A Scrapbook GardenPosted on : May 23, 2013
I walk my garden from time to time making mental To-Do lists, snipping this and that, and snapping pics of flowers, pollinators, and vignettes that catch my eye. On one of those strolls several days ago it dawned on me that my garden is my scrapbook.
Scrapbooks are intended to preserve memories, and my garden does exactly that. There are plants, rocks, pieces of wood, pottery and garden art that all record a time, a place, or a person in my life. I can walk through the garden and feel the memories drift back at me, like turning pages in a scrapbook.
We bought our house from my husband’s parents when they retired. Ms. Chandler was a talented and prolific seamstress, but she was not a gardener. There were some lovely old pecan trees that towered over a St. Augustine lawn, and a scattering of paperwhites, amaryllis, and an old-fashioned shrimp plant. We moved them into beds over time and they have multiplied nicely over the years. There was a slightly sad old pear tree that didn’t get enough sun and hadn’t been pruned for many years. It took us several years to get it back in shape. Other than that, this yard was pretty much a blank palette.
A friend of ours has a small home improvement company. The work he does often entails removing plants that are in the way for repairs and expansions. From his projects came Sago Palms, Cast Iron Plants, Boxwoods, Liriope, and a variety of bulbs and perennials. Terry and I had a lot of fun rescuing plants together and transplanting them into both of our yards. My favorite orange was a housewarming gift from him nearly 20 years ago. He was one of the first pages in this scrapbook of a garden.
Over the years we have added plants from other family members – a pretty little rose-colored rain lily from my husband’s aunt’s garden, two roses from my grandmother’s garden, succulents and amaryllis from the tiny container garden my sister kept on a window ledge. I lost her way too soon, but her plants still greet me in the garden.
Crinums line my driveway, and almost all of them have a story. One is from the garden of my best friend’s parent’s home in Louisiana. Another is from the garden of my husband’s best friend and his wife. We helped them ready their garden for their son’s wedding and thinning crinums was a part of the project. That one happens to be deliciously fragrant, and every time my husband smells it he mentions “that crinum we dug up at Theo and Linda’s”.
All gardeners plan garden and nursery stops into their travels. I used to take my bicycle on our fishing trips. While the guys were out drowning bait, I would ride around the little towns looking for those little hobby nurseries under someone’s carport. There’s just no telling what you will find there. These plants are just as much a memento of those trips as the shells from the shell shop or the fishing stories the guys tell when we get together for dinner.
My friends are all gardeners – birds of a feather, you know. We have had some of the best times getting together and “nursery hopping”. These are little day-trip adventures when we visit one or more independent nurseries looking for unique things. They often include a little antiquing, a chatty lunch, and lots of sistership. I can look around the garden and see so many things that are snapshots of those wonderful, wonderful days.
All over this garden are plants that were gifted or shared by friends, propagated or traded at classes, collected in travels, picked up at Master Gardener and garden club sales, or found on the doorstep left by a friendly neighbor. No carefully trimmed photographs, no pretty snippets of ribbon, no ticket stubs, no greeting cards, no clever titles or thought bubbles. This scrapbook is alive and teeming with memories.
Some of my favorite things in the garden are things my husband has collected for me over the years; rocks shaped like hearts that he brought me for Valentine’s Day one year after he spent a week helping a friend build a camp in West Texas, rusty old things he knew I would love for garden art, twisted old stumps and driftwood, old gates and wire panels he knew I would love for trellises. These are my favorite pages in the scrapbook.
We built this little garden together – me, the plant lover, he the patient helpmate. We have made so many memories in this humble little space that I would never be able to keep them in a paper scrapbook. Only the garden could hold them all.
Written by Angela Chandler
Angela Chandler is a lifelong gardener with a passion for learning and teaching. She tends a ½ acre garden in Highlands, Texas that includes ornamentals, fruits, a small experimental nursery, a flock of Buff Orpington chickens, and a Lab mix named Harley. Her gardening adventures would not be possible without her husband, Fred – always willing to help unload leaves, compost and help build beds. Angela is a member of the Harris County Master Gardener Association – Retired, and a member of the Garden Writer’s Association.