One of the beautiful things about gardening is community. I keep spreading this message because when you are a part of a community you care for others and you know you are cared for. There is great healing and health in being social with others. The gardening friends I have met over the years have been an inspiration and joy. I encourage all my readers to find someone who is caring or who needs to be cared for and share your gardening time with them.
Cathy Kimber is a gardening friend whom at the library nearly eight years ago. Cathy has worked at the front desk of the Warrenville Public Library for seventeen years and has always been a delight to speak with. Cathy invited me to share in her garden by bringing a hosta to me. That was nearly six years ago. At the time I had just moved to my home and had formed a new family – I could not afford to buy plants for the garden. I did not have a single hosta!
Who would have known that Cathy, in her generosity, would trigger a huge gardening obsession for me? I now have over 200 hostas in a very small yard and a full blown addiction to this shade-loving plant. Most of the perennials I have were given to me by other gardening friends. It is true; leaving me in a nursery by myself is not a good idea – I will definitely find a new perennial irresistible! However, it is the love and generosity of others and their on-going sharing of plants that has always encouraged me to continue to garden. My addiction is no longer just about the plants. Without a doubt, it is more about the friendships I have built in the community and the joy these friendships have given to me. Cathy inadvertently, by kindly giving me a single hosta plant, encouraged me to be a better person and gardener.
Cathy has done a lot for the community. Several years ago she ran a local “Adopt-A-Block” group which encouraged volunteers to clean up their neighborhoods and she has recently rejuvinated this little group spreading “green living” and tidiness throughout our community.
Indeed, Cathy’s garden is a charming little garden built with a lot of love. Her cottage-style home sits in a quiet neighborhood, just steps from the library, where she has lived for over 40 years with her now-retired husband, Ray. Together they planted the trees and plants surrounding the property. Ray put in a fence many, many years ago. It has since rotted into an old post base with initials carved in it. As I bent down to look, I could clearly see “R + C” carved there. According to Cathy, some 45 years ago Ray carved his love for her into that post. As if testimony to their life together – the fence is long gone, but Cathy and Ray are still together and happy.
When she originally moved in, the home had summer flowering Sweet Peas that bloomed in the front garden. Cathy showed me that the flowers are still there. They smell heavenly and are a bi-colored white and pink shining in the dappled light next to her front entry.
As I imagined, every corner of Cathy’s yard has hostas. She only has a few varieties, but has lined them carefully around every tree and walkway. The hostas offer consistency for the eye as well as a way to brighten up dark spaces.
Cathy had lots of knowledge about perennial plants and many secrets to pass on. One of them is her technique to revive plants which look limp and near death. She cuts the perennial deadheads back hard and replants the perennial in a fertile area. She has a small garden surrounding an old stump specifically for new plants and for reviving sad looking perennials that need some help. All the plants look very healthy so her technique is certainly working.
Another highlight of the beautiful garden is a small patio with a firepit as a centerpiece. I could easily imagine enjoying family while sitting there in the quiet summer evenings. Cathy has another interesting practice. She watches her garden carefully for “reliable plants which grow well.” These plants she lets run amok in the garden then shares the extra with friends. It brings Cathy a great deal of satisfaction to know that others enjoy gifts from her garden. It brings others from the community some of the love and caring of friendship.
In fact, I’m sure she’s busy triggering more gardening addictions even as I write this.
So be inspired by Cathy and get out there and touch other people’s lives in your community. Share some of that “garden love” and build friendships. Caring about others can really make a difference!