Water lilies in the pond.

Lately I’ve been thinking more about gardening, how much work I’ve put into the gardens at home, and what it will cost me emotionally to leave it.  At the Little Cunning Plan house, we have extensive gardens on our 3/4 acre property. It wasn’t always that way. When we moved in, our yard, like our house, had experienced many, many years of complete neglect. English ivy ran rampant, climbing up the big fir trees, strangling the understory. All kinds of berries with thorns wandered hither and yon, covering all the sunny areas with their weedy presence. There were no garden beds, there was no hard scape, there really wasn’t even any grass. Just rock under a thin layer of soil, and a lot of moss. The only good garden plants on the property were a very old yellow tree peony, and some very old rhododendrons. These became the backbones of the garden in several places.

Old yellow peony.

Garden wall detail.

Some people would have run screaming from this, or hired a team of designers. I saw it as a blank slate and went to work creating spaces for plants. This is one of the problems, karmic in nature I suppose, that have haunted me throughout my life. I see everything as a possibility, not really noticing how much work it’s going to be to accomplish that vision. Possibilities are great, but  I am determined to NOT do this when we buy a boat. Sure.

The old yellow rhododendrons, the backbone of the back yard. I've never been able to propagate them.

Over the last 12 years I’ve built cement walls, a pond, made fake boulders, and created cement leaves out of castings made from garden plants. We’ve put in a greenhouse, made paths, thinned growth, and spend probably thousands of dollars on plants. I don’t even want to think about that part. I’ve developed skills that I can use over and over.  I’ve also learned about the futility of believing a garden is ever ‘finished’, or that plants are going to last. The ephemeral nature of the garden can be frustrating, especially when critters are at fault for the disappearance of hundreds of special plants over the years. But in the end, it’s no use fighting moles and voles, because they were there before I was, and because when one plant leaves, it makes room for others. I’ve learned to protect the ones that really matter, and leave the others to fend for themselves. A costly lesson, to be sure.

My Lewis and Little raven head. I will not leave this behind.

Now I’m at the point where I sit back and watch the garden grow much more than I actively work the soil. I’m more likely to spend the day on the boat than spend the day in the garden. But I still love seeing what is in bloom, tending tiny plants, and helping large plants stand up straight. I have to keep myself from ordering seeds, remembering the boxes of seeds I have, neatly sorted, in the greenhouse.  I still love the garden, and it comforts me to know that whenever the boating days are over, I can do it all again. Maybe more slowly and deliberately next time.

So this page is a tribute to my garden, and the voles who make my life a living hell. They were here before me, and they’ll be here long after I’m gone. Long live the garden!

To see more photos of the garden, taken over the years, go to this link:

Beautiful rose 'Alchemist'. The voles almost took this out. One year I lost 6 rose bushes to the vole. They are pernicious and nasty little creatures with a propensity towards huge families. I now protect my special plants with gravel. Nothing gets planted without a healthy dose of sharp gravel in the soil. Try your teeth on that, nasty voles!


4 thoughts on “Garden

  1. Your garden is truly special, Melissa. Whoever inherits it is lucky indeed. But you’re right that you can do it again. Your time on the boat with Mike will ultimately be more special than any garden.

  2. What a glorious sight to behold… your garden! I too love gardening (as does my husband, Bill) and we do miss it when we are out cruising, but as you say it is there whenever we are back!

    We have just finished the first leg of our circumnavigation of the world (Victoria, BC to Auckland NZ) and working hard for the next 10 months to fill the cruising kitty in preparation for our next leg ( NZ to S. Africa). It sounds like you have some interesting sailing plans too!

    All the best and fair winds

    • Hi there! Thanks for stopping by the blog. I took a look at your blog and just love the videos! What a grand adventure you two are having. I look forward to seeing and reading about the next leg of your journey. Are you living in NZ while filling the cruising kitty? We are very interested in how people manage to earn money between legs of the trip. Seeing blogs like yours really keeps the vision alive for those of us still in the planning stage. Keep up the posting!

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