Saying so long to my woodland garden is proving to be as difficult as waving farewell to a friend whom I may never see again. Much like a friendship, the gardens at Maplewood have been nurtured each day with hands in the earth or eyes on the wildlife. From the earliest days of planning and planting to the most recent days of sheer admiration with the maturity of the trees and perennials, my soul is feeling the loss. As a faithful steward of both the flora and fauna, I am reluctantly ready to pass off this ecosystem to the next gardener that takes the helm of Maplewood. As worried as a parent dropping a child off for the first year at college I pray that my design and thoughtfulness towards the longevity of the gardens will ensure the future success with little to no issue.
I have watched the Beech trees grow and hemlocks spread, taxus grow and open up. I have marveled at the ‘Ivory Chalice’ Magnolia develop the most incredible trunk, covered with a patina of lichen. I patiently nurtured large patches of hepaticas, both double and single flowers, as well as large stands of delicate fern. Almost two decades have allowed my Rodgersia to develop the most amazing architecture. Every inch of this woodland ecosystem touched by my hand or that of Mother Nature. I allowed the gardens to knit and meld, lacing wild violas with Erythronium and trilliums, Actaea and aruncus dance alongside marvelous woodland biennials. The gardens are alive with movement and fluidity. Never being too heavy handed, I allowed nature to exist and find a balance that allowed relationships to develop between the wild life and plants. I told Rebecca Powers in an interview with Detroit Home that we felt as if we were the creatures in our glass home being observed by nature’s zoo. The gardens have complete ownership over me, the steward. It was a relationship that worked for us. It allowed the most timid of creatures to return annually to Maplewood to raise offspring. The creatures, almost entirely unfettered by my presence, carry on everyday existence as if I was not even there. The biggest satisfaction for me is knowing I created this respite, not only for the wildlife and plants, but also for many in the neighborhood.
When I decided to remove the turf and allow nature to happen under the canopy of 150 year old oaks, I knew people would think I was crazy. True to form, most people did not understand. Over the years I have won most over and some have even begun to create their own island ecosystems in the neighborhood. When I removed the last bit of turf along the road, my plan was nearly complete.
I planted clover, vast amounts of clover to replace the boulevard turf. The white clover borders were planted alongside the road to give the neighborhood bees a large area to feed as well as create a self-sustaining area that would allow foot traffic, or the occasional car, to trespass without causing damage. As simple as these areas are, I will miss the flurry of activity when I am gone. The buzzing bees and swarms of hummingbirds knew where a consistent food supply was to be had. Large swaths of Fritillaria vulgarius emerge through the clover in the spring. Completely naturalized now, this area brings smiles to everyone walking by.
How can I truly say goodbye? These gardens and ponds are part of me. I understand nothing is truly permanent and I must now walk these gardens in my memory. Unlike a death of a loved one, I do have the solace in knowing they are carrying on without me, however differently they may transform. I will say goodbye to them shortly and the mourning process will eventually set in. May they grow on in peace with the helpful hand of the new steward.