Garden Dreams

An old garden column on remembering to dream

I had such a vivid dream the other night. I dreamed that Emma and I were walking down the beach together. We both had our shoes off and she was squealing with delight when the water would wave in and touch her feet. As I always do when I visit the ocean, I felt the awe and wander of it, along with the fear of it—especially as I watched my very small child teetering on the edge of sand and sea.

Being about seven month pregnant now, I can tell you that my dreams have gotten very strange and vivid, even more so than usual. I am one that almost always remembers my nighttime wanderings.  In fact, I have written a couple of short stories about my dreams. But when I am pregnant, dreams get even stranger.

The other night, I dreamed that I was back at my townhome in Reston in postage-stamp backyard we had magically transformed into a beautiful scentual garden. Even though I was sleeping, I woke up feeling as if I was actually smelling the lemon verbena, chocolate mint, lavender, and sage. And it was as if the pink of the yarrow and the bright purple of the echinacea in that garden were more than a distant memory. It was closer now. I did not even have to close my eyes to see it.

In my dream, I also saw the lilac bush we planted in the corner along the fence.  And it was in full bloom. We bought it during an excursion to Harper’s Ferry, which is one of our favorite places.

Many of the other plants in our Reston garden came from a different nursery in Harper’s Ferry. For my 30th birthday, my husband took me there and said, “Get what you want.” I remember the older gentleman who owned the store telling me about feverfew and how good it is for migraines. “It tastes awful, but it does the trick.” He was right, it did taste awful, and it worked on my headaches. What he did not mention is how beautiful the plant gets, with little white spiky flowers and a beautifully-oblong leaves providing such an interesting texture in the garden.

One my favorite places to get herbs is the Goose Creek Annual Herb Fest at the Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg, usually the first weekend in May. Some of the best vendors in the northeast are there and the Oatlands garden itself is open and is a work of art. Every herb I have bought there has been healthy and has given me many hours of joy, especially in my backyard Reston Garden.

It was such a small space that we were forced to be creative. Eric built raised beds all along the fence. They were about 2 and half to 3 feet wide. Then we decided to put flagstone down on what was left of the grass—there was not much and we thought it would be ridiculous to mow it. (And if you don’t mow your grass in Reston, you can get a hefty fine.) We then placed a swing under the deck and spent many hours there, enjoying the garden, reading, writing, talking, and sometimes entertaining.

We sat among the herbs and all of different scents and textures during many summer evenings and planned and dreamed of a future that included children and moving to the country. (And here we are—well, almost.)

For better or worse, those long, idling days are gone. Our dreams have come true—our focus has shifted to a rambunctious two-year-old, and a new baby on the way. Another kind of garden, if you will.

We look forward to teaching them about the earth and its many pleasures, including gardening and herbs. And we also look forward to seeing all this through their eyes and making new discoveries with them in the Shenandoah Valley and wherever our lives take us. And now, as we settle more into our new lives here, we make new discoveries, along with tedning some memories.

Many of my memories with my husband center on the mountains we have hiked, the gardens we have tended, the herbs we grew, and where we purchased them. Each plant and herb holds a memory and tells a story for us.

As you get the soil ready for the spring and begin to gather your own herbs and plants, remember that yes, it’s important to know how to fertilize, what temperature to plant in, which plants like the sun and which don’t.  But it’s also important to be mindful of the creation you are taking part in, the memories, the stories. And when it comes to your garden, dream a little and see where it takes you.

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