Friday, July 17, 2015

Treasure in my Garden

I have treasure in my garden, lots of it, but please, don't rush over with picks and shovels. Before I have to bar the gate and electrify the fence, I should clarify my concept of treasure. There is nothing remotely of value buried in my garden apart from the composted remains of numerous plants that were not as hardy as I'd hoped. The ones that are healthy can be found in any nursery or garden centre. Of these, I do have a few favourites that I'd hate to lose. But there are a number of items that I do treasure, things that I couldn't leave behind I were ever to abandon this garden for another.

I think most gardeners feel this way. A friend once wrote to me of her cherished items — a collection of rocks (just shy of boulder variety), cement planter "bowls" made in an art class, an old piece of fence from an address three moves ago, and a the hunk of barbed wire and wood from a rotted fence post, all of which she would be moving to any new address.

The treasures in my garden are similarly varied, and just as eccentric. Many are hidden from sight, but I know roughly where they are. They turn up when I'm weeding or pruning and I delight in rediscovering them. I also rediscover other items that needed to be hidden — garden show paraphernalia that is not to my taste. I don't have the heart to junk it, so back it goes, under the shrubbery.

Amongst my oldest treasures is a huge chunk of root from an ancient cedar tree, a remnant of the giants that once grew around here. It's somehow symbolic of the loss of forest and farmland within this region. The place where I discovered it has long since been swept away by urban sprawl and is now closer to downtown than the present edge of the city. Root, as I call it, has travelled with me from home to home and garden to garden. I think by now it deserves to be designated as a heritage artefact.

Beside Root, attached to the trellis, are three, nifty, glass insulators that might vanish from view for a while if  the new climbing rose stops lolling about and puts a little more effort into doing what it's supposed to do. Glass insulators aren't particularly rare, but these three came from an old telephone post on my late Grandfather-in-law's farm. I tell my wife that they might be useful in case he ever tries to reach us.

Nearby, in the side yard, are a few railroad spikes and a handful of dated nails driven into a post. I found the nails along a stretch of disused railroad track where I used to walk a dog I once knew, many years ago. They would have been used to record the date when the ties were originally laid — 1937 is the earliest.

At the corner of the pathway stands a slender piece of rock. It is, in fact, two pieces of rock, the smaller one balanced on the other. The smaller piece is a piece of weathered limestone which, when approached from the right direction, resembles a face. I call it Albert, the garden guardian, after my old dad.

Across the lawn, beneath the hibiscus, stands Gneville the gnome, a gift from someone special who believes no garden is complete without one. He is of unpainted concrete, wears a wry smile, and believes the garden is his domain. Interestingly, an internet poll lists the acceptance rating for garden gnomes at roughly fifty percent — about the same as cats. Providing Gneville stays put, and stays out of trouble, he is welcome to stay and believe whatever he likes.

There are other miscellaneous items about, including a few best described, charitably, as objet trouvĂ©. I even have a pair of small, plastic rabbits, gifts for a pair of small non-plastic boys. The rabbits disappear for months, even years, one of them even passed unharmed through the compost heap, but they always return, just like the real ones, but with far less frequency. 

These are my treasures, as is the compost heap, and as I wander the garden I'll occasionally reflect on the nostalgia of the inert items that make up my garden. I'm sure you do the same.

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