No, I did not misspell “solstice.” For me, the onset of summer is a time of refreshment of the soul. As the co-owner of Sevier Blumen Flower Farm in Sevierville, Tennessee, the seasons of the year for me are characterized in horticultural perspectives and experiences. Whereas, autumn is a time of rest from summer growing activities; winter is a time of reflection and planning for the next growing season; spring is a time of rejuvenation and re-awakening; and, summer is a time of refreshing the soul and the spirit. A soul-stice.
Even to the person who thinks he or she does not have a creative bone, gardening can result, not only in an enjoyable sense of achievement, but also in an awakening of creativity. Gardens can provide sustenance. Gardens provide peace, beauty, and joy. There is a phrase, “sense of place,” that I have come across in various gardening literature. There is no right or wrong way to create a garden. We each have our unique concept of our personal “sense of place.” There are many approaches to gardening, and each approach allows us to express ourselves. Each person, given the same plot, will have an end result totally different from any other person’s. Temperament plays a key role….do you prefer to grow vegetables and herbs, is your style more in keeping with the English cottage garden, which can be unruly and haphazard in nature, or, do you prefer a tidy and orderly garden, characterized by precision?
Gardeners, whether professional or amateur, have mixed feelings about summer. There is great anticipation that “this year” is the year that the garden will look its best. The blooms will be more vigorous, the color the best, and the health of the plants will be optimum. Certainly, this year, our garden will be weed free! This year, the gardener will make certain that the deer and other plant predators will choose not to feast on prized plants and blooms. Unfortunately, deer do not know how to read the plant catalogs where there is indication that a plant is “deer resistant.” The wonder of the summer garden is that it is ever-changing. Things move quickly from one day to the next. Embrace it!
I was once asked by a dear friend if I am able to just sit in the garden and enjoy it. I responded by telling her that I found very therapeutic to pull weeds and deadhead spent blooms. No, she replied, do you just SIT and take in the kaleidoscope of color and the tapestry of textures? Hmmm. Some gardeners can pause, even for a moment, and enjoy the plants….the sights and the smells. Summer has a certain feel to it. In the garden, it is possible to become part of the oneness of it, to feel the dirt between your fingers, observe the symbiosis of insects with plants, and enjoy the music of the chirping birds. This is the time of year when you have true intimacy with nature. But the greatest reward, of course, are the fruits of your labor. The first harvest, whether it is green beans or the first rose, is the most gratifying in a season of harvest.
One of the greatest joys in gardening involves the exchange of seeds and plants. As I stroll through my garden, I am reminded of this friend or that represented and commemorated in various sections of my garden. This clump of irises by my fence reminds me of my friend who is like a dear aunt. That grouping of butterfly weed came from the hillside of another dear friend who shares my interest in Monarch butterflies. Likewise, I love to share my horticultural treasures with friends. It is a connection.
As you wander through your garden life, you will experience the notion that each form of gardening has its own unique characteristic and charm. Even within the same garden, there will be a different feel from one corner of the garden to the next. Your mood and your senses will change as you wander from here to there. Just as a house has many rooms, each room being decorated differently, a garden likewise has different rooms. Some rooms are meant for rest and relaxation. Some rooms are for recreation. There is every stimulus imaginable, depending on your objective. A garden room provides an escape from everyday stress, providing a sanctuary from our busy existences.
Just as there are garden rooms, we have “memory rooms” associated with summers past. My most vivid memory rooms are from summers during my childhood years, “back in the day” when life was simpler and more carefree. I remember, when I was barely older than a toddler, going with my mother to her vegetable garden as she planted, then harvested. Since I was not very sure footed, I would trip and fall over the dirt clods, and she would pick me up and carry me back to the house. In another memory room, I remember rising early, eating breakfast, and running through the kitchen, slamming the screen door behind me as I went outside. No matter how many times my mother implored not to slam the door, I always did. I remember sitting in the grass, making garlands of white clover, which I wore all day until they were quite wilted. I remember listening to the night noises and catching lightning bugs, which my brother and I would put in a jar. He and I would wander through the neighborhood with our slingshots, aiming at unsuspecting targets. I will not reveal the nature of those targets. Later, when I was older, I would ride my bicycle to the community swimming pool and spend the day with my friends. In childhood, magic, danger, wonder, opportunity, adventure, and wonder all lurk in the outside world.
The memory rooms of my adulthood in the summer months are more varied and complex. They are characterized by time spent with family, and with working outside creating not only personal spaces, but also production fields associated with my business. I want my children and grandchildren to have the same powerful and vivid memories of happy summer activities that I possess of my own childhood and also my adulthood. I want them to understand and embrace the meaning of the term Summer Soul-stice, so that they, too, are rejuvenated and refreshed during the carefree days of summer. I would love nothing more than for my children and grandchildren to also have a love of gardening. However, if they do not develop this interest or passion, then it is enough that they have enjoyed just playing and being in my gardens…and to remember those special times as they move into adulthood. In her piece, A Backward Glance, Edith Wharton says, “Summer afternoon-summer afternoon…the two most beautiful words in the English language.” I agree.