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My Father's Garden

My Father's Garden

When I was little, my family lived in the city, with the yard fully landscaped, and Mom did the gardening. Then we moved to 65 acres of valley, tucked between hills four miles from the closest town. We named it “Holmes Hollow.”

Long ago a farm, no cultivation remained. No landscaping, no gardens — except that after the driveway dipped down into the valley, daylilies bordered it for 300 feet to the house. Beside them, heavy shade from walnut trees was choked with brambles and undergrowth. Dad immediately started mowing that mess, discouraging broad-leaved plants and encouraging grass. Now a sweep of shady lawn leads to the house.

On the other side of the valley, hardwood forest grew wild. Dad laboriously cleared trails through it, and along the front edge (visible from the house across the valley), he removed anything growing around the many native dogwoods, so they have flourished, and now put on a striking display in spring and fall.

In the bottom of the valley, a spring-fed swamp became a two-acre pond, with a eight-foot square wooden platform floating on huge styrofoam blocks and anchored in deep water, for swimmers to dive off. In the shallows, he planted waterlilies and flags.

The June I finished high school, the wild daisies grew thick on the way to the pond. For my graduation party, Dad mowed a graceful, curving path through them, which had the effect of an enchanted lane.

After the driveway passes the house, it curves through fields to rejoin the main road. Along that “back road,” Dad planted crabapple and redbud, creating a flowering allée, and pear trees all over one hillside.

Behind a hill out of sight of the house, Dad volunteered a few acres for the town to dump 50 truckloads of leaves a year, raked off lawns. After five years, the resulting compost goes into the soil all over the Hollow.

Eventually Dad quit his job as a mechanical engineer, and planted Christmas trees in the fields of the valley — a modest operation, only for people who cut their own trees. Once again the valley is a farm, showing the love my dad lavishes on his spruces, firs and pines.

When my parents bought that land, a deciding factor was "plenty of space for the kids to play." But I think that space also had an effect on my dad. The whole valley became his garden.

© Copyright 2004 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Friday, datex 2003 (A few phrases have been changed.)

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