April 22nd, 2007
Garden Visits

Zanthan Gardens meadow 20070423
A thrilling, dizzying afternoon.

There are two gardens here. The garden that is and the garden I envision. I rarely look at the garden with my eyes firmly rooted in the present. I see the garden of intentions. The paths completed and free from chinaberry seedlings. The nandina and bindweed hacked back and replaced with roses. The lawn level and green. The trees trimmed and the clippings hauled away. The endless pile of mulch tucked into beds. The tools and laundry put away. The plants waiting in the nursery finally transplanted.

Zanthan Gardens meadow 20070423

So having guests come to the garden always shocks me into the present and what is real. When I look at the garden as I imagine a visitor might see it, I panic. Then I’m tempted into that great sin, to say, “If you could only have seen it last week when…”

I can’t remember where I read this was the great sin of having people in the garden but I remember hanging my head with the guilt of it. For a garden exist. in time as well as space. A plant in full glory one day has gone to seed the next–how can you really know a place until you watch it unfold day by day, hour by hour? Come to my house today and you will not see the iris ‘Raspberry Wine’ which was in perfect bloom yesterday, or the spiderwort which filled the southwest corner of the yard with purple last week, or the Tulipa clusiana which I spent hours lying on my stomach admiring last month.

However, today was THE day. The visitors were not just any visitors. They were gardeners, too. And bloggers. Today was the day we Austin garden bloggers (Annie, Dawn, Julie, Pam, R. Sorrell, Susan, Vivé) got together and visited each other gardens. In the real world.

All last week I eyed the skies. We had relatively cool weather so my fears that all the flowers would have shriveled by today were unfounded. Three roses, which have been putting on a show all week, decided they could be showy one more day for me. I watered and cut the sweet peas two days ago and they rewarded me by opening more flowers today than I’ve seen all spring. And the batchelor buttons (which had looked droopy and sad) decided to straighten up and bloom all at once.

rose Blush Noisette

In my relief I did not mind too much that the bluebonnets had mostly gone to seed, that the bluebells and Naples onions had died down, that the yellow heirloom irises had all but disappeared, that scarcely one spiderwort or false dayflower was left blooming, that the larkspur had not really gotten going yet.

As it turns out, I did not spend much time thinking about my garden at all. My senses were overloaded with the sights of the other gardens and the buzz of garden (and blogging) talk.

I’m amazed at how different our gardens are, we who all garden within a 15 mile radius of each other: different plants, different colors, different amounts of sunlight, and different personalities of the gardeners cultivated into each garden. Is there such a thing as a common Austin thread that runs through them all? Certainly none of our gardens would be mistaken for an English garden, a Connecticut garden, or a Seattle garden. And yet there are enough differences that we spent all afternoon asking each other, “What’s the name of this plant? How long have you had it. Can it stand some shade?”

After six hours, I arrive home too buzzed to sleep, filled with ideas, new plants to try, conversations to continue, promises of future lunch dates, and a resolve to finish moving that stupid pile of mulch out of my driveway.

by M Sinclair Stevens

6 Responses to post “Garden Visits”

  1. From Susan:

    It’s so different seeing the pictures of your garden today and being able to visualize where the actual plants are and how they are placed in relationship to each other and to your house. Thanks so much for welcoming us to your lovely garden yesterday (and for the delicious cheesecake!)

    I thought the same thing when I saw your garden. Despite looking at many photos on your site, I had imagined the layout of the deck completely differently. I never realized what a steep hill you are on. Thanks for having us, especially right after you had a huge party. You must have been exhausted! PS. I love all your found objects and statuary. — mss

  2. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    Re: your last paragraph, me too! Well, except for the mulch pile. I’m coveting that variegated agave of yours and can’t wait to dig up the promised pup. Thanks again.

    And there’s that lavender we talked about before. I rooted bunches more. — mss

  3. From Annie in Austin:

    There is no way your garden could be anything but entrancing, M – with such quantities of lovely plants, and so many lovely scents. It was certainly ‘Austin’ but there was a kind of English meadow going on… which leads me to suggest that you don’t worry about the mulch pile: leave it in place and if someone trips, tell them it’s the Ha-Ha.


    [Echoing Susan, your cheesecake was superb.]

    Thanks! The mulch pile has been dealt with. But at least I kept it interesting by making you guys climb over it to get to the garden. — mss

  4. From M2 (Austin):

    Wow. What a wonderful culmination for a wonderful idea. I’m so glad that your garden decided to play nice.

    The pile of mulch gives authoritiy and verisimilitude!

    Zanthan Gardens is nothing without its street cred. — mss

  5. From Nan:

    What a wonderful essay. I just loved it, and felt like I was there. Great writing. And aren’t you all so lucky to live so close by one another.

  6. From Dawn (Austin):

    What a joy it was to see your garden! I was impressed by its generous size and the lovely ‘fairy flowerbeds’ — as I thought of them — in the back. Wow! Your garden is like the best dream to me.

    It was a privilege to meet you and the rest of the Austin Garden Bloggers. Many thanks for your kindness and the most delicious cheesecake! Yum!



    It was wonderful meeting you, too. Thanks for being our chauffeur. I hope we can get together again soon. — mss