Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Hall of Giants

One summer afternoon we were walking from the studio to the back of the garden with some friends. Tom was describing this and that about the yard and then he stopped and declared, “This is my Hall of Giants.”

I raised my eyes and realized I haven’t been paying attention to changes in the scenery.

When we bought this property thirteen years ago this part of the property, about two-thirds the size of a football field, was an abandoned vegetable garden held in by tumbling down walls. The edges of the field were curved up, creating a bowl. At the end of the bowl was a mess of tumbled down sheds and years of emptied wine bottles and oyster shells. Tom couldn’t have been happier with all that mess. Before him was a dream project, a blank canvas. Here was an excuse to ride around on his tractor for hours on end, moving out trailer loads of debris, and scraping and leveling out what would become a flat lawn. On Sundays when you can’t make noise (especially repetitive tractor noise) in France we’d head off to garden fairs. While other shoppers focused on gaudy roses and brightly colored annuals Tom scooped up tiny, weird conifers and every weedy columnar tree available. For quite a bit of time there were a lot of potted trees accumulating out by the studio waiting to be planted.

There were afternoons when Tom got off the tractor seat to go collect hornbeam seedlings from a friend’s forest. Hornbeam seedlings root quickly and as a hedge they are easy to trim and shape. Stepping off the spacing for his envisioned design he planted out these dozens of puny little trees. The first layer on a well prepared canvas. Seemingly overnight a hornbeam wall with a little doorway separated the lawn from the end of the garden.

With the first layers of the canvas brushed on Tom could start to add structure and texture. All those large potted trees started to find their permanent homes. Each tree added its own particular personality and presence to the composition.

The composition was good, it was sweet.

Then somewhere over the last ten years those trees really took off.

It was good that Tom slowed us down on that summer afternoon and said we’d be entering the Hall of Giants. We paid attention, looked up, and realized he wasn’t kidding. Walking through those columnar trees you feel the weight of them, the elegance of them. You feel small under them. They are powerful yet welcoming. Imposing yet graceful, stately and grand. Giants.

Walk through the gateway into the next room and everything changes. In here it is the small that have a large and powerful presence. You have entered the bonsai garden. Visitors go quiet. Friends who have been here before say, “I told you.” Tom glows with the satisfaction that he has created an emotional tableau.

Thank goodness for that blank slate, ten years of vision and hard work, and now the time to enjoy his friends, the welcoming Giants guarding over the magical bonsai garden.


Kathie K said...

What a wonderful story. This must feel like one of those times where it took a long time to come to fruition (13 years) and at the same no time at all. Well done!

Anonymous said...

How satisfying after all that time (actually not much time at all) to one day “stumble” into the magical spaces on your property.

Lynn McBride said...

I had no idea you had such a fabulous garden. Your patience paid off. It’s spectacular!

Kate said...

So beautiful in both writing and garden 😍,what a stunning creation in such a short time . Such a lot of hard but enjoyable work ❤️🥰😍