A Mother's Garden

by Loretta Slota Marshall

© Loretta and William E. Marshall, 1992

Picturesquely set against a fringe of trees with a view of the Pacific beyond, the stretch of yard framed by the dining room window seemed the ideal spot for the small formal herb garden I have dreamt of for years. The herb garden was to be the focal point of the little seameadow of native and naturalized plants that surrounded our new home on the redwood coast.

I visualized the formal garden laid out as a scallop shell of fragrant herbs, featuring my collection of rose- and fruit-scented geraniums along with mints, basils, melissa, and a dainty border of sweet alyssum. There would be a garden seat and piece of statuary--perhaps a shell-shaped birdbath to encourage the spectacular array of beautiful birds in this flyway to tarry in my little garden.

We collected ideas and plants, and my two small sons and I tested various varieties in plantings along the house to see if they thrived in our coastal climate. They and the boys did.

But as the seasons went by, we never quite got around to planting our garden--partly because it was an ideal spot for the wading pool...and then it was just the right spot to pitch a tent for backyard sleepovers. It was the field of honor when our young knights, dressed in armor of foil and silver wallpaper, jousted with cardboard tubes while delighted damsels in tall paper hennins cheered them on from the balcony. It was the playing field for countless games of Toss-up and where our rambunctious Vizsla puppy frolicked through his first lessons in retrieval and Frisbee with his two young masters. We all agreed it was the best place to set up the badminton court...and to have water balloon battles and the family Fourth of July fireworks displays.

As I look out the dining room window today, I watch my two tall lean lads practicing archery. The makeshift target of boxes perched on logs sits right about where the sculptured terra-cotta birdbath was supposed to go.

But God is good. The herbs for our salads and sauces thrive in pots in the kitchen window. Our geraniums bloom in a tangle of scents and species below the dining room window where jewel-like hummingbirds often perform their aerial ballet around the glazed pottery feeders suspended from the window overhang. And as our sons launch their arrows and their dreams across what was to be my herb garden, the path of their arrows arches over a yard garlanded with clumps of wild Douglas iris--and filled with priceless memories.

Someday, perhaps, I'll plant my formal herb garden. But what is growing there now is more wonderful than I ever could have imagined.

Copyright 1992

Loretta and Bill Marshall still live on the Redwood Coast with their two sons, who are now university students. A life-size sculpture of a resting Highlander and other sculptures created by Matthew, their 19-year-old son, currently grace the yard out their dining room window.

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