By Cris Blackstone
Bet so! How about made a u-turn when you saw the actual gardener? I had admired a particular small garden, lining the sidewalk from the driveway to the front door, of a house I drive by doing errands. It’s on a main street, where the road bends, so the fact the garden had so strongly caught my attention last autumn is more remarkable. Year ‘round, two plywood 3’ tall penguins flank the steps to the front door, adding intrigue and whimsy.
On a rare foray out of our home during the Stay-at-Home orders, I saw a person, sitting down, actively gardening. I made a U-turn, grabbed my mask and yelled out the window, “I just want to let you know how much I admired your garden all last autumn – the colors were so enthralling!” Her smile was as wide as the sidewalk from the driveway to the front door was long. “Hey, Hi, let me grab my mask,” she replied, grabbing her mask from a worn in basket. We ended up talking about her color palette, (reds, oranges, yellows) and the textures the yarrow brought in which softened it all a bit. I left with several packets of zinnia seeds she saved, in carefully folded seed envelopes and labeled with her own names for the colors, since the seeds were originally gifted to her where she and her husband lived in Pennsylvania two or three houses ago.
Besides those seeds, I was reminded about how much I love alyssum – need to add it as a groundcover in an annoying area of my garden – and an Echinacea seedling she dug up for me as we spoke. Camera in hand, I also left with grasshopper photos on yarrow flowers. Moreover, I got a real treat – meeting the actual gardener I had long wondered about, and made an authentic connection over gardening. Something was glaringly missing from the conversation, though. This gardener never once ever said a word of apology about the garden. She didn’t need to remind me that it was a “work in progress,” or share apologetically “this area sure needs a lot of work.” I could clearly see what was going on, where there was a trumpet vine that didn’t get pruned last fall, or a half-finished woven twig fence around a veggie garden. She didn’t ever steer me away from the places that had last year’s hanging baskets in a pile, not planted with dreamy, draping flowering vines this year. Those phrases and apologies were not necessary. The authenticity I saw and felt from this gardener was so refreshing! Here’s wishing you a chance meeting with a gardener, and a revived appreciation of gardening with authenticity.