I spend so much time focused on the individual aspects of my garden, both the delightful things like the flowers that bloom, the butterfly that flitted through the yard one day, the hummingbird that sipped nectar from my hanging plant, then stared at me through the window as if to thank me, as well as the undelightful things like stinkhorn mushrooms, encroaching weed grasses, and swaths of brown lawn, that sometimes I forget to look at the big picture. Well, today, I was skirting the house after my morning stint of watering, and the “big picture” suddenly took my breath away. I went inside for my camera, stood at the back door and shot this photo. Wow! This is my back yard? Really?
Even the left side of the red pathway (as you are viewing the photo) looks good although the green comes from freshly mowed weeds. The gorgeous greensward just to the left of the sidewalk is the area that I dug up last fall for a wildflower garden, and since there was sod left over, we decided to sod that area, too. I felt silly for having done all that work for no reason, but as it turns out, it was essential. That’s the best patch of grass on the whole property. The worst patches are where they simply laid the sod over the existing weeds and weedy grasses. The grass in those areas started out bright green, but now have now surrendered their precarious place to the original occupants. With any luck, this fall when the weeds die off, I can reverse the trend, but who knows? I sure don’t. Despite my pretty flower photos, I’m still pretty much of a neophyte gardener. (A neophyte photographer, too, but it looks as if I am more accomplished than I really am because I only post the photos that turn out. The rest end up in the trash.)
The green on the right side of the sidewalk is what’s left of the wildflower garden. It looks green but there is a lot of white from the copious alyssum. It’s called a carpet of snow, and from a certain angle you can see all the white, but obviously not from the angle the back yard photo was taken.
I friend had once suggested that I take a photo from the same place every day so I could see the changes, but I never did. For most of my tenure here, things were in such a state of disarray that there was no day I thought would a perfect time to start such a project. I realize, of course, that was the point, but I also had no concept of how the yard would turn out or even if it would turn out. For all I knew, there would forever be a heap of junk in the middle of a field of weeds. (This particular junk pile is just to the left of what is now the sidewalk. It isn’t really junk, just all the stuff that had to be moved to make room for the new garage.)
The only photo I have of the original yard is one from the opposite angle, looking toward the house instead of away from it. The old garage is where the raised garden now is, and the new garage is in front of where the carport was, which gives me a rather large yard!
I do have a few photos of the back yard that I took as work was being done, which gives me (and you) an idea of how much has changed over the years. Oddly, going by these older photos, it looks as if this yard was just a patch of dead dirt, but that was seasonal. Come spring and a little rain, and yikes . . . so many very tall weeds!
The above photo was taken in January, shortly after the old garage was torn down and the fence put up. The gazebo was erected over the existing concrete pad that once was in front of the garage. Eventually, the garage was built in front of the double gate, and the gate was removed. The brown bushes next to the pedestrian gate had to be dug up, and they were replanted in the angle formed by the sidewalk and the concrete pad. Looking at this photo, I am amazed at all that has been done in two-and-a-half years, not just what the builders did, but what nature and I did. No wonder I feel as if I work hard on the yard. I do!
It just goes to show that in gardening, as in life, it’s good to focus on the details, because that’s where the work is done — one detail at a time — but it’s even better to stop occasionally and look around to see all that you have accomplished.
Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.