When pigs fly—that’s the thought that came to me twenty-five years ago regarding the likelihood of ever growing any kind of garden.
I distinctly recall that I was kneeling beside seven tiny tiarella plants at one end of a humongous swath of almost-barren ground when I had that depressing thought. Dripping wet, I might add—rain having drenched me in a sudden downpour just as I started digging holes for the baby plants.
We had an actual lawn between the house and surrounding woodland for approximately one month of each year. By June, the trees had leafed out, including the towering 250-year-old oaks. The already anemic blades of grass were no match for the deeper shade that developed, even after a few experiments with shade-specific seed and fertilizers. Each summer only a few scruffy patches of green survived.
Pete was actually pretty happy about this turn of events. He delighted in wearing his “National Dandelion Society” t-shirt in our previous suburban neighborhood. In our new one, horses as well as humans lived next door. Deer, raccoons and rabbits ate most of the vegetables we grew from seeds that we planted in a raised bed in a small clearing. As the saying goes, nature abhors a vacuum. When the treetops reached into that clearing, the sunshine all but disappeared. We decided to throw in the trowel. “Let it be” became our mantra.
Therefore, I don’t know what form of lunacy overtook me when I brought home those first seedlings. Miniscule, within the commanding sweep of almost-bare earth, the puny plants were destined to be swallowed up by woods or wild things. I briefly experimented with native plants, but found too few of them able to thrive in the shade. I expanded my list of potential perennials.
We ordered more than a ton of New York bluestone—heavy stepping stones I hauled from one spot to another for a pleasing-enough path that covered some of the barren ground. But the path ended up doubling the bare borders that needed greenery. Determining placement of plants by color or height or month of flowering was as daunting to me as the huge area left to fill. Inclined to learn more by trial-and-error than by researching, I bumbled along.
When choosing the annual Christmas tree or annuals for our previous small yard, I encouraged our kids to use their intuition. They’d listen for which one “called out” to them; still do. So, here I was, wandering through greenhouses, waiting for this hosta or that Japanese fern to call out to me. In a lovely piece of synchronicity, this is when a gardening book came into my hands that, to my surprise, took my whimsical notion even further.
In “The Perelandra Garden Workbook,” author and master-gardener Machaelle Small Wright provided directions for developing a conscious partnership between nature spirits and human cohorts. She encouraged collaboration and communication with this different realm of intelligence via kinesiology—muscle-testing adapted for this purpose. It resulted in exceptional vegetable and flower gardens she co-created, attracting visitors from far-and-near to what’s been called “the foremost nature research center in the world.”
Posing one question at a time and asking in a way that always requires only a “yes” or “no” answer, the gardener presses together his or her thumb and index finger to form a circle. Then the thumb on the other hand of the questioner enters the circle, quickly moving toward the point of contact between thumb-and-finger and pressing forward. If the “hand-made” link holds, it’s a “clear positive.” If, however, the thumb breaks through the thumb-&-finger circle, it signifies a “clear negative.” The gardener proceeds accordingly, knowing whether the plant devas assent to a certain plant or placement, for example, or if they nix it as an unwise choice.
Anyone can initiate such an exchange, but it calls for practice. And trust is essential to the process. Machaelle acknowledges what she calls the “this-is-too-weird-and-the-damned-testing-isn’t-working” phase. I definitely went through it. But eventually I leaned into bridging the gap between Nature’s intelligence and mine. It’s time in our evolution to do so—it’s the message the author, who is also clairaudient, once received.
I kept my practice simple, basically amending soil as well as choosing and placing plants with input from that realm. It was quietly thrilling to do so and served to further develop my intuition. The author noted that nature spirits have indicated that with their cooperation and guidance, the end result is not so much a manicured garden as a sanctuary—a peaceful place where beings in the natural world can rejuvenate. That’s been the feeling friends have expressed about the garden just beyond these windows. One of them who is clairvoyant has exclaimed more than once over the abundance of “fairies” she’s seen in the garden and bordering woodland.
In the early years, I was their humble apprentice. The garden matured and flourished beyond my wildest dreams. For some time, however, I haven’t been consistent about weeding, watering, or moving crowded mature plants to other spaces. I’ve let the “relationship” atrophy. Retrieving the book after many years, I faced the fact that so far this spring there’s been a one-way conversation—me, admonishing the bluebells for encroaching on the adjacent hosta, for instance. Downright bossy when I announced to a trillium, also dwarfed by the bluebells I love, that I was putting it somewhere more fitting. I might have asked the trillium its opinion! (How about here, deva? Yes or no?)
So, I’m heading out to offer an apology and to thank them, too, for carrying on—the moss in the clearing especially lush this year thanks to their influence, certainly not mine. May they be as open and eager to resume our friendship as I am.
Photos: The neon-violet cloud of bluebells; a copper bird bath; Bleeding Hearts; a deer resting in the moss-covered clearing; the meandering bluestone path; a winged piglet commemorating the garden’s beginnings.