From the Pages of an Old Gardening Book

“I don’t make proper flower arrangements; mine just grows, like the garden.”

Tasha Tudor

I don’t know if it’s coincidence or the universe telling me something (which it does often if one pays close enough attention), but somehow one of the most gorgeous and inspiring gardening books came into my hands.

It was one of those listless Saturdays. Gray outside and cold and I wasn’t particularly inspired to do anything but stay warm and cozy by the fire. Noel, ever the man of action, was already out the door that morning to go “scoop some poop.” About once a month and pretty much any chance he gets, Noel drives a trailer to get horse manure from a woman who lives nearby. And if you’re into gardening, you’d know “scooping poop” is the reason why our garden grows so well.

My gardening glove and flowers from last summer.

Usually, Noel would return with a trailer full of manure, but this time, he came back with something else. A book. He dropped it on the table with a brief comment, “Wendy gave this to you,” and was out the door again to wheelbarrow the manure into the garden. I had given Wendy a flower wreath last year and I think she wanted to give something in return.

Tasha Tudor’s Garden is the title of the book, and knowing nothing of Tasha Tudor, this didn’t really mean much to me. But the cover photo captivated me. It was a vivid image of an elderly woman harvesting sweet peas, her arm full of ruffly blooms and behind her stretched a picturesque scene of a lush garden. My first thought, “This woman is living my dream.”

“When she sits down for tea, a foxglove or some other little extravaganza stretches its flower stalks by her side.”

Tasha Tudor’s Garden

I sat spellbound, glued to the book for several hours. Reading every word and soaking up every photograph. Who is this woman? Where is this place? How did she grow so many flowers all by herself by hand (the photographs show Tasha using a scythe and a wheelbarrow)?

By the end of the book, I learned that the woman is a painter who is best known for illustrating Mother Goose. The place is Vermont. And her secret to such a lush garden is manure tea from her goats… yes, we’ve made it full circle back to manure again!

“Should you happen to send any compliments in the direction of the peony bed, Tasha will insist that all the credit goes to the manure.”

Tasha Tudor’s Garden

I beamed reading this and peered out the window at my peony bed, piled high with a thick layer of manure.

I didn’t know it, but this book was just what I needed. I had been carrying around for awhile this nagging feeling of discontentment. I had been quietly asking the universe, “Am I really meant to just grow a flower garden? That’s it? Are you sure it’s not something larger or deeper like inspiring people to have a relationship with plants or maybe selling flower seeds?” I was afraid even to voice the questions, worried about what I was admitting to: that my dream was too small.

Through vibrant images of an incredibly effusive flower garden, Tasha Tudor’s Garden showed me what my dream might look like in the future if I persisted. I knew without a doubt that Tasha’s garden had incredible value, beyond that which we quantify things. The word that often comes to mind is “Beauty.” But when I use this word to describe my dream, somehow I feel like that’s only speaking to the surface of things. Sure, flowers are beautiful and that’s why we’re drawn to them. And there’s something else… and the words elude me…I just know it as a feeling. It feels like awe and wonder. It feels like playfulness. It feels like remembering. It feels like belonging.

Photo of Camp Joy Gardens.

“We wander among divine daffodils framed by a lace work of crab apples and along forget-me-not paths disappearing into flowery glades. We become transfixed by this place lost in time… We come to share the fantasy.”

Tasha Tudor’s Garden

Tasha grew her garden the way an artist paints a painting. It’s not to cultivate rare, heirloom varieties or to produce perfect bouquets. It’s beauty for beauty’s sake and art for art’s sake. After all, what is the purpose of art, of music, or of poetry? The answer to this is at the heart of my earlier question about the purpose of growing a flower garden.

I later found out that Tasha started this stunning garden in Vermont in her sixties!!! I nearly dropped my phone when I read that. And I thought starting a homestead at 35 was too late! Tasha also only weighs 95 lbs. The universe is definitely telling me something and, I suspect, she has a great sense of humor.

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