About six dozen yellow irises greeted me on a gray morning this week, testimony to a place where others have lived and gardened before. The old lilacs aren’t as bountiful as I remember, waiting perhaps for judicial pruning, but there are enough for bouquets.
To be sure, I am hardly a gardener, neglectful as I am of almost everything necessary to qualify. I’ve been known to put the wrong plants in the wrong places and then gone on to mourn those that are lost. The deer are responsible for more depredations than I am, though, and I just can’t bring myself to put up fencing. The deer relished the rose bushes, although two or three may survive, and it probably is true that they were put in where there wasn’t enough sun. I’m not sure what eradicated the astilbe, although, like the lilies of the valley, they probably were choked out by a persistent groundcover, which I have failed to get rid of because it is the earliest thing hereabouts to flower.
The irises, a bounty from someone’s effort in times past, are not the only pleasures of the garden this spring. They followed the blooming of four or five varieties of yellow narcissus, with various clutches of petals. And, while it is true that an earlier generation’s tiger lilies in another part of the yard were long since executed by the deer, their places have been taken by batches of white narcissus with a fragrant scent reminiscent of paper whites that are blooming still.
The white narcissus are coinciding now with flowering viburnum bushes, which although misshapen by the deer so that they now branch out into straight shelves some four feet off the ground, are attractive nevertheless. And I shouldn’t ignore the forsythia, which decorated the place earlier in the season.
I don’t think there will be further come-by-chance surprises in the garden this summer. Instead, I will watch over the nepeta and lavender I put in the beds last year, which are said to be deer resistant and may therefore survive.
Eastern Long Island (the Hamptons, if you insist) is a world of extraordinary gardens, designed by dedicated amateurs and talented professionals and nurtured with love — and lots of work. But there is something to be said about old backyards.