There’s a guy I knew back in high school, many centuries ago, though we were not friends or even acquaintances. He was a year older than me, and to my knowledge we never so much as exchanged a word. I did know his younger brother because we played baseball together for the South Mecklenburg High School Sabres, on teams that aspired to mediocrity and usually fell short of the mark.
Anyway, the older brother. I’m pretty sure he was not a jock. I do believe he was a brain, and maybe a creative type. His crowd, whoever it was, didn’t rub elbows with my crowd very often. I probably never would have thought about him again – if I ever thought about him at all – if it weren’t for Facebook.
His FB profile pops up from time to time on my feed, because he is FB friends with many of my FB friends. This is the Way of the Facebook. You tell a friend and they tell a friend and they tell a friend. It’s like the Amway of social media.
The first time I saw his profile I hopped onto his page. That’s what I do with familiar old names and faces I haven’t seen or thought about in 40 years. I check out their pages to learn what they’ve been up to over the decades, hoping they’ve led full and happy lives. Even with old schoolmates you never knew, you always seem to want their lives to have turned out okay. Weird how that works.
What I learned from his page is that he is heavily into gardening and landscaping. From what I can tell, he owns a garden design business that creates floral and shrub gardens for clients who can afford such things. He also writes about gardening for local publications. By all indications, he is very successful at it. He puts photos of his various gardens and landscapes on his page. The only way I can categorize his work is that it looks extremely high end.
I wish I could share some photos here, but since we don’t really know each other, I’ll abstain. But his garden designs are genuine works of art. They combine color, texture, composition and imagination in a way that is both pleasing to the eye and soothing to the soul.
I guess you would compare them to Japanese gardens in the way they are arranged. They typically have a wide variety of shrubs and flowers I can’t pronounce, along with water features, stone placements, sculptures, wood elements. They have an organic vibe, as if they belong to the nature around them rather than intruding where they are not invited. It’s all very Zen and calming and inspirational.
I sometimes just stare at the gardens he spotlights on his page. They provide a comfortable escape on a social media platform that too often resembles a raging, psychotic buzzsaw, grinding through your consciousness with a steady din of anger, shaming, castigation, and cryptic little posts that mean nothing but pretend to mean everything.
It’s a real balm to just see somebody on Facebook who simply loves plants, loves flowers, loves gardens, loves taking strolls through nature, maybe with a glass of wine or cup of tea in hand.
This is not a blog about Facebook (thank God), or people I knew way back when. It’s a blog about gardens, gardening. I am certainly no expert at this. I can name maybe one flower on earth by sight: roses. According to one estimate, there are more than 400,000 flowering plant species across the world, and I can identify exactly one of them: roses. Roses are easy. Everybody knows roses. I’m not sure I could identify a daisy, or a tulip. Are tulips the ones that look like cups?
I can’t name a shrub, or most trees. One of my best and oldest friends can name most shrubs and trees native to our home region. He has spent most of his adult weekends working in his yard, planting and replanting and rearranging shrubs. It has been a labor of love, and I’m guessing his weekends for 30 years or so looked almost exactly the same: wake up, work in the yard for several hours, go inside and have lunch, work in the yard some more, go inside and turn on a ball game, then cook out with his family that evening.
As I said, I’m no expert. But I do I love gardens, I do love plants. I love wildflowers scattered about, the way Madre Tierra intended. Even though I live in a bustling metropolis, London has a surprising number of green spaces. I enjoy strolling or biking down an earthy path past shrubs and trees, flowers and plants. I love visiting gardens and sitting on little benches surrounded by them.
I am convinced that if there is a Heaven, it will be a lush garden, full of light and color, happy to invite you in for eternity. (My other version of Heaven is a dark jazz club on a little urban side street, late at night, with a quartet playing something slow and bluesy. So I guess you’d say I’m flexible…).
I do have experience with gardening – but only the kinds of gardens you can eat. When we lived in the States, with houses that had decent back yards and ample sunlight, we always had big vegetable gardens. They were usually filled with tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and peppers. Sometimes we grew carrots. One year we had a bountiful crop of yellow squash that we couldn’t quite figure out what to do with. You can only make so much squash curry….
We took a stab at growing blueberries, but as soon as they ripened, the birds would help themselves to a nice little berry feast. Luckily, wild blackberries grew beside a wooded area behind our house, so we helped ourselves to those.
For months at a time many of our fresh veggies came from our backyard garden. I was out there every day during the spring, summer and into the fall, tending to the garden, pulling weeds, watering the plants. In spring I would change out the soil and do it all over again. This, too, was a labor of love.
I tried growing tomatoes in our little back yard in London (which the Brits call a garden; never mind). But there’s not enough sunlight, and there are no nearby nurseries I could find that even had the right kind of soil. So, I gave it up after the first year.
When we return to a home with a bigger back yard and better sunlight, I will once again grow a vegetable garden. It will be the most fabulous vegetable garden you have ever seen, if you are lucky enough to see it. If not, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Maybe I’ll just grow tomatoes and cucumbers.
But definitely tomatoes….
A woman who lives just down the street here in London, in a little apartment in a council flat with a tiny back and side patio, has what must be 60 or 70 different types of flowers growing in pots on her patio. The patio is filled with them – it is an armada of flowers in a small space, a a kaleidoscope of color and variety. This woman, who I don’t know and am not sure I’ve ever seen (I assume a woman lives there), deserves some kind of medal. She should be made a Dame. I think that’s the correct Brit terminology.
Our oldest daughter has developed quite the green thumb herself. She has a few thriving houseplants in her bedroom, and tends to them with tender loving care. She is 13 going on 44. She has exquisite taste and an artistic flair, turning her room into something you might see in a House & Garden magazine. You will find tasteful little touches here and there, soft lighting, original artwork, other artwork – and none of the pop culture bric-a-brac you might expect to see in a 13-year-old’s bedroom. The plants tie it all together.
Those are her plants in the photo accompanying this blog.
I’m glad I found the Facebook profile of that guy I didn’t really know way back when. I’m glad he is into gardening, and has a passion for it, and can create such masterpieces out of the wonder of nature.
I look forward to rekindling my relationship with nature in the years ahead, digging into the earth, planting and growing veggies, as I count down the final laps of this existence, until the day I become a part of the soil that gives us life.
Note: The title of this blog, “A Lovesome Thing,” comes from the poem “My Garden,” written by Thomas Edward Brown, a 19th century British poet and scholar. A friend introduced me to the poem many years ago, and it still takes up space in my mind. Here ‘tis in its entirety:
By Thomas Edward Brown
A GARDEN is a lovesome thing, God wot!
Ferned grot —
The veriest school
Of peace; and yet the fool
Contends that God is not —
Not God! in gardens! when the eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign:
‘Tis very sure God walks in mine.