Garden Muse

Dear Readers,

My heartfelt thanks to so many of you who opened your gardens to me during the years. Sometimes you were a little anxious, thinking your garden wasn't finished (ha ha), yet in the end, you were always willing to show me your work in progress.

In seven years I can't recall anyone saying no when I asked to visit. I appreciate all the nursery owners, growers and hybridizers who took time out of busy work days to answer my questions. Our passion for the garden brings us together in friendships that grow easily and send down strong roots.

I loved hearing from you by e-mail and snail mail, when you wanted to share something about your own garden, or send me a lead for an interesting story or ask where to find a particular plant, or confess that you too can't stop buying plants.

Many of you showed up when I opened my garden, and told me how much you loved this newspaper column, and I must admit, my head swelled hugely from your praise. I write in solitude, so it's always been terrific to hear your responses, which made me feel loved and appreciated.

I can't help writing, for the garden is my inspiration. It's impossible for me not to bubble over with excitement about each flower that opens as the seasons turn, from the earliest hellebore to the latest autumn crocus. Watching the hummingbirds, bees, swallowtails and dragonflies that flock to the flowers adds another thrilling dimension to gardening.

Just this minute as I sit typing, huge bumblebees flit amid the lacecap hydrangea blooming right outside my window. I'm happy to see more and more bees arriving this summer, especially after their scarcity last year. In the garden this morning, a red dragonfly came so close to my face I was spellbound.

A hummingbird hovered in the air, tiny wings whirring in a blur, just inches from where I stood quietly. How amazing to witness these beautiful wild beings in the garden.

Whenever I take a trip out of town - usually to gardens and nurseries - I take notes, to share the adventure with you.

Friends who travel with me ask, 'Are you writing about this for the column?'- sometimes a little nervously, when I start scribbling what they're saying in my little notebook.

My husband, Tom, is used to my writing what he says at the breakfast table on a post-it note, so I can quote him later in the column.

I'm sorry to tell you this is my last column, as The Portland Tribune has decided it can no longer employ freelancers. At the same time, I'm so grateful to the Tribune for giving me a place to pour out my love for the garden, nearly every week, for seven years. My editors have allowed me to write pretty much whatever was on my mind - wonderful freedom for a writer.

I'll miss connecting with you in the paper, but I'm so in the habit of writing every morning, I doubt I'll be able to stop. I love sharing with you, so I'll post my reflections more often at There's an e-mail link there, if you'd like to stay in touch.

If you send me your e-mail address I'll let you know about open gardens and other events.

Soon I'll be blogging about my trip to the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way, Wash., and to the remarkable Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle.

Now I get to spend even more time in the garden. It's my place of retreat and creativity, my main workout exercise. It's the last thing I think about at night and the first thing on my mind in the morning: Which daylilies will I keep, which will I give away? Where shall I plant the new 'Sunningdale Yellow' and 'Toffee Nosed' red hot pokers I couldn't resist? How much should I prune the Japanese snowbell tree, and do I dare dig up 'Cornelia' rose, since I don't love her any more?

As I renovate the garden to make tending it easier, I'm taking notes for a new book about how to garden more mindfully as we age. I'm digging out lady's mantle and spurges that have spread beyond reason, and replacing them with better-behaved epimediums, ferns, and long-blooming daylilies.

I'll share my experiments with you on the blog. Meanwhile, I wish you joy in your gardens, and hope our paths cross again, in a garden, in a nursery or at the garden center as we hunt for more treasures.

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