On a typical summer day in the life of the My Thyme Gardens team, we all took a rare day off so that we could pay a visit to our dear friend Anita. Her gardens were featured in this year’s Rochester Garden Walk. She has a special touch with gardening and design, and also infuses a lot of sentimentality throughout her gardens. As a survivor of breast cancer, she builds a new garden to mark every new year that passes. She has been doing all the building, tilling, digging, planting, weeding and mulching by herself! However, she had experienced a back injury, so she called us in to help maintain things while she was recovering from surgery. When she observed twelve ladies with wheelbarrows working hard in her gardens, she laughed until she cried. She wanted to thank us for all we did, and to show us how the gardens looked, so we accepted her invitation to visit. She hosted us with a tasty spread and a memorable tour.
We followed this extraordinary woman through an impressive variety of garden beds, each one beautiful, thriving and featuring unique themes. She has pollinator gardens, butterfly gardens, gardens in full sun, and gardens in partial sun, with specific plants chosen for each category. Lady’s Mantle lined the walkways, making our eyes wander. Anita implements curves so that wanderers have to go around the corners to see what is on the other side. She manages to be super creative with color and texture, while making the garden beds flow from one to the next. She calls them English gardens; some are prim and proper, while others are more whimsical. She has traded plants with friends and family in her life, enjoying the connection between her property and her loved ones’.
In the center of her garden, there is a peony bush from her grandmother, Nellie. She lived to 95 years old and was very close with Anita. This strong woman persevered through many obstacles, and her memory continues to inspire Anita. Right before she passed away, she asked Anita to take care of her peony bush. Anita dug it up by the roots and planted it in the center of her garden. It blooms every year on her birthday! Anita has taken care of it for eighteen years; dividing it and sharing parts with various family members. They all enjoy having a bit of Nellie’s peonies in their gardens.
Behind Nellie’s peony bush is a balance beam, built for a previous owner’s granddaughter to practice gymnastics. Anita kept it there when she moved in, enjoying the reminder to live a balanced life. In front of the peonies is a stone ribbon for breast cancer, and cancer in general. Anita has also survived skin cancer, and several close ones in her life have survived various forms of cancer. The first thing Anita did when she was told that she was cancer-free was to get right back to work in the gardens. She was asked, “Why do you like gardening?” Her answer was this: “I enjoy it because the whole world stops and mother nature takes over. The smell of earth and early spring, the perennials poking their heads out of the ground, birds chirping, butterflies fluttering and breathing the fresh air.” These sweet moments give her inner strength and help her to keep going.
The deer love her hostas and fairy gardens. Anita wants to find harmony with the deer, because she wants her gardens to be a place of healing for all – but she also wants her hostas to survive! To solve this, she placed wire garden art over both the hostas and the fairy gardens. This puts them just out of reach of the deer, without harming them or making them feel unwelcome. She doesn’t use any chemicals in her garden, choosing instead to try non-traditional methods. We love her idea of using charming, wild works of art as useful tools in keeping her property a sanctuary. She has a bistro area for chit-chat over coffee, and a little spot for family game night where people can sit and watch their kids play. Her husband likes to say that she built a park. Anita loves to create and share with others, seeing the smile on their faces. Her friends call her and say, “I’m having a bad day; can I come walk through your garden?” She welcomes them with open arms and something refreshing to drink. They leave feeling refreshed and thankful for the opportunity to forget the craziness of the world. It’s her way of giving back to people. It makes her day!
Anita noticed that her neighbor’s home was for sale, and she knew that builders were looking to come in and develop the space. She decided to buy it so that the land would be preserved and redistributed in a way that prioritized the health of the land. The surrounding neighbors also work to preserve the land and create beautiful woodland gardens.
This day of balance was extremely touching and restful for our team. We loved learning about Anita’s mission to provide an open space for healing. Back to work – with a little more joy in our hearts!