The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I bet that’s a truly ancient proverb: People have been coveting what their neighbors have since the dawn of time. But when the phrase pops into my own mind, it’s usually because I’m looking not at grass but at pictures of gardens.
It’s hard not to feel at least a little envious in a place where so many people have exquisite and expansive private gardens. Adding a little extra sting of the green-eyed monster is that I’ve been involved in The East Hampton Star’s gardening supplements for a good number of years, and they invariably remind me of how much time — and money — some people have to lavish on their peonies and pergolas.
Truth be told, I don’t think you could quite call what I have at my house a proper garden at all. But the grounds here on Edwards Lane don’t look half bad, if I do say so myself. Sure, many a flower and bush I’ve planted (notably, the bottom third of a pair of April camellias) have been nibbled up by deer; and the David Austin roses my daughter chose years ago never quite thrived, catching too much shade in their spot between the brick patio and the sun porch. But the camellias continue to bloom valiantly, as do the old lilacs, and the old bleeding hearts, and the ancient shrub roses. As for the equally ancient beds of tiger lilies, we’ll see if the deer devour them again.
We have an unusual groundcover here on the lane: Bright yellow flowers that open and shut with the sun and emerge every spring to do their best to choke out other plants. They are gone, now, for the season, and the grass is green again. Gardeners I have asked about this mystery flower say it’s marsh marigold, but I am convinced it is a rarer variety, which doesn’t require a wet environment. Some might consider it a nuisance but I think it’s a treat: What better way to bask in the end of winter than by having a rug of yellow flowers all around your house? Someone once remarked that I don’t have a lawn, I have a meadow.
There are also wonderful mature viburnums on the grounds — which I can’t take credit for, either, come to think of it; they were planted sometime before the Second World War, most likely. The loveliest, a fragrant, old-fashioned snowball, bloomed earlier than usual this year, undoubtedly because of the mild winter, and then was beheaded in heavy wind and rain. I missed the chance to bring some snowballs in, but, no matter, there are other viburnums near them, including an expansive one with large, flat white flowers (shasta, perhaps?) that is in full bloom now at the back fence.
The viburnums are what you might call gifts from earlier residents of this place, as are a host of yellow Dutch irises, which are also now in flower. A cluster of more delicate Japanese irises, which were transplanted from Amagansett, should be coming along soon, too.
And then there are the narcissi. A good variety of bulbs were a birthday gift several years ago, and, although not all have survived, many of them brightened the sides of the backyard for weeks. Two more varieties seem to have arrived by chance, perhaps from a neighbor’s property. A few days ago I noticed an especially delicate flower with an orange ring at its center; and now, randomly punctuating the yard, there is a double white one that is very fragrant.
Someday, perhaps, I’ll find the time to learn more about these plants and to take better care of them. Perhaps I’ll plant some things deer don’t find tasty. Perhaps, some day, I’ll even be able to say I have a real garden. For now, a delightful yard will do.