The Garden of Edith
My sister and I inherited my grandparents semi – detached house in the late seventies in the west end of Toronto. It is a tiny house before tiny houses were a thing. In the fifties my parents had lived there when my sister was born. Fortunately most of the family were well under 6 feet except for my father who was 6’4’’. Every Sunday we would visit for a very well done, dry, roast beef dinner. Always potatoes around the roast and gravy bread were served and my grandmother Dee Dee, who you all met in my last blog, would make apple pie. No matter the season, Every Sunday it was grey roast beef and apple pie.
Dee Dee had a stunning, lush garden. Both sides of the backyard were lined with perennials; lilies, irises, rose bushes, peonies and hydrangeas. a perfectly mowed weedless lawn which was my Grandfather’s pride and joy. Two healthy, lilac trees stood outside the kitchen window and when in blossom the sweet bouquet wafted into the house mixing with the smells of roast beef and apple pie for a cacophony of odour.
Because I was working at Second City at the time with a steady income I bought out my sister’s half with a mortgage of $30,000.00. I was approved by the CIBC around the corner from the house where my mother had worked for her mink money. (Story to come) Buying the house was the smartest investment I have made. With an actor’s life of feast or famine I have borrowed from this property many times.
By the time I moved in, the back garden was a jungle of overgrown weeds and plants. I couldn’t tell the difference. At the age of 24 I had no idea of what a perennial or annual was. I could tell you all about comedy timing and spit takes though. Everything was weeds to me. It was the summer so I made a decision to tear everything out and start over. I wanted to try to create an English garden which was essentially what I was tearing out.
It felt good to be down on my hands and knees digging in the soil like a kid in a sandbox. I thought it meditative and somehow symbolic of what I was going through in my 25th year of living. I was digging deeper into who I was. Getting to the root of what I wanted out of life; soul searching.
As my garden and I struggled to grow over the years and I learned more about plant life, I discovered what I had done that summer was a virtual slaughter. I had massacred my grandmother’s garden. Her years of effort of pruning, weeding, watering, dividing, nurturing, sharing cuttings, and transplanting was all foolishly ripped out of the earth. I had spent my inheritance in one summer in a wild frenzy of digging. I was no better than a raccoon turning sod over looking for grubs.
I have tried over the years to recreate what I had destroyed, make up for my transgression. I spent a fortune on sales at Plant World and Loblaws, but the backyard was shaded with a pine, a maple and an elm tree in my neighbours backyard. Hostas were happy but the other perennials were straggly and weak and I’m sure I had planted them too late in the season, The lawn and garden were varying shades of brown until two summers ago. My neighbour’s elm tree was removed. It was one of the last remaining elms in Toronto that was finally struck with Dutch elm disease. Now the sun beams brightly on my failed efforts.
Today, it is almost what was once there. I look out in amazement at what a little bit of sunshine can do. There are gigantic hydrangeas, lilies, irises, clematis, hostas, black eyed susans, all in bloom. The peonies rarely blossom but someday I’ll replant and the lilac tree needs work. That will have to wait a year because I missed the pruning window. Still learning. Gramp’s lawn won’t ever be the same because of the pine tree but I plan to lay down stones. I’m a mason now. Besides, lawns aren’t popular anymore with climate change et al.. Sorry Gramps. I think tonight I’ll make a roast beef and apple pie even though it is 90 degrees outside.