If We Build It ….

I had been waiting for this planting day for weeks.  Journaling about it, sketching ideas, taking trips to the nursery for inspiration.  The day dawned beautiful, bright but not too hot.  November 18, a perfect time for planting in Southern California.

My landscaper had come the day before to do some of the heavier work – installing decomposed granite between the pavers, putting lights up in the trees, planting the larger specimens.  But I had always imagined that the planting of the garden would be my work.

IMG_3287Thanks to my daughter, several of her friends showed up on the doorstep to help. They were young, strong, and happily willing, “What do you need?  Tell us what to do?”

With some initial instruction about proper planting protocol, I jokingly called the triple ‘P’ – we began.  (Click here for info on creating watershed wise landscapes).  For the next few hours we dug and watered and eased plants into the ground. Gently, gently I reminded.  We started in the backyard, moved into the front.  Neighbors came up, interested to see what we were up to, excited to view the finished product.

Over and over I thanked these young folks for coming to help.  Over and over they repeated they’d enjoyed it.  For several it took them back to their childhoods where there had been family gardens to tend.  My daughter acknowledged that she hadn’t touched our garden since she was six years old.  (I am not allowed to post that picture!)

IMG_3309At the end of the day we all sat on the porch, our planting party pooped. As I looked around at these beautiful beings, tired, with smudges on their faces, talking and laughing, I became aware of something very interesting. Throughout the experience, I had perceived/assumed that their participation in this planting day had been a favor.  However, I came to realize this day and their participation had been much more than that:

In my mind, these young people could easily have spent their Saturday in some other way, much more fun.  But to them, this day was their gift, to my daughter, to me.  They found genuine pleasure in the giving of their time and energy to create something beautiful that would bring us joy and healing.

IMG_3303I also see that working in the garden was a gift to them.  We all deeply yearn for this connection to the earth whether we are aware of it or not – young or old, all colors of the rainbow, all systems of belief, all economic strata.  This day was an opportunity for them to come together as friends, to put their hands in the soil and to tend living things.  This was a chance to experience a primal connection we have become so distant from.

So, I am gladly accepting their great kindness, recognizing we all received on this day.  There was a deep satisfaction in the community we shared, using our hands, our strength to build this garden.  There is also the knowledge that when they return in the future, they will appreciate the space differently, as they literally helped make it what it is.

On this day, I am reminded of the infinite possibilities that are always present as the road shifts and forks and shifts again.  And even as the losses tear us asunder, there are new experiences to be had, new gifts to be found.


p.s. for those who are curious, here are some of the climate appropriate plants that went into the garden (both California natives and Mediterranean):

  • Arctostaphylos ‘Sprite’ (Manzanita)
  • Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’ (Redbud)
  • Grewia occidentalis (Star Lavender)
  • Helianthemum ‘Wisely Pink’ (Sunrose)
  • Lavandula heterophylla (Lavender)
  • Lepichinia fragrans (Pitcher Sage)
  • Lomandra ‘Breeze’ (Dwarf Matt Rush)
  • Mulhlenbergia rigens (Deer Grass)
  • Myrsine africanus (African Boxwood)
  • Spaheralcea ambigua ‘Louis Hamilton’ (Apricot Mallow)
  • Teucrium majoricum (Fruity germander)


#healinggarden, #memorialgarden, #landscaping, #plantingparty

About Marianne Simon

It was in 1999 that Marianne Simon left her cushy job with MGM to start her own landscape business, but, her love of nature goes way back. In fact, while most kids were making mud pies, Marianne was eating them. Since then, her choice of dining venues has changed, but not her affinity to the earth. She founded her Landscape Company, Poetic Plantings, with the vision of creating gardens that would nurture the spirit and nourish the earth. She received her certificate in Landscape Architecture from UCLA Extension and is a G3 (Green Gardens Group) Certified Sustainable Landscape Professional. She is also a proud member of Santa Monica's Sustainable Landscape Program, as well as having been nominated for Santa Monica's Sustainable Quality Award. These days her focus is educating and consulting for homeowners and professionals on watershed wise landscape practices. She also works with G3 creating curriculum, leading workshops, and developing workforce development programs.
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