Gardens Change People!
Gardens make us feel like gods. They change deserts to paradise. They open hearts seeking more to life than just survival.
One day I was listless and unhappily married, the next found me hauling dirt ten blocks on the top of my children’s stroller.
The view from the ground floor Brooklyn apartment I lived in was pretty bleak. Concrete and brick abounded. Shouting and laughter from the bar across the way annoyed me when on sunny afternoons my children tried to nap.
I bought a pack of 6 purple petunias, crept through the damp basement (the only way to get to my new secret garden space) and set the potted garden on my sill. But I’m obsessive. I saved pennies (we were broke), I stole irises from my mother and scanned gardening catalogues for days in January for cheap but pretty bushes that didn’t mind Brooklyn’s cramped spaces.
The first summer after my catalogue purchases I dragged in used furniture and argued with the landlord about cutting down a weedy sumac tree (non-poisonous). He was Greek and missed his gardens so let me have the final say with a warning to keep things under control.
The next summer the honeysuckle and the creeping ivy burst forth to cover an eyesore wall. A butterfly bush bloomed in the makeshift bed by the ugly chain link fence and I was hooked. The stroller took a beating but my kids loved walking the mile each day to get Italian ices (my husband had landed a good paying IT job by then) after I purchased yet more dirt and flowers.
Gardening Brings New Friends
From nowhere squirrels, butterflies and robins arrived — their songs softening the bar noise. And then it happened. Neighbors I didn’t even know I had (since I was totally consumed with beautifying my life) started hailing me from their apartment windows. They loved the birds. They asked about the unusual plants. They smiled.
When I imagined my character John Weldon arriving at the McCullough home I knew he would fall in love with the girl in the garden, but first he fell for the garden with its possibilities. For a man escaping the wilderness of war Sarah McCullough’s charming garden offers Weldon hope that life is about more than just surviving.
“Weldon, make yourself comfortable in the yard. I’ll be back lickety split.”
Weldon nodded and stepped back from the horse as it pulled away. His hands sweated. He had stayed away the Sunday but could not stand to be alone another day. A rabbit ran through the garden of ripe tomatoes and green pumpkins. A small tortoiseshell cat lay sunning itself on the side porch, where brooms and yard tools were hidden by trailing morning glories in blue and purple.
Weldon considered bolting. He didn’t belong here, but after a quick glance toward the house he crouched down to run his fingers over the hilly pumpkin skins and the soft round tomatoes. Weldon pulled a furry leaf from the low-lying lamb’s ears and slipped it into his pocket. Sunny black-eyed Susans burst out where they’d be most pleasing. The wild lilies stood at attention like well-disciplined followers of an inspired leader. Weldon marveled at the planning. His visit was unplanned, unannounced—that had been a blunder. The McCullough family might not like such surprises, and it was still so early in the day. [THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD]
Do you have a favorite garden in books? How about in your real life? Let me know in the comments!