Do you ever wonder what will happen to your garden should you become ill or die?
None of us wants to think about the day when we no longer have the strength to keep up with the weeding, or our children must divvy up our earthly goods, but it will happen. I belong to garden societies with many, wonderful, innovative gardeners now residing in nursing homes, or who have passed. One of the best scenarios occurred when members of the hemerocallis society were asked if they wanted the plants from a deceased daylily hybridizer’s garden. Pieces of her prized daylilies were given away and sold at the spring sale. Her nephew had the foresight to ask before he sold the property. Members were careful not to destroy the landscape as they liquidated her holdings. I have pieces of her garden in mine today.
What if you move? After living in the same home for over thirty-five years, my friend, Wanda, did, and I watched her agonize over potential buyers who came to see her home. She talked to me about buying her house, but . . . although the garden suited me, the house didn’t work for our family. When Wanda sold it, she left long lists of the plants and their necessary requirements. I’d love to tell you that the woman who bought the garden was up to the task, but she had surgery and a long rehabilitation. When I saw the garden last summer, it was in horrible shape. I don’t drive by there anymore.
Flip the coin to the other side. Let’s say you inherit a garden. In much of England, gardening appears to be a way of life. The United States is a young country, and Americans are young gardeners. Oklahoma statehood is 102 years old, and only recently have people started thinking about the landscape surrounding their homes. My grandparents from Missouri and Oklahoma gave little thought to flowers and the external aesthetic. They were concerned with growing and preserving food.
My parents rarely gardened. My mother is a wonder with African violets and houseplants, and my dad set out a tomato or two, but only rarely became enthused about growing things in the spring.
They’re not sure where I came from.
Over 200 years into our national history, many of us are now recipients of mature gardens created by others. Then, there are gardeners like me, who have lived in the same home for a long time (over 20 years). Our gardens are starting to mature, and some of the elements we planted or built when we first started no longer work.
When Tovah Martin speaks at the OKC Zoo’s education center on February 14, 2010, at 2:00 p.m., she is going to talk about garden stewardship. Issues like structural elements, garden maturity, invasive plants and maintenance are all on the agenda. She said she enjoys interactive talks, and she wants our participation.
I think you should come. The talk is free and open to the public. If you do decide to attend and happen to see me, stop by and say hi. I’d love to meet you.
In the meantime, if you have a garden, think about what you want to happen when you’re no longer able to tend it. Is there someone in your family who likes plants? Could you give some of your garden to them in the form of passalong plants or seeds? What about the entire garden? These are things to consider. I’d hate for my garden to simply die off with me. Bear says she’s going to take it, but we’ll see. The Diva used to say that too, but it’s improbable since she doesn’t like to get her hands dirty. No. One? ASW? ‘Er no.
Elizabeth Lawrence’s family was fortunate to find Mary Lindeman “Lindie” Wilson to buy Lawrence’s Charlotte, NC, property and legacy. Wilson wrote about owning the garden and put her personal stamp on it while being a good steward. I feel lucky I met her and had the opportunity to walk where Lawrence walked and worked the soil. Because of Wilson’s twenty year commitment, and the Wing Haven Foundation’s current ownership, the garden is still available for tours. It’s a small garden, but to many people, it means so much.
Grand gardens like the Biltmore will always have stewards, but what about yours? Further, what can we do to help the next generation of gardeners to love gardening as we do? If we succeed, maybe they will want to care for our little plots of earth. I can hope.