Have you enjoyed strolling in an English cottage garden, with its many paths that lead to amazing spaces with layers of plants, hidden nooks and scenic seating areas amongst trees, shrubs, bulbs, and an abundance of flowers nestled in eye-catching designs?

I received the call in March to come and clean a downtown garden; the voice sounded English. She explained that it was a cottage garden, and as she was a gardener, I would be her hands. I was eager to see her garden and meet her. When I arrived, I was greeted with tea and morning tea cake. The house was filled with exotic plants given to her by friends and family. The homeowner was a very proper English lady from southern England who had a love of gardening, and upon finishing our tea, my tour of the garden began.

Her grounds were very large, and each garden was divided into different areas. There was a kitchen garden with herbaceous borders, and an azalea side garden which was banked by irises of varying species and colors. The patio garden was large and spacious, and flanked by larger azaleas with more irises of varying colors of pink and white. All the gardens led to grassy paths that wound around parterres of azaleas, gigantic quince bushes and 2 small tree-size rose of sharon plants on one side. On the other side, the azalea parterre provided protection to lilac trees and bulbs planted to be enjoyed from varying benches and chairs hidden in nooks, some covered in ivy.

As I followed her through the winding paths, she told the story of coming to the US from England, and how the love of gardening had aided her in adjusting to life in a new country. She had designed a spring garden, with azaleas she had cultivated. Her love for sharing her hybridized irises had brought her to the attention of her neighbors. And as they saw her garden, many encouraged her to design theirs. Her English cottage garden style was so popular that the entire neighborhood had embraced her design. She felt the design gave tranquil places for the adults to enjoy, fun spaces for the children as well as outdoor spaces for entertaining. The gardens were so beautifully created that the houses were on the annual garden tour. Her spring garden was a masterpiece, and as I worked in it she told me how she had organized the garden tours in the area, and now at nearly 90 her garden was still on the tour.

As the spring approached, the garden came to life, full of fragrance and color – it was ready to be shared. On our last day together, I was given a tour of her lovely home, filled with things from her native England. Mrs. B had shared many conversations with me, and I had grown to love her like a grandmother. As she opened the door to walk me to the car, her neighbors had come to take her to see the other gardens before the tour began. That day I learned Mrs. B had shared her love of gardening with many who loved and admired her. Her irises and azaleas were carefully tended and cherished by those fortunate enough to have them in their gardens. Her garden talents were highly esteemed. Even at 90, her gift of gardening was still sought after by her friends and neighbors. She had won her place in what was to her a foreign country.