Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Garden in Swarthmore

I sold my house in Swarthmore on 30 June 2009.  It’s over five years now, and I was trying to remember the garden that I tendered with love and care from 1980, when I bought and moved in the house.

Prominently in the center of the front yard I had a pink dogwood; I planted it in 1981, only four feet tall, to commemorate my son Giulio’s first ‘teen birthday. It blossomed beautifully every spring though it was 28 years old when I moved away. On the other side of the driveway, I had a purple wisteria, which I kept its tree form to a height such that I could prune it annually without a ladder; by carefully pruning the vines to the second bud, I was able to cultivate ample racemes that blossomed beautifully.  Nearer the corner of the house on the same side, I had a Rose of Sharon (hibiscus syriacus) which grew fast and put on many pale pink flowers, and a tall crape myrtle, which bears bright raspberry-colored blossoms in August when nothing else is flowering. Between this and the wisteria were two azaleas, kept small, and a hydrangea (macrophylla), which, fed aluminum, produced blue blossoms, and I had another -- oakleaf hydrangea (quercifolia) called Tokyo Blue -- near the Rose of Sharon along the pathway along the north side of the house that led to the backyard. I had ferns all over in this area, some forget-me-nots, and a large patch of astroemeria.  In the same area I had a Japanese Anemone, and next to the house an acuba, which came with the house, planted too close and needed massive pruning every year.  At the corner of the house, also already there, there was a small yew, also too close to the house.

On the south side of the front yard, my pride was the Japanese cutleaf maple, yellow, which I kept low but open near the ground.  Near it I had another azalea, and not far from it I planted a crape myrtle, matching the one on the other side. Farther toward the back yard, I had rose bushes and another hydrangea, which I kept pink in color without feeding aluminum.   Near the dining room window on the south side of the house, I had a.Japanese andromeda (Pieris japonica), which also came with the house; in early spring it carried massive racemes of white flower. All over the front yard, I cultivated perennials — crocuses, daffodils, tulips, and pansies — and, near the stoop to the front door, snowdrops and fragrant white lilies, and on the sunny side asters, zinnias, callas, and a variety of other flowering plants from year to year.

In the backyard, toward the southwest corner, there was an old apple tree — Golden Delicious — that also came with the house.  It dominated the garden; I pruned it severely every year and it bore fruits, which, sprayed early in the growth and covered with paper bags, ripened nicely.  They were delicious.  In the last few years, I stopped spraying and let the fruits drop before maturing fully.  There was a fig tree at the northwest corner; and I planted three Anjou pear trees in front of it, which screened my garden from the neighbor in the rear.  I harvested good fruits for many years; but I neglected them, too, in the last few years.  Next to the pears I planted raspberry bushes for five years or so but they were unruly and I was ready to pull them out by the time of the move.In front of the apple and the pears, across the width of the yard, I dug out a meandering channel to drain the rainwater that came from the garden of the neighbor on the north side and flooded the lawn.  It formed a nice stream after each rain.  I piled the soil from the channel in the area in front of the pears for a vegetable garden, turned over every spring and well fertilized, where I planted tomatoes, cucumbers, string beans, and eggplants, and occasionally green peas.  On the south side, behind the apple tree, there was a forsythia, which brightened the garden with its yellow blossom the first thing every spring.  Next to it there were a few stems of lilac, which I found skimpy but nurtured them to flower decently.  On the ground I had hosta all over the place and also aster seasonally.  I also loved astilbe and salvia

On the south side of the house, I planted three fig trees, divided from the old one.  Receiving a good sun, they produced wonderful fruits — Syrian figs; I covered them with burlap over the winter to protect them from frost.  Underneath them, I had blueberry bushes, which also gave me sweet berries in abundance.  Some years earlier on I had strawberries, too, but I didn’t keep them up.

On the trellis outside the kitchen window, I had a grapevine, which was leafy but bore no fruits.  In front of the brick terrace I planted another wisteria, which I also kept low; it was dumb, however, and hacking the stem — a recommended remedy — had no effect.  So, later, I got another wisteria, white, a stock said to be from Princeton University’s Nassau Hall, which faithfully bore rich racemes every year. Then, I had peonies, tree peonies and herbaceous peonies.  But the pride of my garden was the three tree peonies, rose, pink and white. that displayed gorgeous bloom every year, as large and splendid as in any horticultural garden.

There were more, I believe, but I fail to remember everything now.  It was all a lot of work but I enjoyed gardening immensely and miss the garden I nurtured more than anything else from the house I left behind.  In particular, I loved the perennials which, so faithfully every spring, came back without fail to regale my eyes.

After moving to New York, I missed the garden so much and went to look for, found, and irresistibly bought the beautiful American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers.  But before long I realized I had really no use for it and gave it away to a friend in a suburb.  My garden in Swarthmore lives more vividly than ever in my memory.

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