Accidental Gardener

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I am an accidental gardener. Come to think of it, I’m an accidental everything: gardener, photographer, blogger, and rescue supporter. These were not planned; I was just drawn to them and happened upon people who graciously showed me the way.

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A fellow blogger, Helen Johnstone of the Patient Gardener’s Weblog, shared a new book: the “First Ladies of Gardening.” Normally, a title like that would put me straight off. But I admire Helen’s blog, so I ordered it. And I’m so glad I did!

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I did not grow up with gardens or gardeners. I vaguely recall that my grandmother grew flowers to inspire her paintings, but I spent very little time with either. What I have learned has been the result of trial and error, as well as lessons from my gardener partners at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden.

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In “First Ladies of Gardening,” I learned names like Gertrude Jekyll, Vita Sackville-West – whose directive “cram, cram, cram” I already follow – and Beth Chatto, who believed that making a garden was like making a family.

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But there is one gardener whose spirit I admire just as much as her garden: Margery Fish and her cottage garden at East Lambrook Manor.

Margery Fish did not begin gardening until she was in her forties. Quietly rebellious – the author shares – she allowed small plants to grow in the crevices of her husband’s perfectly groomed paths, and inadvertently stopped watering his “proper” plant choices in favor of her leafy, wild and rare perennials. New plants that mysteriously appeared were explained as “gifts” that simply could not be refused. The garden – once a jungle – was planted in abundance and self-sowing seeds were left to distribute unexpected surprises that kept the garden looking natural and unfussy.

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Margery Fish believed that you can’t rush a garden. You need to get the feel of its surroundings, and then it grows by degrees.

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Our Memorial Garden has grown this way. Pushing out and overflowing its ever-enlarged beds, blooming with donated gifts,

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filled with surprise remembrances,

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and dressed – of course – with dogs.

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I think every garden needs dogs.

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We have a long way to go to match the majesty of East Lambrook Manor, but I am filled with inspiration.

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And did I mention…dogs?

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