Ghosts and Gardens

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Photo of azeleas in bloom at front of house.

Yesterday, Monday, the forecast for east Texas was supposed to be rain.  I marked it as the perfect day to work on my taxes instead of the yard.  (People who owe, put their taxes off or at least I DO.)  But guess what?  The day was warm and lovely with nary a shower.  So yeah, I gathered my receipts and other tax stuff in one spot, and it’s all sitting right where I can find it today when it’s also SUPPOSED to rain.  Anyway, instead of playing IRS war games with money, instead I went out to the backyard…to putter in the garden.

What I’d like to write about is difficult to put a finger on because, while it is garden-centric, it’s like trying to catch the sunlight through a window or describing a ghost that no one but you can see.  I see the sunlight and the ghost, and I want you to see them too, but I don’t know if my writing is strong enough to make you see and feel what I do.

Imagine living in a house and working on a garden or yard for decades.  This garden of yours is your love, but although you never gave it much thought, one day you find you’ve become a little old man or a little old woman, and you’ve reached the point where you can no longer care for yourself much less a garden. One day, you leave it all behind.  Life changes like that.

According to a neighbor, Gayle, who lives down the street, there was once such a lady who lived with her husband in this house.  The husband passed, but the woman continued to live here alone until she was placed in a nursing home. I was told the lady liked to put canned goods in the root cellar.  (What root cellar? There isn’t one.)  Gayle is quite mature herself and has lived in the neighborhood for decades.

Anyway, Gayle said the little old lady loved this house and on the day she gave her goodbyes said, “Oh, I guess I will never see this house again.”  Gayle said the woman was very sad.

What I see in this old backyard is the ghost of a former garden and bits and pieces of its former occupants.  The longer I live here, the more I see of what “used to be.” I think it’s that way for many older houses if their new owners bother to look.

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The working end of some sort of weeder found beneath the house.

I fully realize a succession of people have lived here; some owners and some renters.  What I find may not be the work of just one person…Yet….

I see snowdrops and daffodils growing all over the yard that I didn’t plant.

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This snowdrop must be moved.  It’s in my veggie patch.

I see a massive old pecan tree (photos below). It’s circumference at 3 ft above the ground is 116 inches or 294 cm, which means it’s diameter is about 3 ft or 91 cm.

Can you imagine how small this tree was when first planted?  When I initially viewed the tree on a January day, I was sure it needed to be removed.  I was wrong, and I’m happy about that.  Despite the hole in its trunk, according to the arborist I hired, the tree is in good condition.

My real estate agent said my house was built in the early 1930’s, but it was also built at the turn of the century.  You’re asking how that could be.  I’ll tell you in a minute.  Anyway, I ponder when exactly was the pecan tree (above) planted?

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Sometime, long ago someone nestled this pot between the branches of a lovely crape myrtle, and the tree grew around it.  It’s an old pot and for a crape, the tree is huge.  How long has the pot been there and who placed it?

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Last spring, I stumbled upon bricks stacked in twos buried in a straight line about 6 inches beneath the ground parallel to the fence. I began digging them up to re-use as garden bed edging, and there were a LOT of bricks.  After a while I realized the bricks had been used to form a rectangular garden bed.  The plants for this bed are long gone and so is the gardener.

Later in the summer, I dug up the smallest white button buried in the dirt.  I wanted to photograph it for this blog, but it is too tiny to see the details.  The button looks to be mother of pearl and has a delicate flower carved into its face.  Could this be a gift from some gardener past?  Perhaps to tell me simply, “Please garden here again. Please love my snowdrops and my daffodils since I’m not there anymore.”

And then there are the large heavy brown bricks discovered some 10” below the ground’s surface when I dug the hole to plant the bridal wreath spirea below.

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What a chore to remove those bricks!  Biggest hole ever!  What were they for? Why were they there at the far end of the backyard?  Were they the foundation of a privy perhaps?

There are three final mysteries I find intriguing.  One is someone named Margaret and a date of 1927 written in the concrete driveway that travels alongside the house.  The thing is, you can’t see the name or date unless it’s rained, and the sky is overcast.  It’s a disappearing ghost in and of itself.  Who was Margaret? What became of her? Was she the original gardener or perhaps only a child?

And how could a house be built twice?

My next-door neighbor has a photograph of her house taken at the turn of the century (1900). In it you can just barely see a small part of the house on this lot.  It’s a white clapboard house.  The house I live in is brick.  Where did the clapboard house go?

This mystery was partly solved when my remodeling contractor put in a new bathroom window and commented, “Hmmm, there’s clapboard under your brick.”  Oh really?  So the original house is still here but hidden.

Finally, about that root cellar…Could that be one and the same 10 by 10 ft, 2-1/2 to 3ft-deep, concrete “wading pool”(house inspector’s wording) underneath the house beneath the back bedroom?  Who puts a wading pool under a house?  No one I know of.  Storage for canned veggies maybe?  Makes sense.

Perhaps one day I’ll be the ghost in the garden leaving hints of who I was and how I gardened.  How about you?

PS If I don’t put up a post for a while, it’s because I’m working on my taxes.

6 thoughts on “Ghosts and Gardens

  1. What a beautiful post. Love hearing stories about a house and garden’s past and about things dug up. It’s great that you know who lived there before and some of their story, but there are always mysteries, like that name, Margaret. We buried an old laundry double sink to create a fish pond years ago. It is now filled in, so someone in the future will wonder why it is buried in our front garden. Kat

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    1. I can see someone stumbling upon your sink and thinking, “Why did they do that?” But your buried sink is actually a great idea. Similarly, a friend purchased a 1940’s property and discovered a buried swimming pool in the backyard. The pool wasn’t listed anywhere on the home’s description. My friend, plus some laborers, dug all the dirt out by hand, then she had the pool re-plumbed and tiled. It was beautiful.

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  2. best decision to go outside! what a tour, i love it! filled with secrets, ghosts working underground and spirits sending seeds through the air. poor crape mytrle tree, a pot-echtemy would probably kill it now, ah, the scars that mar us all…
    😉

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  3. What an interesting post. I haven’t seen a lot of evidence of garden ghosts. The people we bought from lived in the house for 40 years, the house was built about 30 years before they moved in. There used to be a flagstone patio which I dug up and used in various other projects. I really like the idea of knowing something about what former owners have done in the garden. Oh, and we haven’t done our taxes either.

    Liked by 1 person

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