On a dark, rainy night … | AspenTimes.com

On a dark, rainy night …

Anna Naeser

I went outside in the rain after the big, fierce burst of water released the heat of the day, the rain soft, warm and mild; went for a little walk. Strolled along the opposite side of the street and looked at my garden. In the scattered light from a streetlamp I normally resent, the thin gleaming skin of water on the boulders of the wall made them the most prominent element of the garden. Only the different shapes and densities of trees, bushes and flowering plants were apparent, just the big features, all the little details smudged, erased.Subtract the life-affirming daylight from the garden and it looks mysterious and deserted. Without any sense of contradiction, I feel that anything could be lurking in the shadows. Contrarily, too, the garden seems to quiet down and rest, even though I know full well it is every bit as lively at night as during the day, and possibly even more so. Veiled by mellow rain the garden seems even more mysterious and daunting but paradoxically more welcoming and safe.Beyond the reach of the streetlamp, the deck plants and vines on the balustrade were backlit dramatically, the yellow lamplight diffused by the streaming windows. The house, looking bigger than it really is, beckoned, warm, inviting and intriguing. Intriguing is not a word I generally associate with my plain house, but there it was.My reverie was interrupted by a very large motorcar of the kind that always reminds me of Kenneth Graham’s Mr. Toad and his nemesis in “The Wind in the Willows.” A vehicle cocoons its occupants not just from the weather but also from any hint of consciousness that it is creating a backwash like a speedboat on a lake, threatening to swamp lesser craft. This particular “lesser craft” jumped nimbly (or so I like to picture myself) aside, avoiding a drenching, but was persuaded to leave the street to the machines and go home.Back on my dry porch, I turned on the porch light. The low wattage just comfortably lets me find the keyhole in the door; this rainy night its glow revealed a small part of the border, a vignette with edges dissolving into the darkness. I was stopped in my tracks. I dream and plan and plant and clean and replant. It often appears to be a random process. Yet here was a scene that approached my idea of perfection. How on earth did this happen?Dry seed heads of two Helictotrichon, blue oat grass, plants, unfazed by the drizzle and earlier storm, gleam like fine pewter, every single delicate stalk separate and distinct, while combining into a single voluminous, if light, mass. The English lavender around it, flowers also gone to seed, blends into one with the veronica, mint, lamb’s ears, culinary oregano and several other kinds of out- of- bloom plants, giving the surprising impression of a closely planted sweep of some unfamiliar needle-leafed species. To one side, the Dictamnus albus, and Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Albus’ or balloon flower, have totally different flower forms and bloom time, though both are white, while the flower of Lychnis chalcedonica, Maltese Cross, doesn’t resemble either of the other two in color, form or bloom time. Now I notice for the first time that all three have identical vertical shapes and are planted too close together. The Dictamnus and Platycodon both resent disturbance and I’m guessing that the roots are well intertwined after several years. The elegant Dictamnus is one of my favorite plants; hard to establish and slow growing but handsome from the minute it comes up, with seed pods like “wee starfish” to quote Pamela J. Harper. The foliage is always lustrous and clean and I don’t think even the grasshoppers nibble on it. Since I wouldn’t dream of disturbing its roots, none of the three plants can be moved, but maybe I can add some plants with contrasting form or texture?I stepped outside for a little fresh air and the wonderful scent of wet earth and plants and found a different way to look at my garden. Without the distraction of color and texture, I could see how the forms and volumes of buildings, walls, trees and plants balance each other, whether on a large scale or an intimate one. There is more to a garden than interesting plants and color schemes.Anna wants to observe her garden in Basalt by the light of the next full moon. She’d love to hear about your garden at annasgarden@sopris.net or news@aspentimes.com