Wishing you courage

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow'."
- Mary Anne Radmacher

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Creating a garden, part 1

There are many exciting things happening in the new butterfly garden but I want to show how it came together to perhaps provide inspiration to anyone who would like to create a garden, memorial or otherwise, but may feel a little intimidated.

In preparing to make this little series of tutorials, I have been giving some thought to all of the different types of gardens there are and how you really don't need a lot of space, money, or a green thumb.  Plants aren't even really required in a garden!  So I've been contemplating what the intrinsic qualities of a garden are.  I think of a garden as being of or inspired by nature and purposeful.  Prompting contemplation is a good thing too and while my gardens have always provided space for contemplation while tending to or viewing them, I'm not sure that I consider that a necessary quality.  Perhaps it's just bound to happen.

Now, I'm just an amateur gardener but if I can make something even somewhat pretty out of nature-y stuff so can you! 

I suggest beginning with assessing what you have to work with.  Maybe you have a yard or access to some dirt to plant in but again those are not required.  Beautiful gardens can be made in pots, terrariums or with air plants.  Even if you have a yard you may opt to do a smaller project that will take less time to maintain; this could be a very good idea if you are struggling with grief, which can be so exhausting. Some cemeteries allow for planting at grave sites, which is a lovely way to honor the memory of your loved one and add the atmosphere of an already contemplative location.  You would just want to keep in mind how often you want to visit the cemetery to tend your garden and choosing plants that don't need much upkeep would be a good idea.


So here are some photos from several days after we moved into the new house in March when I explored the yard with the cats to see what we have to work with.  Remember the place I'm renting is in a very inexpensive area of town so fancy landscaping is not included (bars on all windows are!) but this yard is slightly quirky and charming which makes it very amenable to a whimsical garden! 

Here's the back patio, with outdoor items and stuff that hadn't yet made it into the house unceremoniously tossed from the moving truck to here and there.  I decided to put the butterfly garden by the fence at the upper right corner of the patio so it would be easily accessible.

Here's a different view of the fence and edge of the patio.  All of those vines along the fence turned out to be honeysuckle!  They have been blooming for weeks and the entire yard smells divine!

 What else did we find?  An old tire and cinder block next to an azalea bush that Sasha Kitty investigated well.

A pile of old bricks which made me squeal with delight - so much potential!

 The yard is quite weedy...

 These clumps of grass must be dug out, which has definitely slowed down progress.  This is where having some anger and passion behind what you are doing really helps!  The first time I made this garden was about 6 months after Toren died and I was going through an angry phase.  Seething.  Boiling.  Burning.  And that energy was directed towards an ugly patch of dirt that didn't really grow anything.  I stabbed the ground with spades for weeks, turning the hard clay and dirt.  I've calmed down over the past several years so digging up these weeds is pretty tiring!

So here's the first result photo.  Pretty ugly!  But it's a good way to illustrate that a garden can take a lot of work and time to become attractive.  It's really hard to see what is going on here with the fence and neighbors yard in the background but this photo represents a triumphant moment!  The main plants from the old garden are in the ground here.  The two butterfly bushes (the things that look like sticks in the dirt) had been pruned to at least half of their size so that they could be moved and what few leaves are present are wilty and sad looking.  It was a big risk to move them and on this day I didn't know if they would survive (they did though!).  The trellis with the antique metal butterfly tied on sits above two clematis vines brought over from the old garden.  The clematis plants got pretty beat up during the move so they are basically just roots with dry, broken vines attached at this point.

So at this point I had a vague idea of the shape of the garden in mind, but that's it.  Don't let a lack of a plan stop you!  Each plant of mine is carefully and purposefully placed but they are almost done one at a time rather than as part of a predetermined overall design.

Ok, that's all for tonight.  I really look forward to sharing the next set of photos.


What do you think are necessary elements for a garden? 


Here's a recommendation for music to dig up stubborn weeds to :)  Set it to repeat and grab a shovel!


Jenn said...

I think gardening is good for the grieving soul. Our butterfly garden has been such a wonderful thing to have as a tribute to Micah and also just as a place to get my hands dirty and do some grieving. I love having a part of our home that is dedicated to him, too, it makes him feel more real I guess. Your garden looks like it is coming along well, can't wait to see how it's shaping up in the coming months! xx

Alexicographer said...

This looks (potentially!) lovely and I'm really interested to see how you incorporate the different elements.

I'm not a gardener but enjoy them. I've recently decided to try again, this time with a (very) small garden using the square-foot gardening (googleable if anyone wants more info.) approach. The claim is that this significantly reduces the work involved in growing attractive/productive plants -- we'll see. The up front costs are somewhat more as it involves buying the ingredients (peat, vermiculite, and possibly compost if you don't already have some handy) to make the dirt mixture, but as the approach you are describing hasn't worked well for me I decided to give this one a try.

Catherine W said...

Hmmm I think the first result photo looks kind of beautiful actually. You can see all the work that must have gone in to it, a triumph like you say!

So glad that the butterfly bushes made it and I really hope that the clematis will recover. I love clematis. We had a lovely one here (Jersey Cream) but I still miss the one we had in our previous house, much more established and pink tinged.

Looking forward to seeing the next set of photos.

Reba said...

i love that you're rebuilding the butterfly garden! i can't wait to see more pics.