Some time ago we visited this garden. It’s the only family home I’ve ever known other than the fishing “villa” at the coast. Mom and Dad built both homes, and Mom designed them both. I grew up here.
Yes, it was a charmed childhood.
In the case of this house, she also physically helped to build it. My mom is not shy with power tools and hammers. I was a toddler when she was working on finishing touches, but throughout my childhood, this was the 4th child. There was always something going on and there were many shenanigans with my two older brothers.
There were additions too, and various projects. It never seemed to end between the house and the garden—and us kids. There was always something going on.
To me this was my playground, my reading room, and my badminton court. We had parties here, we played so many games, slept outdoors, and played in the creek.
Dad was often away on business trips, fishing all over the region, in Alaska, BC, and for many years he visited Chile on a regular basis. So many authors stayed here too, or just visited. It was a busy and buzzing place. (Dad was a publisher.)
There are so many memories in a garden that’s decades old, and so many stories. People often ask if I learned to garden here, and to be honest, I really didn’t.
Mom did her own thing.
I was the child asking the never-ending why and how questions. This had me being sent off elsewhere. I usually ended up with my paternal grandmother and her neighbor. Asking them my strange questions worked well, and they showed me things that I needed to learn.
But Gayle was entertaining. She kept me busy dragging me to nurseries. With no computers back then, I could spend a lot of time reading plant labels and learning about plants. We were rich with great plant shopping opportunities then, but it wasn’t as great as it is now.
Looking back I was bit of a sickly kid. I know now why. I often hid indoors and read a lot. My grades and getting into a great college mattered a lot to me. I would have loved to have had a little corner to myself, but when I gardened I kept potted plants, and they were in my treehouse.
There were houseplants too, but I often killed them.
Mom is 80 now and keeps up the garden mostly on her own. She’s a very strong and determined woman.
Long ago this was where my treehouse stood. Built for my brothers, I was the last occupant. Than one morning when I was 20 I woke up late and Mom was down in the garden with a chainsaw, cutting it all down. Today, there is this lovely sitting area there.
I think it was a nice change.
This is the rockery. It is full of shade and always kind of was but in the 1970s Mom knew that a rockery was popular, so we had one.
This is where all of my questions began, and where I planted the space with plants in my mind when I was young.
Mom always gardened with plants in mind that would not grow in the conditions she had and that’s the sad truth. But it kept her busy, and she regularly moved things around, or else replaced them.
Busy, busy, busy.
She did well with what she had, but I always had other ideas. I mostly kept those to myself though and I dreamed of the day someday in the future when I would own my own home, and I could be free to do what I wanted—whatever that was…
I had a lot of dreams. Mom would have told you that I was a dreamer.
When I was a kid, that area across the creek had large native willows, and they draped over the water. They created a kind of a tunnel, and I tied up my raft in there, with my books, and a radio. (Sometimes, I even had a cat with me.)
I would hide in there from my life and I would dream while the willows wrapped around me. It was my cozy safe place.
The other quiet place was my room. That dormer up there on the second floor was mine. It had a lovely view of the huge Doug fir, and I loved to watch it sway but was afraid of it during windstorms.
My other window looked out towards this camellia but when I was a girl, there was a native dogwood, a Cornus nuttalii. It was lost in an ice storm and I cried and cried. It broke my little heart since it (to my mind) was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
Amongst the garden plants in Mom’s garden are a few oddballs. This Vitis coignetiae is one of them. Over the years though, she’s mostly simplified things. If a plant is too fussy, or doesn’t meet her performance standard, then out it goes.
She keeps nurseries in business.
This vine though was one of the handful of plants she bought at Cistus Nursery long before I worked there. It was back when I first started to shop there.
She has it and a few other unusual vines that I still need to ID.
This was the lab where I grew, and I was safe in Mom’s space because she was vigilant.
I think that many mothers would love to be able to afford this kind of space and life for their children.
I can only say how grateful I am for it. If I’d had children, I would have wanted this for them too.