Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bredablick revisited

The entrance flower bed as seen from the house towards the drive way. The round stone on the left is a pebble from the nearby beach.

No, I'm absolutely not comparing my house and garden to Brideshead in any way... nor was Bredablick, my garden, after our two years of absence in such a horribly gloomy condition as Brideshead was when Charles Ryder unexpectedly returned there as head of his brigade.

Lower part of the same flower bed as above...
When arriving in Sweden, I first felt quite uneasy to see my garden and house called Bredablick, "the wide view", named so after the lot of land where they are situated. Having had such an intimate relationship with my garden - cutting back, clearing, weeding, mulching, planting, always with soil under my fingernails - I was full of anguish to see how much had survived a break of two years and three summers. Of course, I've had someone to do the basic maintenance, but as anyone who has ever gardened knows, a garden must be loved, not just maintained.

And still another view of the same area, with an old apple tree in the front.

To my great relief, many plants had survived, even if there were casualties: my shady flower border was almost gone, with only some ferns and a couple of Lilium martagons and Astrantias persisting in front of the huge, old lilac hedge. I chose them not only because of their lovely looks, but also because they are supposed to be highly tolerant towards both shade and neglegt, but I guess they too have their limits. In my entrance flowerbeds some plants had thrived and some not. Sadly, the hollies (Ilex meserveae 'Blue Prince') that I had planted in a bout of "hardiness zone optimism" had shed almost all of their leaves, so I had to cut them back to a height of only one feet. I hope that they grow back before we return (which should be in about two years time...), but until then, what was supposed to be a a dark, glossy green fond behind the perennials in these highly visible entrance flowerbeds, consists now only of a bunch of meager sticks with a couple leaves sprouting from them.
The front lawn, where I usually grow islands of daisies and other meadow flowers...The large buxus was planted in the 1930s and the small babies by me for a couple of years ago.

Otherwise the Hostas were thriving and should have been divided, an impossible task given the hot, dry weather while we were in Sweden. Many of the peonies had grown fatter, and all lady's mantles, Alchemillas, were having a ball, spreading happily into all flowerbeds and self-seeding all over the gravel drive together with the Geraniums. I was hoping to have time to transplant even some of them to better positions, but our days in Sweden disappeared quicker than it took the glistening sprinkles of water from our garden hoses to be absorbed by the needy, parched soil...
Bredablick, part of the "wide view"... Limestone paving and a lavender hedge to the left.

And there I was, happily toiling in my garden again, not noticing as time flew past. I was secretly feeling a bit ashamed of that I don't feel like this in my garden in Seattle, despite all its abundance and possibilities... And then, in Robert Pogue Harrison's thought-provoking book Gardens - An Essay on the Human Condition I found a passage that describes what I hadn't been able to formulate:
A garden that comes into being through one's own labor and tending efforts is very different from the fantastical gardens where things preexist spontaneously, offering themselves gratuitously for enjoyment. (...)
Unlike earthly paradises, human-made gardens that are bought into and
maintained in being by cultivation retain a signature of the human agency to which they owe their existence.

Deck for outdoor dining behind the house.
Somewhere between the lines above, there might be the reason for my inability (at least not yet)to get attached to my Seattle garden: it was designed and planted by someone else, and despite all my pottering around, I have not really been creating anything of my "own". Maybe, creating and taking care of a garden is what is needed for being able to truly appreciate and enjoy it and its beauty. At Bredablick, I started with an overgrown, weed filled jungle and worked hard to leave my mark and make it into a garden. Despite my absence and the fact that it still is very much a work in progress (or isn't a garden always just that...), I feel that it still carries "a signature of my human agency"... and maybe that is why I continue to love it so much.

The sun coming up behind the nearby islands, all wrapped in early morning mist.

PS - thank you, Farmor for all help with getting the garden at Bredablick back in shape.


Laura said...

Beautiful. You should be very proud of all of your work in that garden. It shows you skill that despite your absence it still holds true to your design. I hope you find this harmony in your Seattle garden.

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Thanks, Laura! It was so good to be back and see all my plant friends there again, and maybe start slowly planning for new additions...