. There is hosta in the front, too, along with the sedum poking through and the wild geranium and columbine and sweet woodruff. I’m a bit worried about the hydrangea but worry comes with gardening…
When I move on from Stowe Lane I believe I will leave behind yet another ghost garden, somehow solace comes in knowing; we come from the earth, we return to the earth….And in between we garden.