In the dark of the winter our house finds itself plunked down in the middle of beautiful frozen tundra where you can almost expect to see a team of dogs mushing by at any moment. To keep ourselves fortified and hopeful for easier living days to come, the family stays huddled together at the heart of the home, the woodstove, dreaming up garden bounty that will soon be planned and plotted. On the early spring mornings, the stove slowly drifts off toward its summer siesta while the family starts to convene outside more and more to take on the challenge of growing as much as of our own food as possible. Admittedly, keeping the kids interested in participating in this quest can prove to be just as challenging as trying to grow the cauliflower worm-free. Luckily, a little area magically appeared seemingly out of nowhere that has kept the kids, especially my daughter, more closely tethered to this sacred outdoor space in a more intimate way.
To be honest Edie’s heart garden happened by accident. Since we moved here five years ago, our garden has been growing by a few beds each year. What we do in the summer is lay down some sheet mulch to be pulled off in the spring to reveal an expanse of grassless space to lay more beds on. One year a couple of sheets of plywood was used for this purpose and when I pried it off it revealed what seemed to me to be a distinct heart shape (mind you I have a very active imagination and sometimes see shapes where the ‘normal’ naked eye can’t). I thought it would be sweet to build this up as a bed in a heart shape and have it be my daughter’s special little spot to tend to and watch her flowers grow.
Together we made it a more definitive heart shape using an old climbing rope as an outline. We cleaned and readied it by pulling out a mountain’s worth of rocks and stray roots that zip lined from seemingly unforeseen origins and then loaded on a healthy dose of manure and top soil – piled up nice, high and fluffy. As we were digging, pulling and shovelling together we talked about the different garden themes we can grow here over the years.
:: a rainbow garden: starting off with yellow flowers on the left bit of the heart and as we move through all the different cardiac chambers the flowers colors change to reflect the colors of the rainbow all the way to violet on the right. We did eventually do a rainbow garden here and smack dab in the middle, for green, was an assortment of herbs!
:: an all pink garden (or any colour really. Edie was just all over pink at that particular time. Now she’s so done with that).
:: a cut flower garden so we can have a big bouquet inside the house all summer long. I’m kind of pushing for this one this year. No pressure.
:: an edible flower garden that can dress up the summer salads, and so the kids know to only eat the heart garden flowers. Yet another adorable paranoia of mine: the kids will find a feral poinsettia in the middle of the garden and try to eat it.
:: a hummingbird garden: even though my husband seems to be easily spooked by these guys it’s entertaining watching him dance his sacred hummingbird dance with them.
Edie decided to go with the butterfly garden that first year. Together we looked through our handy dandy copy of the Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening and made a list of all the recommended flowers that attracted such critters and took that list to the nursery conveniently located next door to us. We came home with our wagon full to the brim with asters, black eyed susans, daisies, marigolds, pansies, violets, zinnias and a massive swarm of moths dancing above our heads.
To further maximize the heart shape of the garden we decided to plant the marigolds on the periphery (later they contributed to our wool dye pot in the fall) and then Edie took charge of plunking her baby flowers straight into her little heart while I worked close by tending to the beginnings of our vegetable plethora. She did tire quickly after a couple of plugs but I gently encouraged her to do a little bit every day. Once all were planted it was her duty throughout the season to ensure that weeds were kept at bay and her garden was well watered.
Sure enough when the flowers busted forth the butterflies came and the heart garden was a breathtaking part of our garden tour (and the first stop whenever Edie was playing tour guide). Seeing the pride in her face when showing friends and feeling the excitement exude from her when brainstorming her plans for future hearts of flowers I can feel my own heart sprout a couple of buds.
Kathy Stowell is a homeschooling Mama of two who loves to keep her husband on his toes. She is a certified Simplicity Parenting Group Leader in her community and is proud to have recently released an ebook harvested straight out of her own heart garden, The Bliss Filled Mama: Self-Care for Soulful Mothering.