Sunday in the Park
Just a few weeks ago, the Park City Historical Society held their always charming, always successful, home tour. Next month, the Board of Realtors will hold their always fantastic, always generous to the Peace House women’s shelter, luxury home tour. But unless I’ve missed the postings, I am rather certain no one yet is holding an annual garden tour. And what a pity that is. Because right about now the gardens of Park City are arriving at the apex of their blooming glory. And so many of the most lush, most surprising are hidden from drive-by, or even walk-by, view. Which is a pity, because while some gardens are meant to be hidden, most are meant to be shared.
It was always around this time of the summer when the vegetable and flower gardens at the Park Avenue house of Burnis Watts would be in full color. I would sigh, wish I had old-fashioned hollyhocks growing in my yard, wish I’d taken the time to plant the seed packets still on the kitchen counter that would have resulted in those leafy looking vegetables Burnis grew so well. Burnis left us this year, but he left that house almost a decade ago. And in the years since, the garden has fallen fallow in the care of the city.
A drive through Old Town always makes me smile. There are containers on small old porches, sunflowers starting to get tall about now, and those wild yellow flowers that must have a proper name but I’ve always known them here as "rugby roses." They were so wild and plentiful here in the late ’70s and early ’80s that every parade always included the Muckers rugby team throwing them from some moving vehicle.
A few weeks ago, my friend invited me to see how her garden had morphed and taken great shape. She has, for years, belonged to the Park City Garden Club, a group that shares stories and bulbs and beverages and does good works in the community. Her garden now includes some charming arches and trellises and places for her shouts of color to grow. She has taken slips and snippets of plants and transplanted even more. Started grasses that grow tall but need little water. Created spots for birds to rest and nest and chatter to her family’s delight. Each spring ’round about mid-March, her need to see color and touch dirt overcomes her. She travels to Salt Lake City and purchases the first pansies of the season and shares them with a few of us as a cheerful kind of talisman that promises this season, here and now.
Then there is my friend with exquisite taste in all things. Deep textured pillows to make you feel comfy on the couch. Artwork that changes as if you revisiting a new gallery with each passing season. A reader of great literature. The jewelry and clothes go without saying. And I admire all these things. But it is her garden, I truly covet. She and her family moved into this home about five years ago and the bones of the garden were well designed by the previous owner. There is the careful direction of the natural stream that ambles down the mountainside and empties into the pond there on the property. The giant rock waterfall in the front yard. The thoughtful patios and decks and quiet spaces that were carved out. What my friend did was a kind of Miracle-Gro, multi-year application of color and shapes and yard art and sculpture and birdhouses and labyrinths cut into tall grasses. And chairs at the end of a path in those tall grasses, all the better to view the visiting cranes and hawks and occasional eagles. The moose, of course, and the raccoons and skunks and potguts and deer and foxes and, well, I’ve lost count on all the sightings.
This garden is really many gardens. Secret spaces with a bistro table for quiet talks or morning coffee. Benches in the midst of wildflowers under tented umbrellas that conjure up images of life in the veldt. Reclining chairs on the sandy beach on the edges of the pond. Chimes and Buddhas and Tibetan prayer flags create a special harmony with the pink lilies that open and close over the goldfish grown like koi. Did I mention the riot of color? The pinks and purples and blues and yellows. The reds and oranges and that invite the butterflies. The fairy garden filled with tiny sculptures and leafy green plants. The hunks of colored glass, the metal bugs on parade on the table. The bridges over the creek, the mosaic stepping stones covered by mosses and thyme and ferns. The tall amusing African black iron sculptures that lead the visitor into the discovery of yet another space. The colored ribbons, the wind whirly gigs in copper that dance in the field, the oversize bronze woman, sitting on her pedestal, whose very shape invites you to stay a spell and listen to what wisdom she is ready to impart.
The healing garden with the echinachea and cat mint and rosemary and thyme and Montana rainbow-colored river stones. And the dancers sculpted from metal that look so light they just might become airborne at any moment. The gargoyles and funny creatures cast in stone that appear beneath a bush or over a hedge. It is a garden on several acres and yet without knowing where to look, you would drive right past and see simply lovely flowers and healthy trees at the edge of the long gated driveway.
My friend and her husband have allowed their passion for all things beautiful to expand to the space outside their home. It is filled with the laughter of children and adults who appreciate the magical, healing, peaceful space they have created. I often come home from their house feeling like I’ve had a little vacation for a few hours, it is that transporting.
And coming home feels pretty good right now. After years of envying the Burnis touch, I planted hollyhocks of my own. They are tall and since the neighbors gave me some of their secret spray, I think they are free of the aphids that were turning their leaves to lace. There are radishes ready to be thinned, ditto lettuce and carrots and onions. The snow peas are starting to climb the tiny trellis and if I can keep the magpies from discovering the red strawberries, the grandkids and I can pick enough to cover two bowls of cereal this weekend. The birds are landing on feeders and staying around long enough to thank me for the meal with a song. It is time to be grateful for simple blooming pleasures each day, like this very Sunday in the Park
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Park City leaders have written another chapter in the reopening of the community even as the novel coronavirus continues to spread. The Park City Library on Monday became the latest municipal facility to welcome people inside again.