It’s a little over three weeks since we opened our garden for the Garden Conservancy Open Day. All the paperwork has been handled, the money sent, and everything’s tidied away. Yet the garden keeps getting better and better. So I thought I’d give you a virtual tour.
I’m going to break the tour into sections, because it’s a big garden.
Tour One—Previewing the Land of Oz:
Before you even go through the entry gate, you can see this area from the driveway. This is a child’s garden. Like childhood itself, we adults can only stand on the outside and look in.
This twenty-by-twenty-foot Land of Oz garden was designed by our daughter, Annie Rose, when she was seven. It is sized small because she made it to fit herself and her friends at that age.
Without any prompting from me, she drew up a classic circle in a square. As a designer, she had very specific demands. She wanted a circular yellow brick road, with the four lands of Oz in each corner, represented by plants in that land’s color.
The whole garden room would be surrounded by a white picket fence. The Emerald City would be in the circle’s center, represented by a weeping Japanese bellflower tree (Styrax japonicus ‘Pendula’) she had chosen from a lineup of my new nursery purchases.
As is typical of any garden installation, Annie the designer had some disagreements with her contractor (me). I tried to talk her out of the color conformity, “Don’t you want to mix it up a bit?” I asked her. She shook her head. No, it had to be single-color areas.
I tried to talk her out of the Styrax. After all, it was the most expensive tree I’d bought, and I had other plans for it. No, it had to be the bellflower.
Under the tree she and I added moss that we had collected from our woods. However,over time, raccoons or turkeys kept digging it up, on the hunt for worms and bugs. So this year, I pinned it all down with chicken wire, which, I hope, the moss will grow through.
Her loving father–a much more amenable contractor–had read all fourteen of the Oz books to her (over and over). He crafted every single picket from a nearby downed fir tree. But I balked at painting the pickets white. I knew enough about the scouring action of Northwest rains and I didn’t see Annie out there every year, repainting the pickets. When faced with the choice of her own labor or no paint, she went along with unpainted.
I found the yellow bricks at my next door neighbor’s property, part of a razed chimney. (Thanks, Marcia.) Annie added the tiny bench for talking with friends, and decorated a post with several frogs because her best friend Martha liked frogs.
Annie and her brother discovered this representation of the Tin Man somewhere in our woods.
I’m afraid it sounds like Annie Rose was a spoiled rotten princess about all this. She wasn’t. But she took her creation seriously. And therefore her father and I did too. If you’re going to let a kid design something, you’d better give her enough authority to see it through the way she wants it–with some room for compromise.
Annie’s now twenty-three, and grown and flown. I miss her. So it’s with a certain melancholy each year that I choose the colored plants for the lands of Oz. It’s the only place where I actually bed out. I’m adding more small shrubs and perennials as the years go by for less work. Finding the proper colors for a tiny semi-shaded spot is always a challenge. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
I know now Annie’s design sensibility was spot on. A Midwest white picket was exactly what was required for a story that starts in Kansas, although I’m glad we agreed to no paint. And as for the Styrax? I’ve never regretted giving it to her. The kid ‘s got great taste. # # # #