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A True Gardening Story

by Jane Bath

This garden design job was in Buckhead, Atlanta. A large house on top of a hill was smothered with large trees and ivy. In fact no sun hit the ground. The ivy allowed only one to enter through a narrow entrance to a back door. In the house I saw the usual display of grandkids’ pictures. But the lady of the house said they seldom came and never wanted to stay. The husband was not there, and I actually never met him.


Just what was this lady expecting me to do? I gave her the only answer that would answer her problems, even though she had no idea what her problem was except she was unhappy. I said she must cut down a good number of these trees to allow sunshine in. She must remove all the ivy in the entire back, which was running as far as the eye could see--right up to the house and running up its back.


I spied in the back a large old stucco wall arching around a large pine tree and in all that tangle a very large deciduous azalea. I tagged it to be left. I made a simple sketch of a small flower bed with an edging of a small rock wall and added some very large stepping stones that would pass through this garden. A small lawn area would be added where possible after clearing and where the sun would be shining.


I left her with a name to call to do the work. Winter passed when I received a call one Sunday night while my family was eating. The man’s tirade could be heard all over the kitchen where our kids sat enjoying the spectacle. “Where did my wife get your name? This is horrible!!! What are these stepping stones for?” ETC. [I told him the stepping stone were for his grandkids to enjoy.]


Spring came and I guess this job moved ahead, but I was busy and gave no more thought about this situation.  Now it was Easter. A call came that evening where again we were eating dinner. We all knew that voice. It was that husband calling.


“Mrs. Bath, this Sunday all our family was here. Our grandkids did not want to leave. They walked that stone path endlessly and played on the grassy lawn.” He asked about the plant that was blooming. It was the deciduous azalea. They had never seen it before in over 30 years living there. He asked about other plants in the small garden.


Two years later the lady of the house recognized me and told me this. "My husband never came home before dark. The grandkids never wanted to come. Now my husband is leaving work by noon and plans to retire soon because he has so much to do outdoors. The grandkids see this as a second home." She told me this was a rebirth of their marriage and they have never been so happy.


Do you think there is a lesson in this story for all of us?

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