On patience…and garden updates

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On patience

A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.

 Gertrude Jekyll 

Growing up, I was always told by my mother, “Good things come to those who wait,”  or “Patience is a virtue.”  As a teenager, all I heard was, “Blah, blah, blah.”  I was impatient for so much.  It was difficult to see past my immediate wants to see what I really needed and what was sustainable.

As an adult and mother, now I [try to] practice patience much more freely and with a deeper understanding of what it means to be patient.   I try not to immediately respond to a comment perceived as hurtful, and I try not to reprimand Mon Cœur (MC) without giving myself wait time. Just a moment to reflect before saying something that may be thought in haste, or while feeling less than patient.  

I realize that immediate gratification is just that – immediate.  It fades away in the time that passes and does not endure.  However, words said in the moment linger far longer in people’s memories than we like to admit.

Millie’s garden has stretched our patience muscles, as we have planted seeds, bare roots, bulbs, and other plants, and had to wait for them to break through the ground, grow, bud, and flower.  

Sometimes we’ve been pleasantly surprised by a quickly sprouting seed, other times we wait for so long, and either are disappointed in the end, or are amazed as we watch a plant make its appearance.

We have filled in so much of the garden since we’ve begun almost a year ago, and yet we have so much more to do.  It has been difficult not to go out and buy flowers for every inch of the garden, and yet with the daily watering, I am reminded why we are going to fill it in slowly.  

We have fought our want for immediate gratification for a garden full of blooms, instead opting to grow it over time. It has made every day a new adventure, looking for summer bulbs to break through the ground, watching for buds, smelling the flowers in bloom, and enjoying each small display of progress within the garden.  It has given us something to look forward to, to hope for, and to invest in each day.  

Recent Additions

Despite wanting to not fill the garden in completely this year, we have had many additions since our last garden update, and I have needed to redo our garden map, as the original was getting quite cramped and hard to decipher.

As I thought about how best to draw the map this time, I decided that I would color code plants by their flowering season.

We are striving to fill flower beds with flowers and plants for each season so there’s always a feature to marvel at. This has been more difficult than I had originally thought, since we are filling in as we go, and didn’t plan before planting. We are making it work, and have seen where we can fill in the gaps- the color coding is definitely helping with deciding locations for future plants.

Bee balm was transplanted from our vegetable garden to Millie’s garden and has been a nectar source for both butterflies and honeybees.

We have transplanted bee balm and milk weed; Chouchou gave me some bare root peonies, Asian lilies, and phlox for Mother’s Day; he’s also added some sedum and succulents; we received a petite butterfly bush from friends for Millie’s birthday; a neighbor gave us a few hostas and some lambs ear which have helped fill in under our cedar trees; and Sissy sent us some mixed peonies for Millie’s birthday. I also planted a few dogwood saplings and a Washington Hawthorne sapling.

Cultivating the soul

A butterfly bush in full bloom reminds us of the dear friends who offered it to us before Christmas this past year.

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.

Alfred Austin

It has become routine to go out to the garden early, before the Virginia heat and humidity set in, to water and observe each plant.  

Every day, when we go out, we are surrounded by the plants, bees, birds, and butterflies. Most of all, though, I feel the love of friends and family as we make our way around the garden.

Seeds, plants, or manual labor offered by friends and family make us think of them as we visit each plant. Every time I see a butterfly, I think of Millie, and with each plant I water, I think of the friend that offered it, showing their love for her and for us.  

Or, I may pass a hill or section of the garden, where family grabbed a shovel to dig holes for plants.  I can’t wait to see all the spring bulbs next spring, and I will think fondly of my moms who helped to plant them. 

When I sit at the bench drinking morning coffee or I watch MC playing at her tea party table, I think of Chouchou and our cousin who helped set the stones for these features.

I enjoy going out in the morning dew of the day to look at the growing garden with MC. She is a willing helper, and has learned essentially all of the flower names.  This has made her an excellent tour guide to those who come to see the garden.  

She also loves to give her opinion on the flowers – the gardenias smell like chocolate; the butterfly bush is gorgeous; her daffodils are sleeping. She keeps a look out for the hummingbirds, checking our homemade feeders every morning to make sure they are full. Seeing the garden through her eyes, and hearing her talk about it brings me such delight.

Homemade hummer feeders – made from recycled pimiento jars, with four holes punched in the lid.

Beyond patience – learning opportunities

I have also been patient and perhaps too nurturing with some of the bare roots that were given to us – our phlox and peonies are struggling and the liatris mix have remained hidden from view for over two months.  Each day for the past month, I have been hopeful to see them emerge from the earth and begin to grow in our view.  

After giving them ample time to break through and begin growing, I began researching online and reaching out to the companies that sold the plants and bulbs.

I had a really promising experience speaking with the Netherland Bulb Company, who guarantee all of their bulbs. She said give it a few more weeks, it may take some time for the liatris to break ground, but it grows very quickly once it does. If we don’t have any luck, they will send us replacements next spring.

The other company that sold the peonies and phlox were only reachable by email, and are sending replacement plants next spring.

I have learned recently though, through internet research that peonies [bare roots] should be planted in the fall, and phlox bare root planting is more complicated than the overly simple directions that were displayed on the box.

I consider myself an accidental gardener, and we are learning about flower care and symbolism as we nurture the plants within Millie’s garden.

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.

May Sarton

The garden has become such a respite from the stresses of the world, all the while cultivating a calm, a patience, and a hope within us for all that is to bloom. Additionally, it teaches us to accept with grace the ebb and flow of life, watching with anticipation for buds to bloom, and understanding that when a flower has wilted and dropped, that another will appear soon, and at the end of the bloom season that next year, that we will be blessed with more beauty from the same plant.

Millie’s garden has allowed us to slow down, enjoy the little successes, learn from our mistakes, and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.


For previous garden updates, check out the links below:

  • You can read about our Spring and summer additions here;
  • Our nursery haul here;
  • December additions here;
  • Fall additions here;
  • The end of week one progress here;
  • Check out the grotto in progress here;
  • Read about the chopping of our cherry tree here;
  • And see what we started with in our before pictures here.

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