Delicate dahlias mingle with cherry tomatoes and leafy kale. Golden marigolds shine alongside lillies, zinnia and fragrant vintage. Budding morsels of cauliflower and broccoli nestle in their frilly leaves… well I admit, the gophers did enjoy nibbling the cauliflower! My mountain gardens are gloriously abloom and verdant, and I’m surprised to find that I haven’t yet written of my cherished patch of vegetables and flowers. They’ve been an oasis during these unsettling times.
The outdoor garden sprung to life last spring, a reaction to the pandemic, like a lifeline during these unprecedented times. From building the enclosure – to protect from deer – to constructing the beds and a delightfully Japanese-inspired gate, to seeding and planting, the garden was a family project we all took pride and delight in. Then, we were embraced in our covid-bubble of seven and the garden was a solace. Now, I can’t imagine our home without it.
Admittedly it yielded very little the first year, but this second summer not only is it much more profuse, it’s a haven of calm and colour. I’ve always had ample flowers in pots and planters wherever we happened to be living, but this actual garden has ‘home’ stamped and embedded in it, deep down to its roots. We’re now in Canada for much of the year, not travelling afar, and the joy of gardening has become a marker of being settled… and that’s more than alright. The show stopper this year might well have been a single lupine; but oh what a beauty she was! And now as the tomatoes ripen and the carrots are still too dainty to pick, gorgeous white Murilea lilies have burst forth – simple, elegant late bloomers. It’s been such a joy to stroll to the garden and pluck blooms for bouquets and small posies for the guest room.
Alongside the garden we’ve embarked on more landscaping… pines, maples, lupines, wildflowers and peonies. The peonies, I might add, stubbornly refused to bloom again this second year. Each morning it’s a walk of discovery to inspect what the deer might or might not have munched through during the night. Our mountain property is supposedly full of ‘deer resistant’ plants as is the norm here, yet a recently transplanted hollyhock from my parent’s garden was eagerly gobbled up just as it was about to burst forth. It’s an ongoing balance as we share this environment with the local fauna. Just a few months ago, the new-born dappled fawns tentatively browsed the grounds, making sure not to wander too far from their mamas. Now they amble through with confidence, hoping for something new to interest them. Somewhat more welcome are the blue jays, hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.
Thankfully there is one protected haven for my blooms. During the summertime in Canada, the deck, usually at the front of a home, becomes like another room; an outdoor living room accented with planters and furniture. As the weather turned warm in the spring, I decided to re-create my deck space, envisioning it more like the warmer places we’ve lived. I wanted palms and romantic flowers, rattan and texture, vestiges of the past, yet evoking modern calm.
And it came together beautifully. Three potted cedars not only provide privacy, but are a mountain-nod to the tall cypresses of Italy. A basket from Thailand holds an emerald-green palm, its gentle swaying in the breeze transports me back to tropical Asia. Lemony delicate straw flowers, snap dragons and mauve petunias grow happily in a planter found in an Omani souk. Antique Japanese parasols are at the ready for shading. And my beloved India is heartily represented… in lanterns and cushions, by a wooden sculpture and a chunky Indian coffee table. With the ski hill as the deck’s backdrop, there’s a peaceful harmony of those places dear to me while still embracing this mountain space.
The joy of creating this outdoor sitting room, as with the garden, has not only brought more beauty to our surroundings, it satisfies the desire we all might have now and then to create and curate; a reimagining that can nourish our soul.
Through the pandemic I have become not only more thankful, perhaps it has offered us the not-so-gentle-reminder to seek what we might want, to infuse with what brings us joy… to simply be happy in the moment. I recall years ago receiving a small handmade tile from a friend upon leaving Houston, just before our move to Norway. It read, ‘Bloom where you’re planted.’ How very apt.
And perhaps the rediscovery of the benefits of gardens – whether it be on terra ferma, on a deck or rooftop, or even just plants in your home – may be one of the few good things to have evolved from the pandemic. There is ample proof of the health benefits. And a feeling of fulfilment, of wonderment and serenity as buds turn to blooms, as seeds and bulbs peek up through the earth, as shrubs and trees mature… as the space you’ve created becomes a backdrop for life.
How wonderful to be savouring in this blooming and I hope the same for you, in whatever shape your ‘blooming’ might be.