'Coral Reef' monarda
I imagined closing off one of my fence gates and building a pond. I'd lay field stone paths and take out a bit of grass. I'd create a garden that was private and restorative, insulated from the push and swell of neighboring life. If I had more space, I'd build low stone walls and cloister my suburban prairie.
Picture from Everything Home and Garden.net
But as much as my garden is my refuge, it is also my most enduring lesson. I live less than two miles from the school where I teach and many of my students are my neighbors. When I teach my unit on water ecology, I often use my garden as an example. We discuss the hazards of too much nitrogen and talk about what's in the run off that pours into the storm drain next to my house. I brought in water from the creek across the street to prove to my students the effect of fertilizer on oxygen levels. I explained to them that the water was so low in dissolved oxygen it no longer supported life and the class went silent.
Picture from http://www.vabayblues.org/DeadZones.php
It was futile to pretend I lived elsewhere. "If you've noticed that my grass looks weird right now, " I challenge them, "it's because it's covered in compost." The kids, all 11 or 12, look away sheepishly. They don't want me to know that they know where I live or that they saw me bring in the newspaper in my bathrobe. "And the big blue flowers by the front porch? Those don't get any chemicals, either."
I like to flatter myself and think that my students will remember my class, but I know many will not. My words will cascade like confetti from brains overloaded with stimuli and expectation. But what I've created will last. Perhaps if they see my garden enough times, it will affect their choices as adults. If I can become a part of their environmental awareness, that is enough.
Pink 'Endless Summer' hydrangea and 'Mardi Gras' dwarf glossy abelia
The 'Pearl d'Azur' clematis is still blooming. Tall native pink obedient plant, phlox, and daylilies hide its skinny ankles and provide color til fall. Pink hydrangeas and variegated dwarf abelia are so beautiful in the summer I don't mind how pathetic they look all winter. The abelia closest to the daylilies always devlops its varigation last.