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My Garden, the Archaeological Site

By Benjamin Hill (BennysPlaceJune 5, 2009

Spring brings with her transitions to the garden landscape. The urge to change is overwhelming and as the old is cleared away, one can often find remnants of garden designs of long ago.

Gardening picture

In my small garden, available ground for planting is at a premium. Like many others across the planet, I am motivated to transform more and more of my little bit of earth into a kitchen garden. The result is sacrificing ornamentals. I would never be one to describe myself as practical so "giving up" ornamentals is something I do somewhat reluctantly.

ImageA massive debate takes place in my head as I reason with the romantic, artistic side of my being that I need more room for some squash and zucchini. This time the bit of ground that was due to be cleared contained a healthy grove of mature, ever-flowering, pink hollyhocks. I thought for sure the romantic side of me would surely win. How could I possibly sacrifice my hollyhocks!

Alas, the tomato patch brought forward the winning argument. I needed a third kitchen garden location to ensure proper crop rotation. I stared helplessly at the prime piece of real estate the hollyhocks called home. They had to go. They sensed they lost the battle for they uprooted very easily. To illustrate there were no hard feelings, these beautiful plants scattered seedpods all about the ground. This gesture was quite beautiful I thought. If these flowers had a voice, I am sure they were saying, I know what you are doing, but please take these so that a part of me can live on. I collected all the pods I could see and vowed to plant them in a special area I am working on.

With the massive forest of hollyhocks cleared a mess of dried leaves, stems and of course, various weeds were all that remained. It was clean up time! Weeds were pulled and old leaves were set aside for the compost heap. I then went to work on the ground itself. Garden Claw in hand, I mixed in some well-aged, composted manure and turned the old soil over in preparation of my squash and zucchini bed. As I worked the soil, remnants of a previous garden design was unearthed.

ImageWhen I first moved into this house, this spot in the garden was an empty canvas. My first ambition was to create a raised bed with cinder blocks to grow herbs but try as I might; I could never make the blocks level so I opted for a mound of gravelly soil for this project. I planted sage, lavender and basil. Only the basil survived. After this, I planted the hollyhocks and an Arbor Day tree and let the whole area "do its thing."

I had completely forgotten about this first endeavor but there among the debris were the remnants that reminded me - plant tags. I LOVE discovering old plant tags. They are the best treasures. No matter what the garden looks like in its present state, the discovery of a plant tag can transport you to your garden's past. The garden seems to be in an infinite loop of transition. Nothing is final. The bed we make today may be torn apart in favor of something new on the morrow. There will always be the cornerstones we hold dear to our heart but everything else is subject to change. With these changes, we can easily forget the journey that has brought our bit of earth to its current state. That is the beauty of plant tags.

ImageI love holding these faded bits of plastic and gazing at them and allowing my mind to drift to a previous time and place. While looking at this sage tag, I am reminded of my wife and I moving into this house. Our son was only a few months old and our life as a family was just beginning. I have a special box for all the vintage plant tags I find. Each one represents a  day in the life of a garden and the mere mortals who tend to it.

  All photos apart from the thumbnail were taken by the author. The thumbnail is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

  About Benjamin Hill  
I am an old fashioned gardener. To me nothing is finer than the romantic cottage gardens. The colours and forms create a symphony to delight all the senses. I love to tell a good story and my garden provides my inspiration. I am blessed to have such a beautiful son and I enjoy teaching him to love and appreciate the goodness, peace and fulfillment tending a garden can bring. Finally, I shall be forever grateful to Alan Titchmarsh for inspiring me to get out there and make something out of a little bit of earth.

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