You often hear people say ‘once you leave your garden you should never go back’. Well that may very well be true sometimes but not always. I recently went back to the Miller Garden where I was head gardener for 13 years and found it not only enjoyable but realized what a stunning garden it really is.
I have been ‘Retired’ for 5 years, but for those 13 years at the garden I looked at it with different eyes. I was always on a schedule so would look to see what needed to be done next and kept this constant list not only in my head but also on paper. I did appreciate the state of the garden but since a garden is a living thing it needed constant care and that was my responsibility.
For the first few years after I retired, when I would return to the garden I was looking at it that same way. I would see what needed to be done and always had a hard time not handing my former co-workers a list at the end of my visit. I know that would have gone over like a lead balloon so resisted, but the list was still in my head.Because of the distance, over 100 miles round trip, I rarely get there anymore and the last few times have been in the evening. It has been about a year since my last trip there. I don’t know if it just took me awhile to let go of thinking of it as my garden or just the passing of time. I don’t feel like it is my garden anymore and can appreciate it for what a beautiful garden it is.Over the last year the staff had made some bed renovations and improved several areas that were quite striking. This isn’t new for the garden. That was always a part of the process, to renovate older parts of the garden. It’s just that these renovations were some that I wasn’t a part of. The first few years when I went back, they were working on things that we had discussed and planned.This means my old garden is changing and I’m not a part of it, which is a good thing. It is changing while maintaining the character of the original gardener who was there for 45 years before me. It was always a struggle to change, which gardens need to do, while maintaining the character. We would often get flack from friends of the original gardener who thought they knew how it should be. That often meant no change at all. Being involved with several other non-profit gardens I see the same thing happen repeatedly. It takes a staff that is just as passionate about the garden as the original gardener to keep that vision alive.
Going back in the spring is the best time for me to visit the garden since that was an area we worked hard on was making the garden better in the spring. The original gardener focused on fall interest. All those years at the garden taught me lessons I now use in my own garden to keep it changing and getting better. I’m sure my own garden is more beautiful because of my time at the Miller Garden.
It was a real pleasure to walk the garden with my former co-worker Richie Steffen and just talk about the garden like we used to. He was showing me what they were doing and pointing out some of the things that we had done. I didn’t feel the need to give advice (which if you know me is a real change). I was just able to look at it through fresh eyes and enjoy it. To walk the garden with Richie is a special treat because he is one of the best plantsmen I know. He is very generous with his knowledge and stories which we shared many. To have this garden in common with him is very special.
What’s with those Hebe’s? Oops.