Most people going through Sunnybank’s secret garden are careful, and follow the rules.
I do encounter the odd bump-in-the-road, though. Recently, for example, someone bolted the first big North Gate door after entering; only much later, after other visitors couldn’t get in, did I realize what had happened.
A lady sneaked her teeny Yorkie into the garden by stuffing it into her large, soft cloth purse. But because I was out there weeding, she couldn’t let it out. A few distressed yaps later the dog did his business inside the soft folds, then barked, wanting out. She left in a hurry, red-faced.
Recently two middle-aged ladies toured the garden, then read the sign at the top of the back porch steps: “Fine view from top of stairs.”
They climbed the six stairs, but then carried on right into the kitchen through the unlatched screen door, and made really to climb to the third floor “to enjoy the view.” I was resting in the living room. Bryn nose-bumped my arm to alert me that strangers had entered via the back door. I moved quickly into the kitchen. There was a shocked silence all around, and then they explained that they thought the sign said come in and climb higher, and we all had a laugh.
Still, in 25 years no one else had misread that sign, so no, I won’t bother to change it to read PORCH stairs.
(Usually that screen door is locked. I won’t forget again. And I’m glad I hadn’t been busy in the front garden.)
Out-of-towners find parking difficult. When attending big festival parade, one parked smack in the middle of my alley flowerbeds. When the woman returned to collect her car after the parade I was there, looking upset. She snapped that I shouldn’t be growing plants in the alley, anyway. Well, perhaps, but I just can’t resist all that uninterrupted south-facing sunlight. One always hopes for a modicum of courtesy and accommodation, though. (I found out later that alley parking in the actual alley lane is illegal, as fire trucks would be unable to squeeze past. Large fines could be imposed...)
A few visitors wander deep into my flowerbeds, taking close-up pictures, heedless of the fact that they’ve crossed obvious, if unstated, boundaries. One fellow, looking perplexed, muttered, “Well, I saw no sign saying I couldn’t.”
One lady ignored the garden bell when she brought visitors. Through the kitchen window I heard her comment to her friends; “Oh, that bell nonsense doesn’t pertain to me.”
She’ll never know how hard it was for me not to trigger the overhead irrigation. (But that would soak her guests, as well.) The thing is, I really dislike being startled as I root around out there. Family inside appreciates hearing the bell, too.
Most visitors do ring.
A while ago I looked out the window to see a visitor crawling along through the rather long grass, looking through it intently. Clearly, she’d lost something. I gulped down the last of my meal and went out. “Hello! What’s happened?”
She was a little embarrassed. “Oh, my rubbing stone…I have a hole in my jacket pocket, and it fell out. I know it’s somewhere in here.” A rubbing stone? Seeing my confusion, she laughed. “It’s a little oval stone I like to rub and fondle; my therapist suggested stone-rubbing instead of smoking whenever I get really tense; smoothing it actually helps me relax. I’ve had it for years, and am sort of attached to it. I haven’t located it walking around, so I thought of crawling.”
The two of us knelt in my long grass, scanning. Nothing. Her voice rose as she became more anxious. “It has to be here!”
Minutes passed. We crawled. We peered. Still- no stone.
A tall, slim man rang the bell, entered, and gaped at us until we explained what we were doing.
He looked around thoughtfully, then grinned. “You need the high ground.” He marched straight to the big bench, stood on it and scanned the grass sea, a section at a time. Then he pointed to a place far from where we were. “Check over there.”
The green-kneed woman rushed over to where the lawn met the border edging, and snatched up a small, gray oval triumphantly.
I’ve never seen anyone so relieved to be reunited with a stone!
I’m frequently asked if I ever make big garden mistakes. Oh, yes! Lots of times.
Years ago, for example, I planted a sun-loving Baptisia in part shade; when I finally realized my mistake, transplanting it wasn’t possible. (This beauty can’t be moved without killing it.)
I’ve kept it, though, as a reminder to do my homework.
Worse, I built the alley garden door too narrow 25 years ago. It’s perpetually tricky to bring dirt-loaded wheelbarrows through. Arghhh!
Houttuynia (whoever thought up that name should be dragged off by his eyebrows) is a determined little ground cover with stunningly beautiful multicolored leaves- and another gleeful witness to my folly. Two months after planting it, I was doomed. Every year it snickers at me as it divides to conquer...
I dig every one out every year, to no avail. There’s always one more, hiding somewhere, that I miss....
And finally, I had a huge surprise. I had to leave Traverse City for 8 days, recently, as my husband’s brother had died suddenly. When I returned I discovered that my six foot tall ostrich ferns, knowing no one was watching, had exploded. I literally could not discern the Faerie Garden. It had been completely overrun by these enormous plants. Even the path was gone. It took an enormous effort over four hard days to dig the monsters out. I filled 9 huge garden bags to bursting.
This takeover wasn’t my fault. But it’s served as a vivid reminder. My soil is deep, rich and full of minerals. Ferns are the oldest plants on the planet. They love to grow in here, and unsupervised, can multiply at an incredible rate.
Certainly these last twenty-five years have never been boring...