It is here, with frost glistening on the autumn grasses, that I still find peace in the early mornings at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. The air is chilled and the squirrels have just begun to stir. I stand in the Meditation Garden, looking down over the stones, cold and bare, reflecting on the season that has come to an end.
I remember the days filled with visitors, people full of wonder and questions. I recall how far I’ve come since the early days, when I feared the questions, knowing I may not have the right answers to give. But, as the years have passed, I no longer have that fear. I have come to a point of knowing more than I give myself credit for and the ability to direct people to an answer, if I have none.
I think about the hours of hard work we’ve all put in during the past months; trying our best to make each and every part of the gardens the best that they can be. I recall the pride that we shared, as visitors young and old expressed wonder at the beauty before them.
The property that surrounds me on this cold December morning is a gift from God. Each piece of ledge that juts out from the moss covered earth, every rolling hill and timber that reaches to the sky, has been placed here for us to work with.
It is like the perfect canvas before the artist starts his work. Each stroke of the brush, each burst of color only adds to the magic before us. We swoop through the gardens, with rakes instead of brushes, and plants instead of paint.
We do this as much for ourselves as we do for those who will come to marvel at the beauty. There is something that is born in us, a need to put our fingers in the soil, a need to plant, sow seed and nurture every seedling that springs from the ground and the desire to make these gardens as good as they can be.
We work the season alone or as a team. Each day brings forth a new challenge, a new desire to fulfill. We pull each other’s weeds, deadhead each other’s flowers, rake each other’s leaves; or we spend countless hours in our own small world in the boundaries of our gardens.
We watched as spring brought forth a burst of bulbs, a welcome sight after the past winter. We raked and mulched and finally pulled those same bulbs and rushed to get in annuals before the visitors even knew what happened. We watered in the dry spells and weeded in the wet. And before we even knew what had happened, autumn was upon us.
We removed the plants that had gone by and, with great reluctance, pulled the ones that still screamed to be admired, as their colors hung on with urgency. It was that time again; the season had ended in a flash and autumn dropped in overnight. There were bulbs that needed planting before the ground froze, so with knees upon the ground, we went to work.
But, here and now, when the visitors are a sacred few, when our days are numbered before the garden is buried in snow, I savor the moments. And though I can’t stop and smell the roses, I can stop, take a deep breath and admire the canvas that lies before me.
Patty Robbins, Horticulturist (December 5, 2013)