On the north side of the house, not far from the front door, we have a small shade garden that has come about almost entirely of its own accord. It began with the stump of an old bush, a dripping faucet, and a small sword fern under a nearby rhododendron. The fern, moreover, had long been ignored, a stunted, drought-worthy survivor. At the base of the stump is a small hosta which, until I moved it there about three years ago, had been struggling in the backyard, choked by fir needles. In front of the hosta is an hexagonal stepping stone. Around the stump, around the hosta, around the step, moss took hold. Encouraged by an exceptionally wet winter last year, the moss spread, and covered the entire area several feet wide and across. The fern became inspired, and has since tripled in size. Suddenly there are ferns sprouting everywhere. And each time I use the hose, the faucet drips and sprays around the worn fitting, and the ferns rejoice. And when I finish, I can’t resist misting this miniature paradise. Because we will be painting soon, yesterday I moved a fern that was growing against the outside wall of the house. I replanted it near several other volunteers, partly under a rangy azalea that flowers abundantly early each spring. We have a pile of smooth one-inch and two-inch stones from the river. I gathered roughly half a five-gallon bucketful, and arranged the stones in three places: some under the faucet, some for a place to put my foot when I lean in to turn it on and off, and some further away, fanning out from the fern I just moved. The result suggests a riverbed. The riverbed has lush mossy banks. And then a finishing touch: three jade plants in a single clay pot.
I’m beginning to think
like this jade plant in the mist
a jeweled leaf for each
Songs and Letters, November 16, 2008