Garden Routes Home: Imitating Eden

Looking through and beyond the front gate at 42 St. George  St., in the Welland South neighbourhood. (All photos by Joe Barkovich)

Looking through and beyond the front gate at 42 St. George St., in the Welland South neighbourhood. (All photos by Joe Barkovich)

 

“You cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind” – Rudyard Kipling.

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

Lydia’s lament: “But I still have some weeding to do!”

I grimaced. Here in Welland South neighbourhood’s own version of Eden, even a weed or two can go unnoticed by untrained eyes. Our peepers are too busy taking in the lush scenery that distinguishes 42 St. George St. as “one of the best gardens in Welland”, to borrow the description of an appreciative neighbour.

The gardener, Lydia Butera.

The gardener, Lydia Butera.

It’s not the biggest front yard you will find in the Rose City, but size doesn’t matter.

Though I’ve been here a half dozen times, each new visit is better than the previous. The gardener, Lydia Butera, attributes this to its maturing more so than to her doting care.

“Except for the weeding, the garden pretty well takes care of itself.”

A pink, miniature rose.

A pink, miniature rose.

“My life has changed,” she also says. “I have a grandson now.” The inference is there are other duties to occupy her time these days. But still, signs of her tender, loving care are everywhere.

She knows, for example, the hideaways of tiny garden spiders. She points to silver strands of a web and amongst them a tiny black creature – a spider  – I barely could see. A few feet down the garden path, she pointed out another. Now, that’s what I call knowing your garden.

Hanging ferns adorn the front porch.

Hanging ferns adorn the front porch.

She and husband John purchased this property, off Broadway in Welland South, 30 years ago.

When they arrived, it had grass and two trees. That’s all.

My, how things have changed.

Snowball hydrangea.

Snowball hydrangea.

“I wasn’t one who was afraid of work,” Lydia says looking back over the years and sweat and elbow grease that went into making the garden take shape. “I liked getting behind the wheelbarrow, moving compost from here to there, that sort of thing.”

The work has paid off handsomely.

The view through the front gate gives the garden visitor a hint of what lies behind. Curb appeal is enhanced by two fantastic ferns hanging in baskets over the front porch. You are overcome with an urge to see more.

Sago palms, one of the "tropicals" in Lydia's garden. They are moved  to indoor locations in the fall, just before Halloween.

Sago palms, one of the “tropicals” in Lydia’s garden. They are moved to indoor locations in the fall, just before Halloween.

There is a rich mixture of vines, succulents, tropicals, perennials and more. Some are readily recognizable, like snowball hydrangea while others are not so well known and require a crash course from the obliging gardener.

Hostas are large and lush. I ask how many varieties she has. “Just say ‘many’, I’m not really sure any more,” she says with a smile.

The hosta Sum and Substance nestles in a fern.

The hosta Sum and Substance nestles in a fern.

She points out ostrich fern, not that it needed pointing out. She spreads apart the fronds to show the hosta Sum and Substance growing within: “It’s just nestled in there, cozy as a bug in a rug,” says Lydia. The ferns, she says, are among her earliest acquisitions, coming from places like “fields and the dump”. Who would have known?

The statue of St. Francis has charm and character.

The statue of St. Francis has charm and character.

A focal point, from my point of view, is the statue of St. Francis which overlooks the side yard garden. It has character and charm. It captures the eye when looking from front of the yard to the back; but then a peek from behind – over the statue’s shoulder  – provides a view of the visual feast of what he watches over  day to day to day.

A look over St. Francis's shoulder.

A look over St. Francis’s shoulder.

Does the gardener have preferences?

Autumn clematis, variegated porcelain vine and tropicals, including banana trees, are among Lydia’s garden favourites.

I wouldn’t know what to choose, where to start  – the options in a garden that imitates Eden are so numerous and diverse. Leave it to Lydia. And I did.

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NAME DROPPING

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea): “This striking magenta-pink flowering perennial hails from the tallgrass prairie of the Midwest and is at its best in mid to late summer. It is heat and cold hardy… Its name is derived from the centre of its daisy flower, which expands into an attractive, egg-sized, cone-shaped seed structure. Bees and butterflies are drawn to the flowers of this plant, which makes it a fixture in every butterfly garden. Later, the seed heads attract birds.

Butterflies are attracted to echinacea, like  purple coneflower.

Butterflies are attracted to echinacea, like purple coneflower.

The root of the purple coneflower was used as medicine by Native Americans, and echinacea is gaining prominence as an herbal supplement that stimulates the immune system….

Never pick, dig up or damage these plants in the wild. Overharvesting has caused them to become rare or disappear altogether from many wild places where they were once plentiful.’’ – Source: God in the Garden, Maureen Gilmer..

WORDS TO GROW BY

“Listen to a man of experience: thou wilt learn more in the woods than in books.” St. Bernard of Clairveaux, in Epistle 109.

ALMANAC

Sunset today, Friday, July 25: 8:38 p.m.

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Sunrise tomorrow, Saturday, July 26: 5:40 a.m.

Next Garden Routes Home: Friday, August 1

(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City.)

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