A Gardening Agreement

My little side garden, about as cultivated as I get.

Many decades ago, a woman named Margaret Alfano changed my perception of gardening with a single sentence. I pointed to a purple flower growing in her lawn in pristine Mt. Sinai, Long Island, and said, “Even the weeds are pretty here.”

She shook her head in dismay, the wisdom etched in her wrinkles as she scrunched up her face in a look of pity. “Dear. Weeds are only flowers growing where people don’t want them.” She then went on to tell me the “weeds” I’d commented on were violets, and that she used to dig them up and replant them, but now she just let’s them be, as nature intended.

I never forgot that wisdom, or Mrs. Alfano. She was not only an activist for wildflowers, but a champion of her community, fighting a good civic fight whenever the people needed a voice. While visiting Long Island pre-Covid, I found her grave and gave thanks as she now rested beneath the earth she loved and nurtured.

Two lifetimes and 300 miles later, I look around my Mohawk Valley home where I’ve allowed Mrs. Alfano’s sage advice to guide me in the nurturing of my own property. Maple saplings grow where they will. Lavender bushes pop up occasionally here and there. An apple tree appeared out of no where a few years back. Forget me nots, phlox, peppermint and spearmint, scallions, coltsfoot, chicory, and other nameless herbs and wildflowers grow where they decide. And thanks to Mrs. Alfano, I leave them be, creating a magical, wild place of harmony where song birds and chipmunks, bunnies, deer, squirrel, beloved crows, woodchucks, turkey, and other mostly unseen creatures gather and commune.

Little Squirrel chomping on walnuts I offered so he’d leave the birdfeeder alone. He did. For a day.

A few years back, a small circle of daisies appeared in the back yard, presenting as magically as if the Fae themselves had planted them. I warned David of their existence, and he made sure to mow around them until I could contain them (ha!) within a circle of stones.

The following year they spread to around the outside of the stone circle. So I enlarged it. Lovingly, mind you.

The following year another daisy cluster popped up, about 20 feet to the west of the first patch of daisies.

And another appeared to the north the following year. And yet another to the east the year after that. So every year, for a good part of the summer, we have pockets of unmown lawn where the daisies decide to play.

This year our mower broke down, and after borrowing a good friend’s trailer, we trekked our 19 year old riding mower to the local hardware store, where after a week we were told we had to retire the old guy. So we borrowed Wayne’s trailer again, put him out by the road with a “FREE” sign and he was gone by the next evening (the riding mower, not Wayne).

We finally picked up a new riding mower and FINALLY got the chance to mow our foot and a half high lawn. (Sorry, NEIGHBORS!)

So while David mowed, he did some hefty maneuvering around our little Daisy Pods. It looks a little funny, but I don’t have the heart to cut them down. And thankfully, neither does he. Best guy ever.

It was then I realized I don’t garden my property. I guard-en it. And all the wild things let me know where they want to live, and I let them.

After all, they were here first. We are just guests.

In the foreground is this years new Daisy residents. In the background you can see previous years’ Daisy crops that return each year.

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