Thursday, July 30, 2009

Going Out on the Loveliest Limb

I did something a little gutsy this week, on a lark.

This is one of my all time favorite homes in the greater Goshen area. Every time I drive by, I risk my very life because I cannot take my eyes off of it. I passed by on Monday and got to thinking...

Long story short, I tracked the homeowner down and called her, the very next day. I am learning that sometimes you just have to ask. I'm realizing that when the worst that can happen is that you are rejected, well, that's really not that bad at all.

I eeked out my feeble request - to photograph her gardens - and without skipping a mili-beat, Mrs. N said, "Oh, sure you can!" I could tell, just by the tone of her voice, that she was a keeper. Oh, she also told a perfect stranger to come on over anytime, which didn't exactly hurt her case.

So, two days later, camera, notebook and 2 fresh-from-the-oven banana nut muffins in hand, I set out.

I was greeted by this.

Let me pause here to say that before this day, I had only seen and admired the front of the house. I had no idea what was hiding behind.

Mrs. N walked me to the back of the property and swung open her potting shed, then turned me loose.

This shed nearly made me weep. What I mean is, it is my dream to one day inhabit a shed of this general form. It had high pitched white ceilings and cozy furnishings and a back wall made entirely of repurposed, old windows. I wanted to lie down and nap for a spell on the little couch....to rest my head on the wee ticking pillow. Alas, there were gardens beckoning.

I think I've already mentioned my love for hollyhocks. According to Mrs. N, this is the first year she's had success with them.

Of course, I don't believe that...but it sure was nice of her to say.

Do you know what's even more fetching than a leggy, pink hollyhock? One encircled by a cage of grape tomatoes.

This is the back porch of the shed. Everything reminded me so much of True Blue Sarah's dad, Larry. He would have eaten this right up.

Can we talk for a moment about the raised flower beds?

1. Rusty windmill.

2. Viny pretties.

3. Zinnias a go-go.

4. Bewitching roses.

At each area of the property, I had to force myself to keep moving. This raised bed garden was probably my very favorite stop. It was magazine-worthy.

Birdhouses were sprinkled all over the property. Had I not been high on pollen, I may have thought to keep count.

This mossy, stony niche made my heart ache a little.

And then there was the barn.

I said, out loud, to myself and the honeybees, "I am in love" more than once.
I can tell from here that you believe me.

Mrs. N told me post-shoot that her very favorite flower is the daylily, in many of its varieties. She is planning to move in a year or so (I know) and plans to take some of these with her.

I was so taken by her attitude and zestiness. She has lived in this home for 20 years and I gathered that she now lives there alone. She said it's hard to think of leaving, but she knows it's time and she hopes the new owners will love the gardens, but who knows...?

At every turn, I found a wagon, wheel barrow or other rusty curiosity overflowing with blooms in the loveliest combinations.

I have an inkling that this has a story behind it.


Mrs. N's garden is entirely naturalized. She does not deadhead anything in the Fall, but allows the birds to take their fill. Come Spring, she clears out the dead growth and waits to see what will pop up, and where.

One thing in particular that I asked her about was the massive quantity of zinnias and other annuals all over the 5-acre property. She plants them each year using starts, not seeds, because her experience is that the established perennials will often overpower seed growth.

And fertilizer? In her own words, "Each March I go and buy a big bag of 6-24-24 horse manure mulch from one of the Amish guys, then I haul it around and fling handfuls of it into the beds." The end.

As intimidating as gardening may seem to a beginner such as myself, she made it seem easy and above all, fun. In fact, she specifically said that she shies away from planning her garden, since she feels that over-planning can easily turn gardening into work and diminish the fun, carefree nature of it all. (Sidenote: She has been gardening for 15 years. Something to aspire to!)

Before leaving, she thanked me for stopping by and said that she enjoyed sharing her garden with me. "I do all of this work and I'm the only one here to appreciate it." I offered to leave my blog address, so she could double-check my work, but she politely declined, saying she prefers to "live like a dinosaur" and does not have a computer.

As we were saying goodbye, a friend pulled in unexpectedly, and Mrs.N shouted out, "Hey! I've been needing to talk to you!"

And that was that.

So, today, and tomorrow and every day that follows, I will be hooked on gardening and hooked on learning from whomever is willing to share, and hooked on lunging out onto those limbs and just asking.

Now, go check out what others are hooked on and inspired by.