The Lost World

The failing 40-year-old fence had to be taken down before it fell down. Shared with our 92-year-old neighbor of 20 years, it took some convincing, first – and then it took some major clearing.

While our side was relatively clear of vegetation, her side had become a jungle of tangled, massive ivy that had swallowed what was once one of the most treasured and admired gardens in the neighborhood.

I’m now sure exactly when her husband passed; I knew that she had already been living alone for at least ten years before we moved in two decades ago. The garden was her pride and joy. She would spend hours tending to the magnificent azaleas, rhododendrons, ferns and hidden treasures. This is the view of one of them from our side.

Until about 10 years ago, she would bring in gardeners to do major clearing, pruning and tending. But as time went on, that ceased and the ivy began swallowing up the garden and the fence with it.

When our Yogi threatened to bounce it to the ground in his hunt for critters, it was time to address it.

And just about the only way she was going to allow it to be cleared for the replacement was if someone she trusted did it. So the task fell to me.

She is of surprisingly good, but frail, physical health. Especially considering that she has smoked her whole life and had heart bypass surgery 10 years ago. But the years of living alone have taken their toll. While she can recount stories from decades ago, her short-term memory now fails her. If I work when it is cool in the morning, she keeps watch from her patio, calling me over every few minutes to ask the same question again and again. I am happy to abide her, but found that my most productive time is after she has “gone up” for the night…at 3PM.

Part of the offer was to do a kindness to a long-time neighbor on a fixed budget; part was to see if I could recover her lost gem – something I knew she would appreciate and a gardening challenge for me. I got more than I bargained for.

The first task was to ensure the required clearance for the fence work so it could get underway. It began with providing a clearing from which I could branch off left and right, and a way out when returning all of the cleared vegetation – some alive, some very much dead.

I uncovered mature trees that were never planted – they just burst their containers and found ground for their roots;

a tree limb, the weight of which was the only thing holding an entire section of fence in place;

and ivy trunks as thick as trees.

So far, three towering piles have been taken away. And that is from a single small section of the yard required for the fence project.

While the fence was able to be replaced and Yogi secured, the project of reclaiming the garden will continue as time allows. I am careful not to prune too much from her treasured shrubs and trees, but as the light can now enter, the structure and beauty begin to show through again.

The lost world, rediscovered. And with it, a treasured memory will hopefully be restored.

13 comments

  1. This reminds me of me and my ‘backyard’ neighbor. The fence between our yards is hanging on, to say the least. I have my jumble of plants/trees/shrubs. She has her little jungle. Every so often when we can hear each other in our yards, she will yell over, “Lois–you see any snakes?” I respond, “No!” We laugh and we’re good. The fence can stand another year. You have done a beautiful job. Yogi looks so proud.

    • I kind of like jungles myself – and certainly, the wildlife does too. But when the fence people say two-foot clearance for digging – they aren’t kidding. And given what they had to dig through -I don’t blame them. Something to look forward to!

  2. Murphy's Law

    What a wonderful neighbor you are. What a huge task you’ve taken on. What a happy ending when this project is completed…..perhaps not for your back!! I cannot believe my eyes looking at the ivy trunks.

    I hope this project doesn’t run into any unexpected snags along the way. Even if she doesn’t express it, your neighbor must be thrilled.
    🔹 Ginger 🔹

  3. Oh, Audrey…you are a saint! Not only with our beloved pups, and The Homeward Bound Memorial Garden, but to beauty and nature in general. There are only a few that can see beauty and worth among a mess: and you are that special person. It is a privilege to know you. Thank you for your unique talent and for sharing it xoxoxo

  4. You took the word, neighbor, to a higher level. If I lived closer, I’d definitely offer to help. You are doing a good deed. 🙂 I was at a box store yesterday checking out and an older, very frail lady three people in front of me needed help to take a bag of birdseed out of her cart to put in her car. The casher couldn’t find anyone, but the lady in line behind her told her to wait by her car, and she would come do it. We only hear about negative things on the news, but there are many people doing nice things for others, and that includes you and this unknown shopper.

  5. If possible, I hope you’ll continue to share some photos of the progress! I really enjoy seeing a garden transform. I am sure it took some finesse to give your neighbor the assurances she needed to permit such a big job, but I am also quite sure her spirit is lifted with the progress. Very nice!

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