Meandering the Garden

Welcome to the Sanctuary

January 10, 2021

Work in the garden has been sporadic for many reasons, but some things have been accomplished in pieces and parts.

The pole saw was amazing for clearing the overhanging branches causing too much shade and cutting through the overgrown back yard.

Several plants have been transplanted to the front flower beds, and autumn sewn sees made their way into the dirt with help from our daughter.

Seeds that need 60 days of cold moist stratification are in the fridge, and seeds for trees are in small pots.

A labyrinth was painted on the driveway and a multi level bird feeding platform was engineered from cinder blocks and stepping stones.

The potted arboretum has had the butterfly host trees relocated to the back yard while the bird attracting trees remain, making the area across from the “bird room” now an open aviary. Plans are afoot to move the birdbath water fountain closer to this grouping of bird attractants. Freezing temperatures make this inadvisable at the moment.

November 17, 2020

Many challenges and obstacles have been keeping us busy.

Instead of finishing up the prep on the flower beds, we have had to spend time building a trellis wall to establish our property boundary.

When I began to envision the gardens becoming a virtual sanctuary and eventually a physical one people could make appointments to visit, it was before the pandemic revealed that so many disregarded the science of transmission. An unfortunate consequence is my need to be even more vigilant than my immune suppression already made me. I could not consistently rely on others to do the right thing. My yard was meant to be a showcase for what a house on a suburban lot with 2 streets on both sides and between 2 neighboring houses could sustain in biodiversity. I wanted to be generous with what I would accomplish.

Being enclosed on one side by the neighbor’s windowless 2 story brick wall to their house, the side container garden on the terrace created with paving stones also evolved to create a sense of safe and private space where I did not need to be as vigilant of irresponsible people. Visible from the floor to ceiling windows in the kitchen and dining room means weather does not prohibit year round enjoyment of the flowers and winged visitors, but it also means my interior is visible to people in the side yard. The side yard of a private property.

The neighbors on this perfect southern exposure are selling their house.

Because our street curves, lots are divided on a diagonal making it appear from the street that the neighboring house includes our terrace garden in it’s back yard property. We do not have a fence across our driveway and the neighbor’s back yard fence stops where their house begins. 5 feet of unfenced in land gives them access to an AC unit via their back gate.

Last weekend, a landscaping crew startled and dumbfounded me because they came within feet of me with a weed whacker while I was working on the Terrace. Because this area is beside our driveway and feet away from our windows and our back door, I was in shock as to why the worker seemed to simply decide our potted arboretum was for him to cut. It felt so invasive, that for days thinking in terms of it being a sanctuary only sat in my mind like a lie.

But this is what it is about. Sometimes creating sanctuary means erecting clear boundaries. I put up a no trespassing sign just where anyone would think to use our driveway to come uninvited and unexpected around the privacy fence at the front. Hopefully they would think before assuming it was included property. I immediately began to research and design a boundary.

It is an abrupt change to the aesthetic I had been creating, but I believe I can work with the white lattice wall we are calling an arbor. I certainly have any number of vines.

If we never had things to intrude on our peace we would not have need to create sanctuary. It was a difficult lesson in reclaiming my sense of safety and privacy, but I believe I am better for having been fully aware of both the painful realizations and the transitions that needed to be made to reclaim sanctuary.

While I have made peace with the process, I am not happy with the aesthetic yet. There is so much more to move around. We have only managed two 4ft wide panels of the total 5. Things move more slowly than I would rather, but its giving me time to think about what I ultimately want.

Hopeful this weekend will see us sowing the native seeds in the newly cultivated front flower beds.

November 5, 2020

The leaves are showing signs of transition.

Cooler days, chilly nights are signaling transition.

Seasonally, metaphorically, this is the time of clearing out, clearing away. A systematic removal of all that no longer serves until all that remains is necessary. The ultimate goal is clarity that matches the blue of a cold crystal sky swept of even the wispy clouds.

In tandem with this sweeping out, this clearing, I am rearranging the side terrace container garden as I decide which plants will be happier being moved to the front gardens.

We toiled long in the front garden, ripping out non-native lyriope overgrown likely 20 years. I severely cut back the hybrid encore azaleas. Because they are beneficial non-natives I will keep them compact to provide cover for wintering. They are quite barren and ugly now but will provide early nectar in the spring.

Scheming is exciting

Stifling concern for other practicalities has detained the muse of inspiration. This is a timing I have learned the hard way not to prod. The muse demands open ended attention, free from tension.

Ideas for designing the flag that will mark the sanctuary visible from the street are like brilliant fallen leaves caught in a dancing eddy, never resting long enough to be brought into fruition. No moment has been right to entertain the muse, I must wait for the winds of distraction to settle. The empty wire frame patiently waits alongside the newly cultivated earth resonating with possibilities.

The refrigerator drawer is overflowing with wild gathered seeds

Considerations for space must include understanding of the height and width, exposure and water preferences, as well as blooming season. Planting a variety that wants drier conditions next to one that prefers wet would not allow for both of them to thrive. Along with the seeds, is the consideration for those plants I hope to propagate from cuttings or to move outright from other locations. This area will also be more exposed and cold hardiness for the perennials becomes yet another consideration on this unprotected northeastern exposure. I now have 4 pages of notations and I am no closer to what will be planted where.

Defining Sanctuary

Do you know what it feels like when someone you trust holds space for you? Do you have somewhere where you feel both protected and free?

I create physical and virtual spaces that feel welcoming and free of judgement. Safe space to be vulnerable and explore ideas, create and think deeply in contemplation and meditation or to just be.

I need these retreat spaces myself.

October 29, 2020

Hurricane Zeta, the 5th named storm to make landfall in Louisiana this year, passed 60+ miles to the East Southeast of the garden.

As the storm churned in the gulf, dreary skies and blustery wind didn’t keep the butterflies in hiding. Warm air had them busy, with no patches of sun to bathe in; seemingly restless.

Plants in wild places needed the moisture. Puddles from erratic heavy downpours having dried and temperatures still high.

The sun appeared to set early. We closed the curtains on darkness. Hours later the ethereal half-light of sun sneaking around clouds at oblique angles drew me outside.

I love the chiaroscuro effect when bright streaks of light pick and chose points of interest. The setting sun wasn’t quite up for such a dance of contrasts, but the reflection on the clouds appeared seasonally appropriate.

No filter Hurricane sky at dusk 10/28/20 Butterfly Alley

October 27, 2020

Planted along the outside of the floor to ceiling windows that peer out across the driveway at the terraced patio, giant zinnias entice butterflies and hummingbirds up close. Mei is often as entertained as her humans. Look closely. Two gulf fritillary butterflies share this pink beauty.

These photos were taken through the glass from the inside.

Flashing their silver coated designs, or reflecting the colors around them, the wings seldom appear the same from moment to moment.

Mei at her window watching
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