Forgotten and Found: Perennials

“No, my aunt wasn’t much of a gardener,” said the visitor.

“Oh,” I said, trying not to look disappointed.

Flame-haired and cheerful, the visitor chatting on my carport was the niece of the original owner of our 1960 home. She had popped by while driving home to Virginia from vacation in Florida. I wasn’t expecting her. I was in leggings and an old t-shirt and in the middle of laundry, but when she introduced herself I was curious to glean some house history.

Her aunt, now passed, was like a second mother to her, and she spent a lot of time at the house growing up. Her dad built the backyard patio and terraces; I took a photo of her there.

“This has always been a happy home,” she said. “You will make a lot of good memories here.”

“Thank you,” I said. “We love it here.” And we do. But I am convinced she was wrong on one point. A gardener once lived here, I know it.

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Bearded irises, established by the previous homeowner, bloom each spring.

We are only the second long-term owners of the home, following brief ownerships by two others. The yard still needs a lot of work, beginning with the weedy front lawn and ending with privet, wisteria and other invasive plants in the wooded back, but its potential is a big reason why we chose this house.

The patio and terrace walls, though in need of some TLC, are lovely and dappled with shade. Purple and white irises bloom in spring. Sprawling four o’clocks grace summer evenings with hot pink blooms and attract the occasional hummingbird in the morning before their petals close in the sun. I can’t plant anything without finding shards of broken pots or some other remnant of a garden past.

I have conjured up the idea that the past homeowner and I share a vision for this yard and garden. I did not want to hear she was not a gardener. Recently, however, I received a small sign that maybe my visitor had forgotten a few things about her aunt in her younger days.

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Goldenrod foliage, which I mistook for a weed for three years.

When tall, leafy stalks shoot up on the western edge of the front yard in summer, I usually pull them up, taking them for weeds. This summer I did not (laziness), and then late September came.

What I thought were weeds turned out to be goldenrod. The vibrant yellow flowers attract honey bees, bumblebees and other pollinators. At a time of year when summer flowers have faded and the leaves have not yet changed color, goldenrod is simply beautiful.

 

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Now that I have found this established perennial, I will not forget it – at least as long as this garden is mine.