Friends asked us that over and over when we were leaving Roslyn. Fair question.
We’d begun the garden years before, inspired by my toddler memories of drifts of cherry blossoms.
For over 18 years we’d watched the garden unfold as it grew, section by section, as our dreams elaborated, and as we could afford. Finally it encircled the entire house, and was finished off by a wonderful stone lantern.
And that’s how we could bear to leave our Japanese garden: there was nothing left to do. It was complete.
THE PROMISE OF JONQUILS
In mid-November, when we’re bought our Berkshires condo, there was only bare brown earth and sticks of shrubs. In March the ardent Swiss owner-gardener took me on a tour of the bare beds: “There are jonquils, lots of jonquils!” We’d never had any daffodils in our Japanese garden, because it was austerely authentic.
Azaleas and rhododendrons, yes, because they flourish in Japan also. But for a truly Japanese garden, it was necessary to leave out many things, among them the old-fashioned flowers I’d loved as a child: pansies, geraniums, daffodils, zinnias, lilacs.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved our garden. It’s just that one never has everything; there are always choices to be made.
WHAT IS THE COLOR OF SPRINGTIME?
It took a while, but at last I discovered that the color of
spring in the Berkshires is lilac, lilac, lilac. They’re everywhere.
|In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house, near the white-wash’d palings,|
|Stands the lilac bush, tall-growing, with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,|
|With many a pointed blossom, rising, delicate, with the perfume strong I love,|
|With every leaf a miracle.|
There are still a few lilacs on Long Island, but old farm-houses have become scarce since Walt Whitman’s day and lilacs scarce along with them. And, of course, they Would Not Do in a Japanese garden. Not at all.
The promised jonquils were finished by the time we finally moved in. But in our own dooryard were blooming two tall lilac bushes, splendid, spiked extravaganzas of delicate scented florets, and, as the poet said, every leaf a miracle.
BILLOWS OF LILACS
There were lilacs everywhere in the Berkshires! On the most mundane errand I’d be overwhelmed with their profusion: billows, waves, veritable oceans of lilacs. Having relinquished one garden, I have received in return whole roadsides of gardens.
So I have had lilacs to my heart’s content, and will have them again next spring, and a hanging basket of bright red geranium and another of lilac-colored petunias. I gave up a tradition, and have received — freedom.