Each day she came; a Monarch floating on butterfly wings above my Fall mums. Savoring the sweetness of the nectar, flitting from flower to flower, she was a whisper of gentleness. Soon the temperatures would drop and she would have to go. Why was she lingering still? She was taking joy in the beauty of Fall.
I have always loved old houses. They have a history and tell a story. When we bought our farmhouse a couple of nondescript apple trees grew on the property. In the backyard there was an old stone wall that was falling down. Overgrown shrubs grew in front of the house and random pieces of slate led from the front door to the dirt driveway. The original pine floor boards inside the house creaked and the windows were drafty. I loved the house in all its disrepair. The house had potential; all it needed was someone to care about it.
My dream was to have a cottage garden in front of the house but I didn’t know anything about cottage gardens. Through a friend, I met Janie, a landscape designer. She came over and helped us decide what plants to put in. We removed all the shrubs in the front and on the side of the house. We planted beautiful pink hydrangea and perennials. At first we just had a small area planted but over the years we added a brick walkway and the border expanded.
A blanket of burnt orange leaves covers the gardens now. The White Oak is letting go, telling me it’s time to ready the vegetable garden for fall. Yesterday I pulled out the remains of the tomatoes, kale and herbs gone by. I emptied the pots of orange marigolds, adding them to the compost pile, along with the zinnias, the ones that filled our home with vibrant blooms all summer. The urn that held the yellow Black-Eyed Susan vine now stands empty. I didn’t want to do it, prolonging it as long as I could. I wasn’t ready to let go of the kaleidoscope of colors that fed my soul for the last few months. But, the garden keeps its promise: it will always be there. And I will be ready.
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
~ T. S. Eliot
When I was growing up my mother used to say, “You can help clean the inside of the house or pull weeds in the backyard.” I always pulled the weeds. I tended a small area of dirt by a chain link fence, clearing it of rocks and weeds. The definition of a weed is: any wild plant growing where it is not wanted. In those days I left the weeds that had lavender flowers. This was my first introduction to gardening.
When we pulled up in front of the house that was for sale, it was just what I wanted. “Old houses have a history,” I told my husband. We trudged through deep snow on the property before going inside. A White Oak tree still clinging to rust colored leaves, stood in the middle of the backyard with massive branches that extended far out. I knew I had found the house of my dreams when I saw the potting shed; a converted old chicken coop. The yard extended way back to an old stone wall. Dried Annabelle hydrangeas bent with snow-capped flowers. There was a stillness in the air. I felt calm and at peace. I felt like I belonged there; a place where I could pull weeds.