By June, the garden is bursting with blooms, offering a big payoff for all my tending. There’s another payoff I hadn’t anticipated: visiting with all the people — known and unknown — who pass by as I’m gardening along the sidewalk.
Summer brings a steady stream of visitors to the River Valley. Our location at the edge of downtown Spring Green brings many of them past our house. Some travelers lean out their car windows to ask for directions to Taliesin or House on the Rock. Others want recommendations for places to eat and stay. I especially enjoy the visitors who stroll by and stop to chat about what a lovely and magical place our River Valley is. I could talk about this subject for hours. Gardeners also stop to ask the name of a plant or permission to collect seeds. It’s fun to trade tips and garden stories.
One of my most unexpected interactions was with Cristina, a Chicago-based actress, who arrives in town each May and hits the ground running, literally. Our garden is on her route. Each day, I see her pass our house, plugged in to iTunes and enveloped in her runner’s zone. Of course, I notice her. I am starstruck. But I never imagined she noticed me. One morning, though, she slowed her pace as she passed me — dirt smudged in my tattered, ill-fitting gardening clothes.
“You’re always gardening, and I’m always running. Good for us,” she said, grinning broadly and pumping her fist in the air.
Of course, many friends and neighbors call out greetings or stop to chat while I’m working in the garden. A very special frequent visitor last year was a 2-year-old named Eleanor. A budding entomologist, she loved to squat at the edge of the garden in search of bugs and worms and all manner of creeping, crawling things. I found myself scouting the garden for things she might like to see — even though, unlike Eleanor, I do not like to handle creeping, crawling things. Interesting how children can inspire us to move beyond our limitations, isn’t it?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many children interact with me. I credit their parents with raising such polite and outgoing kids. Jameson and Guidry routinely call out greetings as they whiz by on bikes. Last year, they paused to inform me they were testing the range on their new walkie-talkies. Arie stops to show me his purchases from the grocery store, tallying the number of times his parents have sent him to pick up a forgotten item. And Eva calls out “your garden looks better every time I see it.” Such an adult thing for a 9-year-old to say.
Before we moved to Spring Green, we lived in a rural area. I gardened happily — but in isolation. Gardening kept me connected to the earth. Now it is also connecting me to community. It’s a two-fer, and that’s blitz.
Patrice Peltier lives in Spring Green and writes regularly for Wisconsin Gardening, Chicagoland Gardening and The Landscape Contractor magazines. Her work has appeared in Better Homes and Gardens and Midwest Living magazines.