Last week I met with Marilyn, a client with whom I worked several years ago to design her back garden. In the intervening years, she moved house twice and has landed in a lovely condo with great views and a bit of gardening space to put her stamp on. She is 73, but gosh, you’d never know it. We sat at her kitchen table and came up with a lovely scheme. She is just as excited about her new, much smaller garden, as she was when she had a half acre and I’m really glad for her.
This got me thinking about my sister Sunny. She too has recently downsized house and garden. Her acre woodland, Shady Brook, had pathways through great stands of Rosebay Rhododendron, a high canopy of poplars and oaks, masses of Cinnamon Fern and of course a lovely brook. Sunny created small gardens that you would come upon at the turn of a path and each had names: Brookside Garden, Asian Garden, Hansen Garten (in memory of my sweet shepherd Hans).
Sunny and I are close, but I was a late child – she’s nearly 14 years older than me – and she was gardening long before me. Though I enjoyed her enthusiasm for her garden in my younger days I didn’t start gardening until my 30’s and she was a well-seasoned gardener by then. I finally caught the gardening bug (in a very big way) so we had this wonderful interest to share and still do. When she told me she and her husband were moving to a condo I knew it was right for them, but wondered about having so little space to garden. She didn’t bring much in the way of plants with her from Shady Brook, but she did dig a gorgeous Peony ‘Festiva Maxima’.
Sunny has always been one to live in the moment. She’s glad to have made the garden at Shady Brook, but is also glad not to have so much to care for (just ask her about leaf clean up!). She now has more time for another enthusiasm – painting. She has done some really wonderful floral paintings among other things and has just finished a painting of that same peony (the painting at the top of this post).
She hasn’t given up gardening completely though. When they moved last spring, she and I made a sweet planting of zinnias and petunias along her back patio fence. Just yesterday she told me that this year her fence planting will be Elephant Ears and she already has the plants. I can’t wait to share a cuppa with her on her patio to enjoy them.
I wonder if I’ll ever be ready to leave Acorn Hill … it is a lot of work, but of course a labor of love. If and when I do, I hope I take with me the same enthusiasm I see in Marilyn and Sunny for whatever the next creative endeavor might be.