The only topic of conversation along the eastern side of the USA at the moment is the weather. Hurricane Joaquin is heading this way from the Bahamas and already much of the east coast, including many of the places we visited in the last 3 weeks, are suffering severe floods and storm surges. We are currently in Asheville, North Carolina, having driven the Blue Ridge Parkway, (sun, drizzle, mist, downpour), popping off each night to stay at Bedford, Martinsville and Boone. It is now clear that we (personally) will not be directly shaking hands with Joaquin but the weather is appalling. We tried swapping the hire (rental) car for a boat but no joy so instead I will talk about gardens.
Gardens never meant much in my life – at least not until I met Dee. As a child they were places to play cricket, (or cowboys or pirates). Initially as an adult they became a pain in the neck (or rather the back), mowing the lawn, struggling to keep weeds at bay so the neighbours didn’t sneer. Then Dee came into my life and I began to realise the pleasure of growing things for beauty and sustenance.
Our first home together had a shady yard about 12 feet square. Dee’s answer was window boxes. From there she moved to an allotment (yum yum), to a bigger garden and now we have the lovely gardens she is creating in our Starston home. It was Dee who came up with the idea of our audio book “Every Lady A Gardener”, writings by women from the 19th century about gardens and gardening. I raised a sceptical eyebrow but she was right. It is now one of our best sellers read by the wonderful Marilyn Cutts.
I have also learned to enjoy other gardens and we have seen some wonderful ones on our journey down the eastern side of the USA. They range from the tiny imaginative plot beside Ruthie and Kevin’s motel in Bethel, Maine to the magnificent gardens of Thomas Jefferson’s house, Monticello on the edge of Charlottesville, Virginia. How to use the space at your disposal, whether it is a bit of waste ground beside your house or a plantation of 5000 acres, it is only those with imagination who will create something that makes people stop and stare rather than just walk on by.
As a writer, imagination is my most important tool, (well that and being able to type). One of my favourite quotes is: “Imagination is the only exact science.” It is people with imagination who give us the best stories, music, paintings, sculptures, poems, gardens and many other such things. Talent and skill are also needed of course but it is imagination which sparks something creative that others will also enjoy.
As a non-gardener I have learned to love gardens. As the husband of an enthusiastic gardener I can only be grateful that I am not asked to weed or dig, just help with the occasional bit of “hard landscaping”. Dee reads my books and plays. I enjoy, admire and appreciate the work she does in our garden, though I suspect she is grateful not to have to handle 5000 acres.
Still raining – time to move on. Last stretch of the Parkway today – if we can see it.