Knowing that farming and gardening is a part of my lineage from both parents, I find myself coming up with some strange scenarios. Why do I collect retro seating for my garden, and scatter it throughout my landscape? My thought process is considering when I have company, the perspective on the beauty of my garden will depend on where they sit. As much as I love powerful, hot and colorful plant combinations, I also feel that a touch of white is always a necessity. I just wonder did I get this sense of garden style from all the reading that I do, or from my Dad, my grandparents or is it just in me….part of my culture.
I remember reading a book that I purchased last year – Places for the Spirit, Traditional African American Gardens by Vaughn Sills, Trinity University Press. I would first and foremost like to say Thank You to Ms. Sills for recognizing that this is an important topic. One must always understand where they came from to understand totally where they are standing today. This book is a book of beautiful photographs of African American’s and their gardens down south – Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
When I discuss gardening with my fellow gardeners or clients, I find that each of us has our own style. When I travel, it is not just the formal, well tended garden that I notice, but the little garden that just happens to be along the way as well. It is those gardens along the way that have a sense of soul, a sense of imperfect beauty that captures my eye and sinks into my heart. After reading the forward to this book, I understood a little better why certain things were found in the gardens that I was familiar with as a child and why I am attracted to the soulful gardens along the way today. For instance, why do I always have something that glitters or reflects in my garden- other than because it is just pretty??? Why am I obsessed with a touch of something white in the garden and why do I collect some rather unusual items and them build upon them in the garden, as if I had the skills of a sculpture, using found items. Was there a reason that I remember seashells in the garden in South Carolina and yes, there was a white tire planter in the yard as well. Why??
In this book, Ms. Sills shared that gardening was a way of reconnecting with our ancestors, to protect from all harm and evil. The style and things found in African American gardens in the south have meaning….even today. The gardens Ms. Sills visited shared a story of the African American Heritage an how it relates to the earth, how it touches the spirit and how the beauty that is found in each gardens, speaks for itself.
From inverted vessels which capture evil spirits who cannot escape once they enter to circles to pipes in the ground (a great way to connect the living with the dead) to sea shells (reminiscent of our journey), this book educates and shares with us, things to look for and how to interpret these sightings as we drive through the south and smile in amazement at the way in which we garden. I used to wonder why people swept their front yards. My South Carolinian relatives always swept the front yard. I remember seeing hydrangea’s and Iris ….this was the garden right at the house. To the right of the house, under the tree was a tire planter painted white with Iris an other unnamed plants.
Reading this book was quite enlighting and helped me understand a little more about me and my roots. Now off to create the perfect bottle tree….a little extra protection goes along way!by