I Heard the Garden Call My Name

It’s a sunny hot summer day; the first day of July, and over the supper table my husband reminds me it is not only Canada Day but also a celebration day of sorts for the two of us. Twenty-four years ago today we slept for the first time in our then-new home. True, there were boxes in every room, the furniture sent for re-upholstery had not yet arrived, and my dream kitchen was devoid of countertops and appliances.

Fortunately we had chosen to finish the full basement at the same time work continued on the rest of the house. Once we had the occupancy permit we had installed appliances in the kitchen of a one-bedroom suite down there. It was the first place we positioned furniture and it became our cool retreat away from the continued pounding and painting ongoing above us. The basement rooms continue to be a much cooler place to sleep on the hottest of days, like this one.

I always appreciated a tidy garden around my home and having it well maintained was important to me. Previous yards had been a mixture of my husband’s devotion to a green lawn and growing summer vegetables, and my own specialty, anything that blooms, including all manner of flower beds and pots, including hanging ones.

But it wasn’t until we found ourselves surrounded by a huge expanse of tractor-stirred rough ground and a mound of ‘perkable’ soil material, resulting from requirements of our rural septic system that I began to realize this new yard was indeed a huge project, and it needed immediate attention. Decorating the interior of our home would simply have to wait for a time, because we were tracking raw dirt onto the new floor.

Plans for an aggregate driveway had been agreed upon and contracted; the inlaid patio tile was ordered. So that part of the work could be supervised by our site contractor.

And then my husband left, to our daughter’s horseshow, leaving me to decide what to do about those mounds of dirt. Plant something in them of course, and so I did. The entire garden became my personal project at that time and how I loved it.

A gardening contractor arrived and took me shopping in his truck. Who would have known there were so many greenhouses and commercial garden outlets on the peninsula? Victoria is well known as a City of Gardens and now I was learning some secrets of their plant sources.

More machinery arrived in our yard; two large berms were created. The larger trees we had chosen were moved into position with a tractor bucket; next came the hedge of Alberta spruce along the yet-under-construction driveway. Then we planted the rhodendrons and azaelas – my forever favourites. We had saved some of the better plants taken from the original garden of the house we had torn down, so they were placed too. We chose lots of the cheaper shrubs, many of them blooming varieties and most were quick growing. But they all seemed so insignificant with lots of space around them. Slowly the design concept took shape and I could begin to see what the result might be in a few years.

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Well, the few years have come and gone and everything grew. I have moved plants that became too large, I’ve given away plants there wasn’t room for, I’ve delegated sick plants to a back ‘healing garden’ to see if they would recover and, even today, the garden design is being revised again to make it less labour intensive. My secret is to plant only perennials and then ones that require little attention from month to month. I refuse to garden in bad weather but I glory in it when the good weather shines on me. Today is one of those bright days and although I’m tired from trimming and deadheading, I will celebrate the anniversary of our arrival here with a swim in the Pacific Ocean! Happy Canada Day.