Letting it go

IMG_4590.JPGThere comes a moment every summer when I realize that it’s time to let the garden go. Though the phlox is finally coming into its own, and the Japanese anemone and turtleheads have yet to fully flower, I have to face the fact that there’s nothing more I can do to change the course of this particular growing season. The dahlias are never going to reach the height I’d planned on, so their brilliant crimson faces will remain lost in the back row of the border garden. The Prairie Princess roses are still trying to find their footing after the long, brutal winter. The canna lilies didn’t (yet again!) bloom.

Shasta daisies

Shasta daisies

But the inventory of disappointments is counter-balanced by the unexpected successes: the monarda and shasta daisies which are in the midst of re-flowering … the obedient plants spreading (obediently) under the smoke bush … the black hollyhocks that I’d given up on suddenly shooting up and unfurling dark, glossy, double-headed blooms.

Obedient plant

Obedient plant

I’m already thinking about what I’ll do differently next year.  Joe Eck and his late partner Wayne Winterrowd — co-authors of some of the most delightful books on gardening I’ve ever read — have said that you know you’re a gardener when, in the midst of weeding or planting, you’ll look across the flower beds and find yourself making mental notes about next year’s garden.  In my case:  “Next year I’m going to prune back the spirea bushes, and divide the hostas,  and transplant some of the geraniums. Next year I’m going to…

Black hollyhocks

Black hollyhocks

Maybe next year the garden I keep planning and hoping for — the one I see so clearly in mind — will finally materialize. Maybe next year the canna lilies will bloom. But for now, I’m letting all my expectations go and enjoying the last few weeks of what actually is.

Here’s a poem by Donald Hall about his wife Jane Kenyon’s garden — and a different kind of letting go. Both acclaimed poets, Hall and Kenyon moved in 1975 to Eagle Pond Farm in Wilmot, New Hampshire which had been in Hall’s family for many generations. They lived and wrote and gardened there together until Jane Kenyon died from leukemia in 1995 at the age of forty-eight.

Her Garden
by Donald Hall
I let her garden go.
let it go, let it go
How can I watch the hummingbird
Hover to sip
With its beak’s tip
The purple bee balm – whirring as we heard
It years ago?
The weeds rise rank and thick
let it go, let it go
Where annuals grew and burdock grows
Where standing she
At once could see
The peony, the lily, and the rose
Rise over brick.
She’d laid in patterns. Moss
let it go, let it go
Turns the bricks green, softening them
By the gray rocks
Where hollyhocks
That lofted while she lived, stem by tall stem,
Blossom with loss.

For more poems by Donald Hall please visit: http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/donald-hall

For more about Joe Eck and the late Wayne Winterrowd, and North Hill, their beautiful garden in Vermont, please visit: http://www.northhillgarden.com

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8 Responses to Letting it go

  1. judy buck says:

    Love to Mother Bunny from Bucky

  2. max zortz says:

    Thank you for softening the blow that accompanies the end of summer. I’m not buying that it’s the end yet but early fall is in the air.

  3. Annette Shear says:

    Hollyhocks: my favorite garden flower; always the groom in my marital parade down the stone path: white for the bride, pink for the bridemaids..skirts touch the ground and buds become the heads…and there is the groom!
    have a wonderful autumn and keep us up-to-date with flowers of fall.

  4. Beata M. Newman Scarpulla says:

    Dear Liza,

    Oh my gosh, what a lovely sensitive poem.

    Thanks for sharing.


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