Seven summers ago, I started a new life devoted to writing, in Provincetown. Naturally, I wanted to distract myself. My apartment was surrounded by growth. The front garden was tamed by the former tennant, an admirable writer, who grew epic tomatoes and many herbs. I was told repeatedly, though, that nothing would grow in the back, though; too much shade, poor soil; wind.
Nothing motivates me more than a gardening challenge. I researched Cape Cod garden peculiarities, studied books on soil improvement, and shade gardens all winter long. In the spring, I got to work.
The back had two bare plots, divided by a common gravel path. The north-facing cement wall, aka foundation, featured a tangle of wires and meters, and wooden fences ran along the east and west sides. The front was seperated from the wetlands by another gravel footpath. It wasn’t a secret graden, or a reading nook to escape with a book and tea. Without privacy, the backyard became a place to landscape and learn. The nooks and bits of garden I’d had before mostly consisted of pots, and not much dug into the ground. So, right off, I bought a shovel, pruners, and a rake, and the first in a series of garden hoses. The pruners especially rusted magnificantly.
Two hostas already grew along one fence, so I took the cue, and planted a few more. I found cinnamon fern, dicentra, astilbe, Forget-me-not, sweet woodruff, and huchera in the local nurseries. I added that year’s star perennial, geranium Rozanne, and some annuals, guided by garden catelougues, books, and sales.
Things grew slowly that year, but steadily. Clematis came next, and buddleia. I tried a potted dahlia, trout lilies, and to my surprise, I had a volunteer Joe Pye’s Weed. The latter was good for the bees, my gardener friend told me, and she gave me some monarda to plant as well.
I kept trying new things, like margoton lilies, heirloom glads, snake’s head fritilleria. Some plants reassuringly appeared year after year, while others, like the trout lilies and buddleia, last only a five years. One year, the cinnamom ferns kept having babies. But the garden feels incomplete. It lacks a sense of sanctuary, a sense of safety. It looks good in parts, but does it have a sense of harmony? I have my catelogues and graph paper out. I’m watching garden shows and taking notes. If you have suggestions, I’m listening. (Below the next two photos is a slideshow.)740″] Fern explosion, 2017?[/caption]