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The Truth About Gardening
by Crystal Trojek
March 23, 2014

It was my neighbor who taught me the truth about gardening almost three years ago when we built our home next to theirs. A gracious lady from another time, the gardening rules for the botanical caretakers of this earth remain as they were in her grandmother's day. Early to bed, early to rise, she made daily inspections for weeds and pests. Keep mental notes about redesigning a certain corner. Add to the personal wish list of inanimate objects placed in our gardens for interest or used to develop a theme, or merely stir us to dream. Our gardens teach us to look forward to tomorrow, to another sunset, another season, another year, to realize that the world is constantly changing with or without us. This is truth number one: a garden is always moving, always changing.

Our gardens teach us to slow down and really look at things in our world, really listen.She and I agreed that early evening was the best time to enjoy the garden. However, I have spent some early morning hours in the garden alone (except for the company of a cat or dog) and discovered a shimmering flower that was only a bud yesterday, or enjoyed the ethereal scents of blooms before awakening rural breezes carry their fragrances away.

We traveled the seasons of flowering shrubs, the bulbs, the spring, summer and fall perennials, and gathered in our vegetables and fruits together. We sometimes stood and watched the first sprays of a sunset rise and grow, blossom and fade down into the horizon. Truth number two is to always stop, I mean stop, and enjoy your garden. For all the magical splendor of our favorite flowers in full bloom, these gifts from God do not last forever.

Stop and capture indelibly the sight of the roses in bloom, the touch of the lamb's ears, the pussy willows, drink in the smell of the hyacinth, the peony, the lilac. Wait a moment to enjoy the concert of the tiny bird who sits on the fence, head back, giving his all to an unwritten song, known or sung by no other.

Committed gardeners are sooner or later confronted with the serious gardener's dilemma: whether to enlarge the garden, or give away the excess. As the years went by, many divisions and cuttings migrated steadily into the hands of others. Surgery one summer forced the relocation of a major perennial bed across to our property. As she commented, "Close enough to enjoy but without the upkeep." The dedicated gardener lives by truth number three: give your garden away. Committed gardeners garden for the sake of gardening. They are hooked on the process of starting cuttings and seeds, dividing perennials, and always grow too many vegetables, all for the sake of passing them about the countryside. I think it has something to do with perpetuating the living, breathing, soul of the plant world on this earth.

My neighbor lost her husband of more than forty years, when the weather suddenly turned exceptionally warm for the time of year, when we should have been excitedly admiring the redbud tree, looking for signs of things to come.

Then we lost her. We were with her on a bitter night when she left to join her sweetheart (we never saw them as anything else) and our whole family is still wrestling with the loss. I think of her daily as I guard and care for the horticultural treasures she left in my charge. I'll think of her when the landscape is green again and I find her campanula, her iris, her hostas, her phlox, (I have so many remembrances) and her roses. There is one nameless, palest pink beauty, started from a cutting "by an old gentleman on Queen Street" who provided the roses for her wedding bouquet. She had a heritage garden long before it became fashionable.

I'll think of her when I'm walking in my garden at twilight, when I sit on my porch and watch the disappearing sunset, and when I hear the song sparrow. I'll hear her exclaim in wonder at the tiny rabbit found in the strawberry patch, remember her face when we admired the iris together. The now huge rambler she gave me is almost suffocated by blooms. I'll remember her laughter.

I still imagine her wandering alone in her yard, and I'll remember the best truth about gardening: gardens never die. A poem was read at her funeral, "I'm in The Next Room." I don't believe it. I hope next spring when my husband sets out the wonderful stone bird bath she left me I'll be able to admire it without fighting the tears I struggle with now. I'll know she's not just in the next room. She's in the next garden. Until I see her again, I'll hold on to what she left me.

Written in Memory of a Dear Gardening Friend

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