The Gardener

This is my new favorite poem:

The Gardener


Have I lived enough?

Have I loved enough?

Have I considered Right Action enough, have I

come to any conclusion?

Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?

Have I endured loneliness with grace?


I say this, or perhaps I’m just thinking it.

Actually, I probably think too much.


Then I step out into the garden,

where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man,

is tending his children, the roses.


~ Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings


I live by Right Action. I sometimes get obsessed and all in a tangle trying to figure out what THE RIGHT THING TO DO is. I have lost lots of sleep to Right Action, but, of course, my intention is good. And one of my favorite things in the whole world is gratitude – I promise that a practice of gratitude will literally change your life. I wonder if gratitude and gardening kind of go hand-in-hand?

I have been gardening a lot the last couple of weeks. In my alpine garden it is time to deadhead plants, clean up organic debris (and add leaf debris to the compost pile), mulch my beds, prune some of the shrubs and plant some new shrubs. I usually plant a new shrub or two every year, most always a native one. I live in the foothills on 35 acres and I try to blend my garden interests in with the native habitat. The farther away from the house, the greater pressure I feel to plant native. This year I’m planting sambuscus racemosa var. pubens/ red elderberry at the base of a large rocky outcropping off one of my patios. White clusters of flowers in the spring and then lots of red berry clusters for the birds, not good for the humans, in the fall. Jamesia americana/ cliff bush or waxflower has been planted by the same rock. It will have nice fall color. The shrub is named for Dr. Edwin James, the physician-botanist who was the first scientist to explore the Rocky Mountains.  In 1820 he joined Major Stephen Long’s expedition “from the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains” and they explored Longs Peak, a 14,000 foot peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. Dr. James was the first white man to climb Pikes Peak, another 14er that inspired the writing of the song America the Beautiful, as well as James Peak, his namesake. I’m also planting a native staghorn type sumac, Rhus cismontana. (I have a couple of Rhus trilobata, three-leaf sumac or skunk bush around the house that are wonderful, native, low water, fall color shrubs that deer totally stay away from.) I’m interested simply in its architectural form and dense red clusters that stay on the plant all winter. I’ve planted it near my entrance area, above a brick wall with evergreens in the backdrop. It can be seen through a large window and should provide interest all year. I’m also experimenting with one in a huge container in my west garden. My next post will be about container gardening, so I’ll discuss this more then. Happy Spring!!