These gardens were originally set up by my mother back in the 50s. The design followed the calendar with a progression of bloom around the back yard. It had plants that flower first in the year to be located in easy view from the back house picture window or the near the path from the garage to the back door. (Snow Drops and Witch Hazel in February)
Then, throughout the year, the display moved out along be left and right borders and along the back meeting in the center at midsummer. It passed the center mark and continued to the corners and and back along the sides to the house. The frost in November would end the show and that is when the Autumn leaves took over for the finale.
Over the years, forces that we cannot contradict, have thwarted that original design. Some plants just don’t live forever and other plants and trees have grown to such an extent that they not only provide great shade for the warm summer nights but they also change the culture of the gardens. What was once a bed of full-sun, is not mostly shade.
Sometime in the mid to late 50s, I started to inherit all this, at least in responsibility. It started with picking asparagus from “The garden”. “The Garden” singly became known as the 40’x40′ patch of dirt and weeds that grew asparagus, blueberries, strawberries and many attempts at vegetables most with a good measure of success. Eventually, I was the one responsible to the upkeep but there was no real complaint there. I recall peas, corn, pumpkins most vividly but I am sure there were other efforts.
Eventually, the garden became an incredibly rich patch of nutrients teeming with microbes. I never really realized the biology at work but I am sure it was a reason for the success. This was undoubtedly due to the hours, I would spend every year turning over the dirt to bury the fall leaves every year, one shovel full at a time. We never had a compost pit. To this day, the grass is much greener there and more dense than anywhere else in the yard.
I recall grandfather Kalencik coming over for a visit. I must have scarcely been 14 at the time. I was just finishing turning over the garden using a pitch fork. He commented that the soil was just about at the state where his rototiller might now work. Although it wan not until years later that i finally understood what he meant, at that point, I was still silently proud of my work and mentally thanked him for the compliment. I don’t think anyone really knew the labor I had put into that garden more than he did.
For the 10 years or so that I spent living away form the place, I never wondered who kept up the gardens. For the most part my mother had developed an environment that seemed to maintain itself. To this day, it appears to have a mind of its own and still controls weeds and makes a good show. Many times, people tell me that I must spend a lot of time taking care of it. I say that it really isn’t that much work but maybe I enjoy it so much that it only doesn’t feel that way.