Monday, June 23, 2008

Touring Gardens and Other Delights

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

It has been said that I posses the imagination of a child. What is wrong with that? It was all set anew first by a natural element, the radiance of a rainbow that let loose the fanciful meanderings in my mind.

Late Friday afternoon, the sky opened and Mother Nature released a forceful flow. Shortly after the asphalt steamed and the hazy sky reflected the fire of an expansive arch. The full color spectrum was visible in the elongated bow with its curves ending somewhere over Casco Bay.

I knew in my heart there were certainly pots of gold to be found yet I would have to don snorkel or perhaps full diving gear to retrieve the watery loot. I was more than half tempted to seek the treasure just to view a leprechaun in a wet suit and fins. Would the suit be green with curled toes on the flippers? Will little bells reflect the glow from sun to gold to toe? What about the prerequisite pipe? Will air bubbles replace smoke rings? Someday I’ll let you all know.

Second stir of flights of fancy was prompted by one of the gardens I ventured to over the weekend. It was our last stop on the tour that had us visit magnificent mounds of beauty on palatial landscapes dotted along the countryside and some more inhabited streets of Yarmouth, Cumberland, Falmouth, and even Portland.

Beds that were nearly 40 years old coupled with others in their infancy at 2. All beckoned the small group of people that were my companions on the Welcome Summer Garden Tour this past Saturday. As a Master Gardener, I felt blessed to be asked to serve as guide on a bus from one of Portland’s senior housing centers. More than 24 hours later, I become more energized by the memory of the day.

Mother nature threatened to again open her floodgates yet kindly withheld until we had nearly completed the tour of our last garden. Once the rain came, using their garden tour programs as a head covering, my group dashed to the bus while others hastened to their individual modes of transportation. Being wet didn’t matter to me. I didn’t want to leave and I vowed to the owner of this small cottage garden that with her blessing, I would return.

Before the bus even stopped at this picket fenced pocket of medicinal and fragrant herbs, flowers and vegetables, I noticed the hand painted signs with sayings in Gaelic. This ancient language was my mother’s mother tongue. Someday I will learn it for myself.

Within moments of our stepping into the borders of this magical landscape, I spied a garden full of gnomes and fairies posing as statuary. The mischievous were hiding among the foliage and blooms. Some frolicked openly while the humans looked away. The fairies seemed to weave in and around the large drops of rain. I smile as I recall how one of the garden imps stopped a droplet in mid fall to use it as a mirror. From my view it magnified it’s face so that I could even count the specks of fairy dust that fell with every flutter of wing. When I questioned the garden owner (does one ever really OWN a garden?) about the large fairy house that was under construction she beamed while indicating it was for her granddaughter. I revealed I had no such excuse to which she winked and replied, I do but it wouldn’t matter, it's me she is taking after…

Gardens are just not for the young of age, but always for the young of heart. One of the gardens on our tour is tended by a husband and wife team of Master Gardeners whose last birthdays had them being ‘in their 80s’. This landscape would be a chore for much younger bodies, as it is a series of hills, vales, dry river, & raised beds. Native plants dug from the fields and woods skirting the property flourish and at times take over. Along a fence were peony blooms the largest I have ever seen. Perhaps the rich magentas, creamy whites, and petals with a hint of pink morphed into flower heads the size of basketballs as homage to the Celtics first NBA victory in over 20 years. It was difficult to take it all in while I pondered over the labor of love that was evident as we first stepped onto their front yard scape. Today, I shake my head again at the notion of moving a dozen or so clay pots housing the giant that is the Lily-of-the Nile to their place at the front of the property. To see these purple passions of a plant amass bordering a path offered the illusion of walking through the tropics. This Hardiness Zone 8 plant will not survive a Maine winter so each pot is moved to the onsite greenhouse each fall and back out again in the spring. When speaking with the homeowner he proudly boasted he and his wife at one time could do it themselves, now they hire ‘college kids’ to do it.

When on a garden tour I learn so much. The lessons are not in the plants, shrubs, or decorative elements but in the people. Those who grow, those who open their homes and hearts for the show. These tours are fundraisers for various worthy causes often costing the keeper of the gardens much in time and money. As a gardener, we can only do so much. The elements of nature including wildlife often have their own agenda. Somehow, the Peonies survived the torrential rains and still managed to offer their multi petaled perfection to the sky and onlookers.

Saturday June 21st was a day of Garden Tours for the Greater Portland Area. There were 3 that I knew of; actually, a 4th tour was ending this same day. That of the American Horticultural Society ‘Charming Gardens of Coastal Maine’. I learned of this tour by way of the stopping of a luxury tour bus stopping in front of the somewhat shabby apartment building that I call home. A bus on this street is well, a never before happened event.
As in the imagination of a young girl becoming famous, I fantasized that those exiting the bus were stopping to meet me. My fictional self was now a famous writer, world-renowned garden designer with her own Gardening television series, and now a tour destination.

Why the bus? Because I have the blessing to live next to a writer of gardening books and articles with a garden often a tour destination.

As a gardener, or not, the next time you hear of a garden tour, take the time to smell the roses, lavender or just the clean air of the day.

As with all the gardens on my recent tour, and in my care, I live vicariously through the beauty of nature. I feel lucky that she/he or whatever we believe to be God or goddess, Mother Nature or our own personal higher self, allows us to offer our assistance in helping to beautify our earth.

Hmmmmmmmm now to find snorkeling gear……

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