When I was fifteen years old, my father married a Swedish woman, Ann Mari, with a passion for gardening. It was an asset she was gifted with an emerald green thumb. It was not long before we had a truly splendid vegetable and flower garden, followed by an orchard, followed by a water pond filled with Koi fish and waterlilies, followed by spectacular annual summer garden parties. Every June, when the multiple beds of roses were at their peak, hundreds of cars with guests would line up the long driveway between the ponds. The drinks would flow between the infamous, much anticipated ham biscuits and the guests would flock amidst Ann Mari’s garden in awe of the color magic and beauty of her creation.
I spent much of the summer in 1996 immersed in roses, lilies and lavender. The colorful beauty provided endless subject matter for paintings. They say you are closest to God in the garden. It was a heavenly summer.
Ann Mari’s specialty was roses. An entire section of the garden was devoted to just these beauties with eight beds full of every color. It was a fragrant fusion of pale peach, rich red, deep magenta, soft pink, violet, sun yellow, pure white and hot pink. My favorite were the big coral roses with an intoxicating, sweet scent that made you swoon.
Her passion for roses extended beyond these bountiful beds to unique varieties of rose bushes planted along the garden fence. Any empty space in one of the flower beds was usually filled with yet another rose of rare color, shape or type like miniature roses.
Lilies were everywhere. There was a large bed at the end of the garden bursting in lily colors. Over the years, some of these lilies volunteered to move about the garden, popping up as nice surprises here and there.
Along side the lily bed was a long row of blue and purple lavender. Their lovely scent was a favorite among the small, white butterflies. These delicate, winged creatures spent long, summer days fluttering endlessly amidst the calming, blue fragrance. They knew a good thing when they found it.
My favorite perennials in the flower garden were another blue beauty, delphiniums, and the brilliant fuchsia of the lychnis. The tall delphiniums would majestically rise up, and command their presence with royal shades of cobalt blue.
Sometimes the delphiniums towered over the electric pinks of the lychnis, and the neighboring flowers created an exceptional color combo. The lychnis was usually the most vibrant color in the flower garden. Its luminous, shocking color was accentuated by its pale, sage green leaves, velvet soft to the touch.
The entire vegetable and flower garden enveloped the orchard on three sides. One could sit peacefully in the cool orchard shade, and enjoy diverse, colorful views of the garden. In the height of summer, it was a glorious spot to contemplate all this beauty while munching handfuls of fresh picked raspberries, blueberries, plums and crisp apples.
I am not sure which I love more: creating a painting of the color magic in the garden, or creating the flower garden itself. Together, they make the perfect blend of art and creation at its finest.