Thursday, May 10, 2012

Earth on Her Hands

Every now and then a book comes along that changes your way of thinking, perhaps, even your life.

That book for me was Earth on Her Hands, The American Woman in Her Garden, by Starr Ockenga.
In 1999, when I started my home decorating shop, Acorn Lane Vintage Living, it was the greatest contributing factor for me to take the leap of faith, and realize my dream, that of starting my own business.
Although the theme and topic were totally unrelated to what I wanted to achieve, reading the book firmly established in me the knowledge that we as women, and individuals can achieve anything if the desire and fire within us is allowed to be kindled and fuelled.

I read the book from cover to cover in one evening!
Each woman a visionary, standing alone with a dream and a purpose!

The book showcases the gardens of eighteen, ordinary, extraordinary women.....ordinary only in the fact that each of them is not a professional, none is a garden designer or owned a nursery.  Each garden is private, and has been created to be enjoyed by themselves alone and family and friends.
Crafted for herself alone....

The garden that resonated the most with me, was that of Ellie Springarn, who with her own hands crafted more than 600 feet of stone walls throughout her property, and maintains extensive rock gardens without any help, save that of her trusty vintage tractor.

"The rock was a gift from nature."

In my own garden, below, the majority of the rock gardens and elevated terraces were created with the help of my husband's uncle and ourselves, with rock and large stones quarried from our surrounding woods.
I think I could manage my own Cub tractor if I could get one!

Things are still popping out here, with the weather cooling down this month, and our location, with its own micro climate, we are usually a bit behind every one else.   The surrounding woods, and the coolness of the valley floor keeps all the plants asleep a bit longer here.....the sweet wood ruff edging the stone stairs is blooming....and the" Duchess" clematis is budding on the obelisk beside the stairs.

The Japanese maple has arched nicely over the stone steps, in the distance, creating it's own arbour..

The south garden, edged with beds of rhododendrons, Japanese anemones, lilacs, peonies, English roses and white wisteria on the arbour...still in early bloom....all the colours I strive for are lavender, pinks and white.... great colours for shade....

The peonies, in early stages....

a new introduction to the garden last season, white bleeding heart....

a patch of lily of the valley, in the wood land border...originally a gift to the garden, from my husband's grandmother

Sweet wood ruff edging the stone steps.....

......with all the rains  this week, the pond is topped up!

....white deutzia beginning to show off its tightly packed clusters of florets...

....more stones and rocks which anchor the gardens....bordered by ivy...

....peonies look promising......with lavender rhododendrons in bloom in the background...

I am dedicating this post to my beautiful mother, Sara, who truly was a woman with "Earth on Her Hands."
From the time she was a young woman in her native, Italy, tilling by hand, her family's fields and vineyards, and olive groves, to her small, meticulous and bountiful garden in Canada, my Mom understood the earth and loved it....she passed on that love and wisdom of gardening to me....teaching me how to use a garden fork to turn the soil ,to augment it, to know and experience, and feel the earth and the gifts it would yield in return....
....that plants and flowers are like children, they need patience and nurturing and love...

I wish all my gardening, and non-gardening mothers, a most beautiful and bountiful Mother's Day!
With affection and gratitude to all my readers....

The above photo was our passport picture, my Mom, Micki, my sister, and me in the little red dress!

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  1. Thank you for this very special post- beautiful, inspiring, forcing me to pause.
    All of it- very beautiful, the words, the thoughts, the images, your garden- THANK YOU! Colette x

  2. Such a beautiful garden and tribute to your Mother, Nella. I will be sure to look for the book.

  3. Your garden and your post are so wonderful I cannot stand it. All misty here, and now I have to go to work! You have truly created a heaven on earth Nella. You were given the gift of this land for you to nurture and have gifted back ten fold...<3

  4. Oh Nella,

    This is a very special post.

    I knew Star Okenga's mother because when I was living in Massachusetts, she lived down the road from me in a beautiful OLD colonial home. Talk about a GARDEN! I used to clean Mrs. Okenga's home on the weekend!

    NOW YOUR GARDENS ARE JUST MAGNIFICENT!!!!!!! I was fortunate to come home early today to do a bit of weeding and it was fun. My thyme garden down below our hill is becoming very lush and I had such a wonderful time out in the warmth. I think planting a garden is very deep and spiritual. We have to nurture, water, weed and be patient to watch it grow. We often have to dig out dead plants and plant new ones. How spiritual is that?

    We set goals and the work hard to achieve them. I am excited to start a new path and if I ever need some advice, I think I can ask you since you have started your own business! LOOKING FORWARD TO MORE FROM YOUR LOVELY WORLD! Anita

  5. What a lovely garden you have, it looks such a peaceful place. Your white bleeding heart is beautiful, I lost mine during the last winter though the ordinary pink one is still going strong. This post is a wonderful tribute to your mother.

  6. Your garden is spectacular, and a bank of peonies, I love peonies!

  7. Oh this is a spectacular post! It begins with a book - which I simply must get my hands on - and ends with a dedication to your mother which is very moving indeed. Both the start and the finish are of course interconnected with your amazing garden: lush, diverse, and harmonious are the three adjectives which spring to mind. You have surpassed yourself here (again). Yes; you seem to be your mother's daughter indeed.


  8. Your garden is breath taking Nella. Thank you for sharing this special post.


  9. Beautiful Nella!

    I just got home from school and had the most lovely going away party from my colleagues. I have resigned you know, from my teaching job.

    Oh how pleasant it is to come to see your kind comment. I have no children of my own, but how wonderful that you have sons that YOU ADORE. I know that if I had SONS, I would count them as the biggest blessing in my life. I so adore little boys and their antics, their view on life, and the MEN that they become when their parents provide such loving examples of a fine human being. Bless you dear one for being the creative soul that you are!


  10. What a beautiful post. Your garden is absolutely beautiful. I love those towering trees in the background, and that book sounds like a great summer read. I will get it from the library. Thank you so much for leaving me a comment so that I could find your blog. I will be back to visit again.

  11. Nella your gardens are stunning! I am in awe of them.

  12. Nella, your garden is unbelievable! Send me your address...svp....

  13. Nella, your garden is fabulous; I love the natural stone work! You wrote such a thoughtful post and shared an intriguing book; It was a true delight to read about your mother and how much you cherish her knowledge about gardening!
    Have a lovely, sunny, colorful Mother's Day!

  14. Oh Nella
    Bonne fête des Mères!!!
    Thank you for such a beautiful post to celebrate Mothers Day.
    I adore that photo with your precious mother and sister!

    I treasure memories of my darling mother too and if wishes were possible I would ask for her to be by my side once again......


  15. NELLA DEAR! THANK YOU FOR STOPPING BY! You will be on my list of Paris link party fun!!! THANK YOU! Have a great day! Anita

  16. Hi Nella,
    What a beautiful post...and garden! It is beautiful! Do you take care of it all alone? Your mother looked beautiful - and you, in that cute red dress!!! You were adorable! I can't wait to read the other posts you sent me! Barbara

  17. Nella...your garden is my dream of perfection. Every plant is one I adore, every colour one I would choose. Thank you for this visual treat!

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Thank you for visiting my blog..... I love to hear from you and appreciate every comment received! N.xo