The Hidden Garden

            I am not a gardener, yet I have a green thumb. On Mondays and Fridays, I water 43 houseplants. The African violets in my kitchen window are nearly always blooming, and I smile every time I see them. In spring, when we move most of the plants to our huge screened-in porch, the space is transformed to an outdoor living room. It stays that way until the last moment in fall when the temp forces us to bring them indoors.

One summer, years ago, I decided to reclaim an overgrown area, about 30 feet by 60 feet, west of our house that created a complete screen from our neighbor. Giant mock orange, unknown shrubs, and struggling trees were covered with vines creating quite an impenetrable jungle that towered ten feet over my head. With the neighbor’s help and a couple chainsaws, we cut the shrubs until they were about four feet tall.

I decided to call the area my English garden, something I’d always dreamed of having, and Jim got some black paper to put down to make a curving path around the stunted shrubs and covered it with landscape bark. I walked the path through the scalped shrubs, and I forced my friends to walk the path with me. I envisioned myself sitting on a wrought-iron bench, enthralled in a book. What a romantic place it would be.

But I didn’t garden. Other project priorities and family demands and joys filled my days. I didn’t pull those wounded vines that had been cut off at the ground, but had not been killed. The clipping gave them new vigor, and soon they were winding over the shrubs again, which didn’t give up either. They fought the vines and grew as well, and soon the two were intertwined so completely, it was hard to tell which was which.

I can no longer find the entrance or the exit to the English garden.  Dead leaves and heavy ground cover smothered the bark path. The mock orange, which smell so heavenly when they bloom, have many dead branches.

The area now completely screens the neighbor’s house again. It’s as tall and overgrown as ever because of my neglect.

So it is with many things in our lives. If we neglect them, they shrivel and die, or in this case, they grow and reclaim what had been a dream.

If it had been an important dream instead of a passing fancy, I would have worked at it, pulled weeds and kept shrubs under control. I can always rationalize and say it’s a wildlife habitat again, so my loss is wildlife’s gain.

But my garden is now hidden, and there’s a part of me that wishes I could find it again.