A childhood daydream is coming true for me, right here at the farm: We are building a new shade garden.
It will grow beneath the canopy of some blackjack trees, in the sleepy, loamy area just downhill from the house, right between our bonfire yard and my raised beds veggie garden.
When you stand outside my kitchen and turn right, you first see the herb garden, then past a little expanse of lawn you will soon see this new shade garden adjacent to full sun beauties, then beyond that some sandy hills full of frogs and turtles, then the pond which is blessedly full and glassy right now, and beyond that your eyes fall easily on the back field and western horizon which is every evening ablaze with color.
We all sure do love Oklahoma sunsets. And this telescoping alleyway of one view after another, culminating in a long drink of sunset reflecting on the pond is one of my favorite features of the Lazy W. Especially in warm months between the hours of about 5-9 p.m. because bats and dragonflies fill the dusk. It’s a little bit of magic, and we are working to maximize that.
In my mind, this new space mimics a garden my grandparents grew in Oklahoma City, when I was in grade school and still climbing trees barefoot and using grated blue and purple chalk for eye shadow. Back then, they grew the most beautiful and luxurious examples of everything good and fragrant. And they seemed to do so easily, though I know they worked hard. Here and now, we already have one each of hydrangea, viburnum, bleeding heart, and an optimistic little white azalea. That’s not much for so much open space, even keeping in mind the tree roots. Soon we will add larkspur, foxglove, hollyhocks, extra herbs, more Hydrangea, more viburnum, and definitely more azaleas plus a few thick ruffles of caladium. Because in addition to mimicking my grandparents’ style, I want to nod generously to our beloved French Quarter. The aesthetic there never fails to conjure up a certain mood, a certain pleasure-seeking vibe that both Handsome and I love. More on that another day.
This afternoon I spent the sunshine hours adding mulched up leaves and composted horse manure to the bare beds, incorporating it into the soil and breathing in the perfume. I was happy to find lots of earthworms but so far no baby snakes. I then spread several bags of black mulch over the newly cultivated areas and stood back to admire how great everything looks with that clean, crisp, uniform backdrop. The white azalea blooms are visible from a greater distance now. The “garden” is more clearly defined from the “path,” and I swear emerald green becomes Technicolor green with that mulch and a heavy dose of molten sunshine.
All this color and freshness eliminate the feeling of desolation you sometimes get by looking at too much dry, barren earth and dead things. Does that happen to you?
The overarching goal here is to grow more ornamentals and edibles for our private use, near where we luxuriate daily. (Market growing is happening in the front field this year.) We want all of it back here to be part of the landscape, orchestrated more or less with curves and repeated groupings, and far more easily maintained than before. The borders and mulch will do a lot to accomplish that.
I wish my Grandpa could see this latest farm improvement, because he and Grandma inspired so much of it. And all these years since Handsome and I bought this place, Grandpa was so encouraging and supportive.
But he is with me when I smell crushed tomato leaves and when I accidentally mow a garlic row. He is with me when I “double dig” exactly the way he taught me to and when I mulch the grass clippings of course. And on cool mornings when I wear his quilted nylon vest with pockets.
This childhood daydream coming true is already more beautiful than I ever thought a real garden of my very own could be.