In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A sort of a garden

The back orchard is a sort of a garden, in the sense that it's sort of enclosed, by the stone walls, except in the places where the sheep and deer have broken them down. In spring the deer stand on the walls to nibble the enticing tips of apple twigs and buds. In late summer and autumn they stand on the walls to reach irresistible apples hanging from a branch. The sheep sometimes climb over the walls when they come into the orchard, or leave it. They use the two entrances as well, but they don't think of stone walls as boundaries.
I do, though. The stone walls are what turn the orchard into a garden, at least in my mind. I'll admit to a romantic turn of mind when it comes to gardens, whereas the deer and sheep are entirely practical about any island space, enclosed or not. Is there something here that we can eat, they think. I have two other gardens where those particular species of animal are not welcome. But this one is different. It's a a peaceable kingdom, of a sort.
When we first came here, the stone walls were not doing their job, and the back orchard had been invaded by wildness.  There were actually spruce trees there (as well as everywhere), grotesque and absurd  and menacing. But now they are all gone. The wild raspberries are gone, too. I love the wild raspberries, and there are some excellent patches I could tell you about, except that they are secret. But it's the contrast between inside and outside that makes a place into a garden. So: no wild raspberries inside the back orchard walls.  Also no bayberry. They have plenty of their own places on the island, just like the spruce.

This rule has lately been extended to the wild pasture rose. The wild pasture rose belongs in wild pastures, or along roadsides, or hidden deep among the bayberry along the shore, where in June you can just glimpse its pink blossoms as you go by.  A glimpse of it is lovely, really quite sufficient. It doesn't need to be stared at.
On the other hand, the principles on which my rule is based are not entirely consistent. The back orchard is a place where wild ferns grow up along the walls, and snakes sun on the rocks.  There are wild stones embedded in the ground. They wear old coverings, of lichen or moss, that are wild, too. You can see sheep and deer droppings everywhere. In early summer there are wildflowers -- white and pink yarrow, and daisies, and clover --  though the sheep enjoy them so much that their moment of flourishing is brief. Of course the birds do not observe any boundaries. Or the bees. These are all wild, all equally at home both inside and outside the garden, like the sheep and the deer. Nevertheless, they are all very welcome inside.
Then there are the daffodils. There is an old lilac. There are the pear and apple trees. They are domestic, garden sorts of things. You understand when you look at them that effort has been made here during the past century and a half. Eventually I would like to plant more daffodils, and a drift of day lilies, since the sheep and deer ignore them both. Maybe another lilac or two. Some roses, maybe even a rambler along a part of the wall that the animals don't use.
The back orchard will never be a domesticated place, but it has its own beauty.


Janet said...

What a lovely old orchard and how subtly you have brought it back to civilization without it becoming an over-the-top landscape feature. The walls define your homeplace so beautifully.

Neil and Susan Brown said...

Your gardens sound magical! The visual beauty of the rock walls is something Neil would love to paint. Cheers, Susan