By the time August comes around, I am ready to take a vacation from the work of my garden, and just enjoy it. In May I might renovate a spot that has gotten a little tired or overgrown. I added a new strip of pachysandra this year in the fountain garden. The yews have grown a lot, and the grass is not happy in their shade. For better or for worse, I make decisions about what to plant in my pots, and get them planted. In June, the problems generated by the previous winter become obvious. Replacements go in the ground. 4 all but dead rhododendrons get removed. In the case of my rose garden which finally completely succumbed to the insult of two bitterly cold winters, I decided to do nothing. We not only need a new roof this fall, we need a place to shovel off the old roof.
When the weather finally warms up in July, I might start watering here and there. I do not run my sprinkler system on a regular program. I water what I think needs to be watered. I only rarely run all of the zones at once. Once the water goes on, broken heads, or a need for a change in coverage become obvious. Sprinkler repairs-July work.The seasonal pots begin to settle in, and put down roots.
Once August comes, I want to take the time to enjoy the garden. The watering and maintenance of the pots is not a chore. I enjoy that. It is a perfect way to wind down from the day. I water. I tinker with this or that leaf that needs to be removed. The maintenance of the pots is about falling in to the pleasure of a garden. I sweep up all of the maple helicopters. I make the effort to appreciate what is there, and not worry about what should be there. Fall is a much better time to make changes in a landscape. Mid seventies during the day, and upper fifties at night is not the norm for Michigan in August. Why not enjoy that? A temperate August in Michigan is a gift that should be treasured. Buck and I visit each garden every day after work. The corgis come along. This August is temperate. We are eating outdoors every night. No matter the menu, there is always Michigan grown corn and tomatoes.
Even the simplest spots that are completely familiar look good to me. Most of the plants have been there a long time, and seem happy. Those that aren’t will be dealt with some other time. Right now is for what is good about it. I feel like I am on vacation when I am home, and that seems like a good thing.
So why is my August garden vacation on my mind? I met with a client late last week who just days ago moved into a new house. The house she left was a beautiful turn of the century home on a big piece of property. She had invested an incredible amount of time in the landscape and gardens. The decision to move was a family decision. Decisions like this are made by people all the time, including those people who have a passion for, and work the garden. Most people have important obligations and commitments, and that includes gardening people.
She has only been in her new house for a few days. The property is astonishingly large. There are some old trees, and lawn as far as the eye can see. The house is almost completely obscured by overgrown shrubs. A typical suburban foundation planting had been left to its own devices. In one spot was the largest and tallest stand of Canada thistle I have ever seen. The house had not been occupied for quite some time, and that landscape had been neglected. She did tell me quite a bit about the garden she had just left. How she had planted all of the landscape and gardens herself, and how she managed to maintain it, in addition to having a job and family to look after. That discussion was about more than her loss. It was about helping me to understand what had been important to her. I did not ask her what trees, shrubs and perennials she liked. I did not ask her about color or style. I wanted to know why she called me.
She answered without hesitating. She told me she was a gardener, and not a designer. What she was looking for from me was a plan. An outline of how to go about creating a landscape and garden that would make her new house feel like a home. A way of making sense of 2.5 acres of wide open space. She knows as well as I do how much time and effort that will take. She already has a plan to remove all of the overgrown foundation plantings this fall. Her August will be very different than mine.
That said, I could sense her resolve. I could tell that she has the energy to take on a project of this size, and see it through. She is a gardener, after all. With some time and thought, I think I can provide her with a place to dig in. She is counting on me for that, and I plan to give it to her.
Her situation is not unknown to me. When I was her age, I had a new house and property. For years I did nothing to it. I was too busy getting Detroit Garden Works off the ground, and tending to my landscape practice. But there came a time when I wanted to make time for it. That was all it took. If this client wants to make time for it on day two of her possession of the new house, you can rest assured she is serious. She will make something beautiful and interesting of her property.
When I got home later that day, I was glad I had persisted over a period of years making a landscape and garden. It was, and is, worth it. On top of this, a new client whose love of the garden is a call I will do my best to answer.