I’ve always said that my garden is my Happy Place…

Somewhere where I find peace and quiet.

A place where I get the warm comfort of knowing that I’m tending it to the best of my ability.

Do I have a “picture perfect” garden?

The answer is a resounding no!

But it is flourishing, weeds and all!

Every day I see wildlife visiting my garden – birds, butterflies, bees, bugs. So I know that I’m providing food and shelter, a safe haven from pesticides and other chemicals.

The other day I made an impulse purchase of The Old Farmers Almanac Garden Guide 2019. I admit the cover photo tempted me – root vegetables aren’t something that I have a lot of experience growing. One of the articles, “The Joy of Gardening” by Karen Bertelsen had me saying to Stuart ‘That’s me!”

She talks about the joy spending hours of shoveling compost, the sense of calm that comes from being in the garden even when you know that it’s physically hard work.  

It was a revelation reading about how I feel in my garden from this lady’s writing.

Gardens from my Past

When I was a child I had an herb bed – just one bed, but it was my bed. I still remember my bay laurel tree that I trained into a pom pom. Leaving that plant behind when I left home still makes me feel a little sad.

My postage stamp sized garden in West London gave me peace at the end of the day after a commute on the London Underground. I’d sit on a lawn not much bigger than my bottom and be surrounded by a mixture of flowers and veggies all squeezed in together. A tiny oasis of calm in the middle of a big city.

When I married Stuart and moved into his home the front yard was all grass. We definitely needed more plants & less grass. One Saturday morning we decided  to dig up a lot of the grass and put in new flower beds. I remember waving to the neighbors as they went out to run errands. By the time they came back our small front garden was transformed & they were really surprised at how fast we’d worked. Little did they know that I was on a mission & Stuart was really good about following my instructions!

My first garden in San Antonio was a challenge.

Firstly, I had to re-learn gardening in a hot climate and discover what would actually grow well.

Xeriscaping was a brand new word in my vocabulary!

I also had a blank canvas to work with – a brand new lot with only a few contractor/big box shrubs in my small beds and a lot of grass – just like all the other new homes on my street!

My Piece of Hill Country Heaven

I adore my 5 acres of Hill Country Heaven – we both fell in love with the property as soon as we saw it 13 years ago. And I only love it more as I see plants and trees maturing and flourishing. A lot of my philosophy about gardening is that Nature knows her stuff a lot better than me. I try, always, to work with Nature rather than fight against it. I’d rather have a healthy, if a little untidy garden than one that relies on chemicals & pesticides to maintain its “beauty”

I have my flower beds around the house and my veggie garden down near Stuart’s workshop. The top 2 acres of land are really on their own & nature looks after what grows there – trees & native shrubs & grass. The remaining land is pretty much left to nature but with a gentle touch here and there from me.

I have a bunch of young Mountain Laurels growing up from seeds I simply threw around some of the natural thickets away from the house. They’re doing really well, completely on their own.  Think I’ve also told you that I’ve planted some Burr Oak acorns all over the place – still waiting to see if they’ll sprout too.

Every year I try to find and plant several new native trees in the land. As the majority of original trees are oak, persimmon & elm, I generally look for native trees that have lovely spring blossoms or fall color. This year I’ve already added Dogwood. Eve’s Necklace and Crab Apple. Only last weekend I acquired a Sassafras from the Farmers Market in Boerne.

Wildflowers

Every year some time in early winter, I use our ride-on lawnmower to cut back the native grasses & give the land a tidier look. We couldn’t do it this past year because of engine problems so this spring I’d have to say that the land is looking a little rough around the edges! But, I have wildflowers growing everywhere so there’ll be no lawn mowing until everything has died back and re-seeded.

I usually have to restrain Stuart from grass cutting in late spring. He asks “Can I get the mower out?” with puppy dog eyes and I say “NO!”

A couple of days ago I was doing a quick inventory of wildflowers in bloom across the land. Of course, I tried to do it in my head so the count probably isn’t very accurate but I was up near a couple of dozen in bloom right now. I’ve had a lot of Anemones and Evening Primrose and have purple Prairie Verbena everywhere to the delight of the local butterfly population.

Wild garlic, Celestials, Wind flower, Agarita, White prickly poppy, Mexican Plum, Huisache, Redbud, Bluebonnet, Mountain laurel, Vetch, Oxalis, Pink evening primrose & Yellow stemless evening primrose, Indian paintbrush, Antelope horns, Pearl milkweed vine, Bindweed, Vervain, Prairie verbena, Mealy blue sage, Mullein, Prairie fleabane, Four-nerve daisy, Mexican hat …..

The photo above was taken yesterday. It was a misty/drizzly afternoon that felt far colder that it actually was. Nature’s beauty is still there – whatever the weather. You just have to look sometimes. Occasionally if I have a problem or feeling a little sad, a walk around the garden brings a sense of peace and calm to me. I can usually then find a solution to my problem and move on. A walk in a park or down a street looking at other people’s gardens can do the same thing too.

Not long before the Bees arrive!

Although my land is messier than I would usually like it (aforementioned lawnmower issues) & definitely weedier, I’m pretty relaxed about it. I’m mindful that in a couple of weeks time we’ll be getting our first hive of bees. They won’t care if they get their nectar from a “plant” or a “weed” – it’s all the same to them.

I’ll give you more details later about what we’ve been doing to prepare ourselves for our future role as beekeepers. We’ve read, we’ve listened, we’ve talked!  Stuart and I are as ready and as educated as we believe we can be. But I’m sure that on the day we actually bring them home we’ll be saying…

“OMG! What do we do now!”

We had that OMG moment when we brought our first born home from hospital…

We had it when we got our first flock of baby chick…

I’m positive we’ll do it with our first bee hive!!

Education is one thing, real life experience is something completely different!

I really hope to find even more peace and calm in the garden as I learn the moods of my beehive and watch them enjoying what I’ve planted for them.

My wish for you is that you have a place where you can find peace and calm – whether its you garden your neighborhood, local park or botanical gardens or even a pot on your windowsill.

Caroline xo


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