A Summer of Adventure Leads Back to the Garden

Melanie Ruckle Uncategorized

It was a very full summer with many things happening. Somehow it felt adventurous. It was adventurous. Not in an “I’m going to climb Kilamanjaro” kind of way but in a “wake up and look at what is in front of you kind of way.” Why not go, see, do, and discover along the way? So here are some of the things I saw, heard, and did that stand out for me that, quite naturally, lead back to the garden.

On a week-long trip to the Outer Banks with my husband, Keith, and friends, every day I walked the designated path through the dunes to reach the beach and sit by the ocean. I walked this path several times a day. In the morning, I sat on the deck of the house and looked at the dunes. In the evening, I could feel their presence while stargazing, just as when sitting staring at the ocean with my back to them during the day. They were a protector, a constant standing tall, strong, and full of life. The plants on the dunes stabilized and supported the dunes and their role at the beach. The plants waved peacefully, blooming and producing seeds while providing cover, nesting sites, and food. Deep below, their roots interwove and held the sand in place. What lightness, joy, peace, strength and life these simple but complex dunes had and gave. I would like to see something similar in my own garden. I have been asking myself how can I help to support and create the same, so that when I sit in my home or go about my daily activities, I feel my garden’s protection and life-giving qualities.

Later in the month, Keith and I went to Seattle for two weddings. Two weddings of two cousins, both living in Seattle, both named Brooke, and they have never met. What are the odds? Anyway, Seattle offered several things to ponder as well. Inclusivity for certain, because Seattle welcomes everyone. We were constantly meeting people from all over the world, with different backgrounds and styles of living. It made everything so interesting and rich, like a wine with many layers of flavors. Delicious. Another aspect of Seattle is the way they take care of their environment. It is for everyone. They recycle and look for ways to keep their city and surrounding areas clean, attractive, and healthy. Many gardens go right to the sidewalk; some of them keep going past the sidewalk to the street. This means anyone can walk down the street and walk through a garden. How great! One big garden! It’s all important. It’s everyone’s garden. It’s for everyone.

I had the great pleasure to be part of the first installation of the Delaware Botanic Gardens’ meadow in early September. (Check out Delaware Botanic Gardens’ website to learn more about this developing treasure due to open in 2019. http://www.delawaregardens.org/) At the gardens, along with many volunteers from the surrounding area, horticulture professionals gathered to help lay out and install the first 17,000 plants of the meadow garden designed by Piet Oudolf. What great fun. The amount of learning, sharing and teamwork that occurred was amazing. I had many interesting conversations with people from all different areas of horticulture that week, but one statement in particular, keeps ringing in my ears. It was said by Roy Diblik. Roy is a talented garden designer as well as nursery owner and author. He wrote The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden. I highly recommend the book. To design a garden with a deep understanding of every plant that goes into the garden is like Sudoku tenth level. To listen to Roy talk about garden design, one quickly gets this is Garden Design, Level Ten. Amazing. So what Roy said was this: “To place a plant in the garden is a great responsibility.” That’s it. That’s what has been rattling around in my head. Think on that. To place a plant in the garden is a great responsibility. If we approach our gardens this way, plant by plant, how will that change the feel of the garden? As we work at this, over and over again, year after year, will it not bring all those things that we come to value most in our gardens, cities, and landscapes to the forefront? Supportive, peaceful, joyful, strong, life-giving, light, inclusive, vibrant, rich, delicious, layered, interactive, caring, healthy, teaching, learning, teamwork. Now that’s a garden.