We have a wild garden in front of our house. Every year, it is planned most carefully, seed by seed and plant by plant. Seed catalogues are consulted. The plot being relatively small, spacing is figured to best advantage. Come early spring, the ground is tilled and amended. Planting is done giving due consideration to the phases of the moon. There are wind chimes and solar lights, to create magic by day and night.
Meant to be a place of order and abundance, the garden invariably turns into something else. Soon after the seedlings emerge, they take off growing determinedly to the beat of their own drummers. This is true not just of the seeds we plant, but of those that were dropped by last year’s plants, before they were removed and the garden was put to bed for the winter. Tilled in, they too grow with wild abandon. We don’t have the heart to crush their hopes when they sprout all tender and green, and unless they show themselves quite brazenly to be weeds, we let them grow alongside the plants we intend to be there.
By now, in August, there are islands of tomato plants that overshoot their cages and grow higher than our heads. There are squash hills producing vines which colonize the driveway, right next door. (I believe they love the heat.) There are zinnias and nasturtiums and some stray violets and the occasional plume of Queen Anne’s Lace we didn’t have the heart to kill. There are mounds of mint and thyme. The bees, who quite obviously approve of our compassion-driven gardening style, go delirious. You can stand and just listen to their buzzing, all around.
And then there are the sunflowers. They have been haphazardly planted by last year’s visiting goldfinches, who pillaged that crop of sunflowers. These delicate, beautiful birds never cease to make my heart rise. They love sunflower seeds, and the sweet sap the flowers emit. Perching right on the giant blooms—some eight feet in the air—they hang upside down to secure their treats, and match the flowers so perfectly, you can’t even see them till they move. But then!
They flutter. They sing. They stir their black and yellow wings, and hop from bloom to bloom in a cloud. It’s as if the flowers themselves come to life, break apart, and turn into tiny angels of light.
Oh, give me forever a wild garden. Some others must have the pleasure of straight rows and disciplined carrots, and radishes that haven’t gone to seed. But I’ll take the magic of flowers that become birds, right before my eyes.