Poetic beauty fills the garden
Mary Agria column (August 5, 2013)
The pinks and blues and reds and purples of our gardens seem all the brighter against that ocean of green. Million dollar sunsets spread a golden, shimmering wash over the petals like an artist's brush. Silhouetted in the dying light, flower heads become transparent as the finest porcelain in a Gaslight shop window. Try as I might, the camera's lens never quite does the moment justice.
And then the solstice marked its subtle turning. Now when we begin to weed warmed by fleece, we shed it what seems like minutes later. From far off on the bay, we hear the staccato, muffled droning of engines on the water.
Some of my all-time favorites are in glorious bloom. Peonies and iris are past their peak. Bridal wreath cascaded like a foamy Niagara in front yards and where farmsteads once stood -- only to fade into memory. Already the vibrant yellow-green of the ferns are turning to rust around the edges. I mourn their passing, those graceful, lacy sentinels that stand along the edges of the woods behind our cottage.
The task of deadheading bachelor buttons, now past their prime, fell to me. Actually, I volunteered. It was my grandmother's favorite flower. Tough as it is to find in the off-season, we arranged for a sprig on her coffin. That's many years ago now, but some things a person just remembers.
It is almost gone now -- that lone, late-blooming ladyslipper unfurling in the shade of pines overhead. Ungainly and oversized, from minute to hour we watched the leaves rise from that thick stalk. The saga left me awestruck, marveling at how the beauty I know is to come can stem from such ugliness.
Even as we celebrated the length of days, their waning is about to begin. It is as if the plants themselves sense time's passing, how short a growing season lies ahead. The garden's flowering becomes more urgent in response.
Gardening in Northern Michigan becomes a love song to a place and season. Words fail. But then some things, my husband-photographer likes to remind me, can only be experienced not captured in a digital image or on a page.
The summer garden fits that description. It is a utopia onto itself.
Long-time Bay View resident, author and columnist Mary Agria is an avid community gardener during her summers in Northern Michigan. On the bestseller lists of area bookstores in 2006, her novel "Time in a Garden," full of gardening wit and wisdom, explores the links between gardening and the ability to cope with love and loss in the changing seasons of our lives. "Time in a Garden" is available at area bookstores and online at www.northforknaturals.com/MaryAgria.htm. Send questions and/or comments to Mary Agria at firstname.lastname@example.org.