I bought my current house about 14 years ago, and as soon as I could make any changes, I began building a series of fences and privacy screens around my property. I have always been an avid gardener, and I enjoy building things; therefore, I began combining those two interests to systematically create a natural oasis for myself–a place where I can just sit alone, see no one, and do nothing. Although most people view me as a highly energized, talkative, and social being, I am actually a closet recluse, and my favorite hiding place is my garden.
If I had my way, my house and gardens would be in the center of at least 100 acres of forest. I formerly had a small farm in Mississippi, and I loved it, but this is not Mississippi. I currently live on the Shore of New Jersey, this nation’s most populated state. There is very little chance that I’ll be isolating myself on a farm here. I decided that I’d need to find other ways to enclose myself, and I began building a web of trellises.
I spent the entire summer of 2015 building a particularly large and improved network of arbors and fences to surround the portion of my back yard that is situated nearest my house, and in February of 2016, a wind gale blew my old and massive magnolia across my yard and obliterated my summer’s work.
During the summer of 2015, my garden had been my sanctuary.
During the summer of 2015, my garden had been my oasis from the world, and when the magnolia destroyed my garden in early 2016, something within myself was also destroyed. I did not garden during the summer of 2016 and just like the weed-infested soil outside my patio door, I became parched and barren, too. But as spring began in 2017, I felt the need to reclaim some of what I had lost.
I began by rebuilding the back arbor that extends from my farthest deck and because I am on a self-improvement binge of kicking my bad habit of procrastination, I went the extra mile and painted this arbor, too. It looks better than it did before, and I have planted Zepherine Drouhin roses and clematis all around the little courtyard that I created with the three walls of my fences there. But everything needs time to grow.
I have clematis and Zepherine Drouhins intertwined in front of my house, and I love the way that they work together. With any luck at all, this will eventually be a beautiful spot.
And Just for the Smell of it, I have lined the deck next to this spot with peonies.
I am adding lavender beds next.
Also for the smell of it, I planted a Louise Odier Rose immediately next to the spot where I sit on this deck. Louise has vicious thorns, and I cannot handle many of her swords in my small garden, but I must have her next to the places where I rest for extended periods of time.
Sweet Alyssum lines my stone path that runs from my door to my deck.
My garden is not fancy. In fact, some of my neighbors hate my wild and unruly cottage garden and think it is the bane of their existences, but I love my garden. I love the way that my plants topple over each other and the way that their colors scream for attention. I also love the quiet and more meditative places, but primarily, I like the fact that because of my fences and arbors, I have a retreat from the world. I need the magical and secretive places behind my garden walls. My garden allows me to have the lifestyle that is right for me. To heck with my neighbors. They need to create and then focus on their own living spaces–spaces that are right for them.
Jacki Kellum Garden Gate in 2015
“Come into the garden, Maud, For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud, I am here at the gate alone; Maud
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the rose is blown.
For a breeze of morning moves, And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves On a bed of daffodil sky.” – Tennyson
“When the hornet hangs in the hollyhock, And the brown bee drones i’ the rose, And the west is a red-streaked four-o’clock, And summer is near its close It’s Oh, for the gate, and the locust lane; And dusk, and dew, and home again!” – Madison Cawein
“There are some things, after all, that Sally Owens knows for certain: Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can.” – Alice Hoffman – Practical Magic
“I divined and chose a distant place to dwell T’ien T’ai: what more is there to say?
Monkeys cry where valley mists are cold My grass gate blends with the color of the crags
I pick leaves to thatch a hut among the pines
Scoop out a pond and lead a runnel from the spring
By now I am used to doing without the world
Picking ferns I pass the years that are left.” Han Shan
The above photo was taken during the winter before my magnolia tore down my first arbor. I have rebuilt this arbor, too. It is a little different now, but this winter, there will be another wintry spot to catch snow and to welcome snow birds into my sanctuary. I’ll sit by my fire in my sunroom, and once again, I’ll have nature all around me, and once again, I’ll be home.
“I leant upon a coppice gate When Frost was spectre-gray, And Winter’s dregs made desolate The weakening eye of day The tangled bine-stems scored the sky Like strings of broken lyres, And all mankind that haunted nigh Had sought their household fires.” – Thomas Hardy
©Jacki Kellum May 5, 2017