Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Restored Hill Garden

This is a story about a ruined garden.

If I were writing fiction, I'd give the main character a green thumb and a strong spine.

She would rescue the garden in a day and not break a sweat.

Dirt and broken fingernails wouldn't freak her out.

But this is a true story about a bad gardener (me).

I'm a tick-magnet and sort of a weakling.

I have no sense of color or design.

I can't dig a hole without getting dizzy.

I've killed a lot of plants in my time.

I've made huge messes, too.

I shouldn't be such a plant philistine. I come from a long line of Women Who Garden.
My mother didn't always have a spade handy, and she would dig holes
with a soup spoon. Her yard is a lush, flowery place, thanks to her green thumb.
When I inherited the gardens at Rattlebridge, the flowers were facing ruination,
if not extinction.
I was determined to preserve the beauty that had been
created by the previous owners. Michael and Holly had put time, love, and effort
into their yard, and I wanted to make them proud.
You can read about the cottage garden restoration HERE.
The hill garden had gotten away from me completely.
But I was feverish from a tick bite and finishing a new novel. 
Should I wait until next summer when I didn't have Lyme Disease or a deadline?
Let the garden grow into wildness?

First, the area was cleared and the old stone border went into piles.
The old butterfly bush was trimmed back.
Weeds were cleared away from the peony.
(It bloomed its heart out this past spring.)
Everything was tidied.

Looking from my husband's hilltop vegetable garden, you can see the

The stones were put back into place.
And the digging commenced.

Oak leaf hydrangeas and daisies and all kinds of pretties.
 A deep layer of mulch will keep the weeds away for five seconds.


Sadly, I have already managed to kill one plant.
Bandwidth sliced open his hand while fixing a garden hose,
but we managed to set up a sprinkler.
"Gardening isn't for sissies," my mama said. "Buy you some bug repellent and get you
a big spoon and don't let the weeds take root."
My grandmother, Mimi, used to say that gardens are outdoor rooms,
places to collect your thoughts, work off excess calories, and disperse mental energy.
We began with weeds and wildness and ended with a tidy, colorful spot.

Next, we're building a little potting shed near this garden. 

The shed will need a path.
And a path needs flowers.
Aren't you loving how this story ends?

Garden photos courtesy of Tyler West

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  1. I love your non-fiction story. Gardening is down and dirty. I love your progress and gardening is so rewarding. Mind and body do benefit from weeding and digging. Your home and garden are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
    Betty@ My Cozy Corner

  2. Ms. M'Lee, do you have Lyme disease? That's so scary. Was it treatable with antibiotics? I'm always so worried about Lyme. Another author I love had a bad go with that. Well wishes and best of luck on the gardening. I haven't got a green thumb either...only got one tomato from our plants this year. Of course the chickens didn't help the plants much, either, seems they are big fans of herbs and tomato plants. ;)

    1. I'm on Doxycycline--finally found some at Publix pharmacy. I wish my guineas hadn't flown the coop: they would feast on those ticks. Sorry about your chick-bit herbs! RAbbits and deer keep eating out tomatoes, and I'm ready to put up a fence. Someone told me to spread shards of Irish Spring soap around the garden, and it will keep the deer away.

  3. You have a lovely garden and I am sure you will love it when it grows and fills in. The more flowers you plant there will be less weeds.. I love my gardens with my roses and flowers.
    Be careful of the ticks, as you can get really sick from there bits.Have a wonderful week.

    1. I keep waiting for Home Depot to put their scragglers on sale, but no luck so far. I will plant bulbs in the fall for sure.

  4. Bravo!! Well done!!

    I think Michael and Holly would approve, even!

    Hope Band heals quickly, no fun getting cut. REALLY sorry about your tick bites. I hear that can get pretty bad. Do take care!

    You mentioned outdoor rooms - and that's exactly what I last posted about. : - ) I know Gma Mimi didn't mean the sittin' kind though..............

    Have a truly fabulous day.

  5. Yes, I am more than loving how this story ended. What a challenge and you met it with courage and strength. Killed only one plant? Not bad in my book. I've had several things moved in our garden, including a gorgeous blueberry plant who immediately turned up his nose and died right after being replanted in the new site. Congratulations on a beautiful garden.

  6. It looks wonderful....and you say your a novice...ha! well even if you are, you are braver then me. I never showed the pictures of my back yard garden bed that got taken over by crabgrass due to my

    Just in case you are a novice I'll share some of my G'Ma's secrets...#1 - Old coffee grounds thrown in the bed...great fertilizer...egg shells also...#2 - flat beer - if you have left over beer that doesn't get consumed...pour it in. and the last tip; 70 to 80 degree weather water twice a week, 80 to 90; water 3 to 4 times a week (until plants are established) anything hotter then that...water every other day.

    Good luck!

  7. Kudos to you! Gardening isn't for sissies, and you are no sissy, Michael Lee. Your garden is shaping up and when those plants mature it is going to be an island of color on your green lawn. It' is certainly neat and tidy! Love the thought of adding a potting shed. I long for one myself, but no spot to add one. I cringed when I read that you have had Lyme Disease. That is so dangerous! I fight spiders rather than ticks here. They are pretty mean too! Thanks for sharing the story of your restored garden. I know Michael and Holly would indeed be proud of what you've done. Keep posting the updates! ~ Sarah

  8. i love a good garden story, where one gets their hands dirty and smells the warm rich soil with the sun shining on their back... i do laugh that you are a petite little weakling in the garden, eat up girl, you got a garden to grow! says the poster child for morbid obesity... love seeing the sprucing up, excited you get a garden shed too, fun fun fun! look forward to our next chapter installment~

  9. I am loving the ending of this story, the gardens are coming together beautifully!! I long for a place like Rattlebridge Farm. Thanks for sharing your heaven on earth with us.

    Many blessing to you and Rattlebridge Farm.

  10. Wonderful transformation. Gardening is definitely not for sissies, but it sure is magic. Love how it's looking, and I am impressed that you manage to get FIVE SECONDS without weeds. I think I get three. Maybe two. Maybe . . . none.
    My muscle bound Jersey weeds are kicking my a**.

    Can't wait to see the potting shed.
    Love the manicure, too!
    But the Lyme? Ouch. Thank goodness for antibiotics, and get well soon!

    1. So funny about those muscle bound weeds!

  11. Please take care of yourself. Lyme disease derailed Daryl Hall from Hall & Oats career. You can google it.

    When you go to the nursery ask if they can recommend someone to help you for just a few hours a week. Maybe someone that is retired and looking for some extra money or something to do.

    And finally my gardening tip. Take a bar of cheap soap. Scrape your fingernails over the bar before you start - the soap will collect under your nails. When you are done gardening, wash your hands and the dirt will not stick and stain under your nails. Ok, that's all I got. Get well.

    1. Thanks for thinking about me! I will try the soap. I may need to find someone to help me weed. Bandy usually helps around the house, but his hand is still horribly bruised and swollen. When the stitches were removed, the wound hadn't closed. It's a good thing we've got a medic on call at the house or I would be panicking. Please pray for Bandy.

  12. I am so impressed, it looks GREAT! Gardening is back breaking work but, to me, so worth the end result. This year Joe has done most of it. I am just getting out there and now it is 95 degrees for a week:(:( XO, Pinky

  13. Beautifully done! Gardening is a lot of work, but so worthwhile once you step back and see the final results! :) I spread 12 yards of mulch this spring which was a great workout - and what a difference it made in my gardens! :) It's a constant labor of love and work in progress, isn't it? lol

    xoxo laurie

  14. Gardening ain't for sissies! Everything is drowning here with all the rain for the past month and now it's too hot to dig! Your Oakleaf Hydrangeas will flourish and be beautiful and I can only imagine what a wonderful garden shed you will create.