Although this is only June, the day begins with the intensity of late summer. The thermometer reads 73 F, and that seems reasonable enough, but upon opening the kitchen door to the garage, I’m hit with the solid denseness of an August atmosphere thick with moisture. Venturing out onto the back patio, I’m rewarded with a bit of a breeze… just enough to make doing my morning meditation outside tolerable. I settle into one of our wrought iron chairs , take a few deep breaths, and gaze across the patio to the east garden.This east garden is a lush, crowded mixture of lilies, butterfly bushes, bergamot, butterfly weed, swamp milkweed, purple coneflowers, dill, and an ever-expanding wisteria vine. Of course it wasn’t always this way. When Joe and I first moved in, there was only a fence… a basic, traditional, green! chain-link fence. Functional; but not terribly attractive. We toyed with the idea of removing it, but then thought, well, maybe one day we’ll get a dog and then we’ll be very happy to have this old fence. So, it remained, and the planting began.
It turns out that when you’ve got a bit of planting to do, and have no specific plans for the planting, you have only to get the word out to family and friends and before you know it–you’ve got plants! I started things off with two small butterfly bushes–a white one from my aunt Caroline and a purple one from a local church plant sale. Next came a spectacular variety of day lilies, also from my aunt Caroline. [I should mention that this aunt Caroline of mine is a master gardener and former day lily collector. Her backyard is a dazzling array of flowers and shrubbery.] Then, my mom donated purple coneflower seeds and a wisteria vine. Finally, a friend of mine was happy to share some butterfly weed seeds. Let all this simmer and bake for a few years, and you have a beautiful, if somewhat random, garden. But that’s not all.
As I became more interested in native plants and butterfly gardens, I felt the need to augment this garden along those lines. So, over the years I’ve added bergamot, swamp milkweed, and more butterfly weed. Occasionally, we plant extra seedlings from the herb garden like dill and fennel, as the butterflies like these, too. We were pleasantly surprised this year to see that the dill had reseeded itself, making an encore appearance and doing much better than when WE planted it. Nature knows best.
So now, the east garden is a dense jungle of foliage and blooms, butterflies and bees, color and movement. I imagine that the plants might be a bit annoyed, having to constantly elbow each other for space and duck around each other for sunlight. They seem to be managing just fine, though, and perhaps we’ll expand the garden space a bit more next year. Meanwhile, I get to enjoy the wild and often surprising beauty of a garden that came together not with a plan, but with the help of family and friends. And for added value, it pretty much obscures that old green chainlink fence!