One of the best things about moving into an established old home is inheriting the previous occupant’s garden. I say best because no matter what the state of it, taking possession of a novel garden gives the opportunity to work with what’s been left behind and make it your own. Sometimes this may mean a complete overhaul, or at other times, starting from scratch with an empty slate. Either way, there are always surprises in store for a new owner, and the garden that came with our current home has surprises aplenty.
The day we moved in and surveyed the perimeter, it was obvious that the elderly woman who had lived here for more than 40 years, certainly loved her garden. Despite the property being vacant for two years and most of the flower beds gone wild with wheat grass and weeds, the bones and structure of the yards implied thoughtful planning and an extraordinary love of roses and bulbs.
Digging up the thistle and compacted scrub was a long and difficult task…
Although it pained us, our first job was to pull out the dense and diseased rose bushes along the front boundary. A painful yet necessary removal to save and repair the fencing that was being choked by gnarls of thorned branches invading its space. Digging up the thistle and compacted scrub was a long and difficult task, but once we started, we were determined to keep going until the canvas was cleared and we could survey what we actually had to work with.
By the end of the week, we had cut back unkempt but salvageable trees and shrubs, removed all the undergrowth choking hidden plants and other flora, and filled and transported seven trailer loads of green waste to the local tip. Except for those that were destroying the fence, we managed to save most of the remaining rose bushes, and those we couldn’t keep, we took cuttings for transplanting and hoped for the best. To our amazement, we also unearthed thousands of bulbs of unknown species. Large clumps of delicate tubers were found under every tree, in every bed, and along each boundary fence in both the front and rear yards. Unfortunately, in his haste to clean up two years of overgrowth, my husband did not always recognise what he was digging up and invariably many priceless (and no doubt heirloom) bulbs were chucked in the trailer and carted away.
Not only were we the new kids on the block, we were now “that couple who destroyed Jan’s Garden.”
At first, I was aghast at the thought of losing such priceless treasure, only later to laugh at the thought of a glorious bloom on top of the garbage dump come Spring. But I needn’t have worried. What’s happening right now in every corner of the property is testament that far more bulbs remain unearthed. As the days become warmer, dozens upon dozens of green buds are popping up everywhere. I have no idea what they all are, but a knowing neighbour thinks they are mostly hyacinth, a favourite of the woman whose garden we have completely overhauled. This being the same neighbour who practically cried when she saw what we had done to “Jan’s roses.” Awkwardly, we tried to explain the threat to the fence, but to no avail. “Jan had the best garden in the whole town, she loved her roses.” Not only were we the new kids on the block, we were now “that couple who destroyed Jan’s Garden.”
Surveying our yard now, I would like to think that Jan might be happy with what we have achieved and all the hard work to bring her Eden back to life. Yes, some things have changed, but the bones and structure have remained the same with only a few added enhancements to showcase its former glory. Like the meandering low ditch framing the main garden bed at the front, now undulating with river rock to accent its curves. Or the old bird house we repaired and freshly painted, so that once again it stands proud waiting for a willy wag-tail or sparrow to nest.
In my heart, I hope that Jan would see how the removal of years of abandonment has given her glorious Spring flowers the room to sprout in full view of the sun and every man, woman, child and concerned neighbour who might pass by. We saved the good stuff, and ever-so-often we add something new while we wait in eager anticipation for when those hidden floral gems make their full presence known.
While I wait, I can’t help but think how bringing an old garden back to life is in many ways like a wayward soul turning back to God after years of denial and indifference. It’s tough. It’s hard work. Some things once loved and cherished get thrown away, while others are kept, polished and renewed. There are many opposing voices to scoff at our efforts and tell us that things were fine, or even better, the way they were. There are thorns and prickles to scrape through and cause us pain. Often times we can’t even tell if we are making headway, despite the truck loads of darnel being removed from our soul. Will our canvas ever be wiped clean enough for God to see what He actually has to work with?
Some things once loved and cherished get thrown away, while others are kept, polished and renewed.
In the end, we must trust and rely on God’s thoughtful planning and the extraordinary love that He has for each one of us, not to mention that we have been knitted with “good bones” and structure in His likeness. We also have the promise of His Mercy to wash away our brambles and improve us from within. Just like Jan’s Garden, we will need to be patient as we anticipate the emergence of our own hidden floral gems, and the time of the Eternal Spring when the real show for our efforts comes to fruition. No doubt there will be many surprises in store, if we persevere.
With help from God, we can clean up our hearts of the deadwood and waste, emerging refreshed and restored at home in the Love of Our Lord. Just as with help from a pick and a spade, we are able to remove years of wheat grass and weeds and sow peace in a garden.
Click here for an update on the garden when Spring arrived!