“A Glimpse Of The Garden” is a seasonal miniseries focusing on the heart of a gardener’s work — a special spot, an extraordinary plant, a place of respite, or a place that evokes a heartfelt memory.
What is down the garden path of your friends and neighbors? What is down your garden path?
For nearly 60 years, Liljan Minck — and, until his death last year, her husband Albert — has sat on the broad porch of her nearly 200-year-old home, resting after a session of dedicated work developing the gardens that surround her house. “I see everything from here,” she said — trees, birds, flowers, shrubs, and people going by.
Nestled up against the foundation of the house is a flowerbed filled from front to back with seasonal delights, such as the fragrant White Festiva Maxima peonies, several varieties of hosta, golden leaf spirea, and lush bleeding heart shrubs. Peeking out from these are long fronds of Solomon’s Seal here and there, and the silvery white foliage of Snow-In-Summer. Daisies bloom abundantly at the side of the house, as well.
Ms Minck, a former fifth grade teacher in Danbury, and a “decades long” member of The Town & Country Garden Club of Newtown, is particularly proud of the more than one dozen peony plants in the gardens. Only two are pink peonies and one is red, adding bright color, when in bloom. She is partial, she confessed, to the white peonies.
She has learned a trick to extend the too-short season of her favorite flower.
“When there is about half an inch of color showing on the peony bud, cut it. Wrap it snugly in plastic, with a few drops of water and put it in the refrigerator,” where the buds will stay fresh for three to four months, she said. “I just take them out when they are needed, and they bloom in three or four days,” said Ms Minck. It is a trick she has used successfully for decades.
“They’re wild. I just let them grow here,” said Ms Minck of the spindly stalked Queen Anne’s Lace that sprouts delicately above a plot of iris, and the wild bloodroot that emerges there, as well. “Wherever it wants to volunteer, I let it bloom,” declared Ms Minck, “and then I pull it.”
Anyone who walks or drives past the neatly manicured four acres of property is treated to the garden that borders the road. There, pale and dark blue Siberian iris lean out from the extended garden at the road’s edge to please passersby in early spring, followed later by the handsome pale yellow and lilac bearded iris.
The irises are also favorites of this gardener.
“I love their blades. Iris is a nice plant, even when it’s not in bloom. We have put it wherever there is sun,” Ms Minck said.
More peonies add brief blossoms to that scene in June, and in the background, tall yucca plants send up spikes for summer flowering. Blue bells, the color of the summer sky, bury their feet in Snow-In-Summer. Lamb’s ear extends its soft blue-green leaves topped with tall stalks that end in knobs of pale pinkish flowers during summer. The shadier spots harbor the colors of feathery astilbe blossoms as spring segues into warmer days.
“We did all of the landscaping ourselves, over the course of the years. There were just trees here, when we moved in,” Ms Minck said, pointing out a large magnolia and Rose of Sharon, as well as a sturdy Japanese red maple that shade the front yard. Where the property slopes down, beyond the house, garden beds boast yellow foxglove, pink bleeding heart and the less common white variety, and more iris and daisies. A small bridge marks the front edge of a pond, and is there “just because we like it,” Ms Minck said.
Maples, cedar, and hardwoods that had set roots in the ground when the house was young continue to dot the scenery. When branches fall or wind blows one down, it is then she misses her husband even more, she said.
“He did all the heavy work, and the cutting down of branches and such,” Ms Minck said. Now, she is appreciative that her children pitch in when the heavier jobs need doing.
At age 88, Ms Minck is looking to diminish the number of plants needing care, particularly the ones that are not so visible “or not too choice,” she said. “There is only so much I can maintain now. If I get in two hours of garden work a day, I count myself lucky,” she said.
She will not have to miss the precious plants now growing in gardens that will next year return to grass, though.
“I’m passing on the plants to my granddaughters. I have told them, ‘Plants have memories, too. Maybe someday, you’ll be dividing these up again, and giving them to your daughters and daughters-in-law.’”
Whether two minutes or two hours, she enjoys every moment in the gardens, Ms Minck said, reveling in the beauty everywhere.