Karen’s Enchanting Garden – Beauty In All The Right Places
Alfred Austin’s quote says, “Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.”
The first thing I become acutely aware of as I park and turn off my car engine is the cacophony of loud singing from birds and the barking of a small dog. I soon realize once I reach the big wooden double gate to the home Karen shares with her husband and two daughters, is that the tamarind tree just inside hosts a large amount of very loud black birds. This same tree is surrounded at ground level by many species of plants and from it hang her beautiful prized orchids and a plethora of other plants. I then notice there are little Robins as well as Yellow Breasts, and even Hummingbirds darting to and fro, flitting all around between the trees, the flowers and their house. This garden is a hub of nature’s activity, and buzzing with life!
Karen smiles with me as I walk through the gate and says with sheer amusement in her voice “the water is boiling for the coffee”. We both laughed as she said this. We had made a joke earlier in the week when arranging for our very early 6:00 a.m. meet up, that coffee was the hook for me getting by her at that time.
I am very familiar with this garden and it’s home, it is a garden I have long admired, but I have never actually explored it in detail, I have just accepted and enjoyed its beauty on the surface.
I start off by taking photographs of the orchids and the colours mesmerize me. They hang from that tree just inside the gate with all the birds and it has a simple white garden chair for two underneath, the area is simply inviting. I am drawn by the sheer perfection of one orchid in particular which catches my eye, it is a deep burgundy. It is still covered in droplets of dew from the overnight moisture as the sun has not yet crested the hill to the east of their home, so the grass and all the plants are still covered in moisture, the leaves and petals of all the flowers, ferns, and crotons are all still wet.
Everything looks full and healthy. The perfectly coiffed hedge that frames the wooden path to the steps of her home is just as beautiful with it’s pretty green and white leaves and intermittent orange blossoms, who knew a Bougainvillea hedge would be so enchanting!
I putter around looking at all the details of the space around me which I have never paid such close attention to before. This garden has everything from ferns, to cacti, to palm trees, to succulents, it has big trees, small trees, trees with pretty coloured leaves, bushes with beautiful tiny flowers, and enough plants to put your head in a spin!
We decide to walk around the yard after I have taken some photographs in the front of the house. She starts by showing me the various types of plants, I swear there are thousands! She loves them all and says she can lose all sense of time when amongst them. Karen admits she doesn’t remember all their correct names but she sometimes names them after people who may exchange plants with her but especially when someone gifts her with a plant.
She shows me some pretty orange flowers that look like Chinese hats, then points out a particular type of cactus which I loved from a photo she had sent me some months before when it was flowering. While it wasn’t flowering now, it was still pretty, and all green – the vibrant red flower now nonexistent. (Photograph provided below).
The seeds of this “passion” were sown some ten or so years ago when she first saw a really beautiful garden at a friend’s home. She said she never knew there were gardens like that in Antigua, and decided then to come home and try to bring up a garden like that of her own.
Karen shares her garden photos with me from time to time and I have been asking her off and on over the years why she doesn’t do gardening for people as a business. Her answer is always the same, she enjoys doing it at home simply for the love of watching it grow.
This love for plants though, dates back to when she was a little girl and her Mom had plants. She recalls often breaking off a piece from them to grow and keep her own little garden. She remembers with a laugh the first plant she had, it was similar to an African Violet. One day she and one of her sisters had a fight and her sister broke up her plant. She says with a laugh that she could have killed her – she felt she had destroyed her passion. She remembers promptly going inside finding her sister’s favourite 45 record “The Tide is High” by Blondie and breaking it! Such passion indeed!
Getting lost in her garden is something she often does – losing all sense of time. Walking into her yard from work and seeing a leaf that needs to be removed will prompt her to rest down her handbag, and while still in her work uniform pull that leaf off, but before she knows it when she catches herself time has run away from her. Similarly, her weekends and days off are pretty much the same – going into the garden very early at around six in the morning and once again before she knows it, ten o’clock is upon her and she is none the wiser. There are some mornings before work when she gets lost as well and her family has to remind her that it IS a work day!
In this world of plants Karen has a lot of company – her Mom loves plants, her Aunts’ Catherine, Winn and Gwen love plants as well, she shares their passion. Karen remembers a time when she would be in a plant shop/nursery every Saturday, she no longer does that, now she maintains the hundreds or thousands of plants that give her so much joy.
I ask her if she has ever lost plants to hurricanes, animals, or even lack of water and had to start over, as she has so many plants right around her yard, on her verandah, and in a greenhouse at the back of her home. She says of course, and laughs saying that when her husband is boarding up their house during a Hurricane warning, she is pushing around a wheelbarrow with plants, bringing them into the house, and putting them under the house for safety. There are also times when they die from disease and pests; she always fights to save them especially during the dry season. Karen literally feels sad when she loses plants and says that is why her husband helps her to keep them alive by trucking in water when there is a drought.
As I slowly stroll through this lovely garden space I am enchanted by the creativity which plays a major, but simple role in its overall appeal and charm. Karen has made good use of the trees and palms that have died and turned them into beautiful focal points throughout the yard, they add a unique unexpected dimension to the garden. I see this at the very beginning of our walk where a bird bath and orchid turn a dead coconut tree stump into a picturesque little area. This continues throughout as we walk around the yard.
As we leave the area of the greenhouse, and turn another corner of her home, there on the ground lies a fallen coconut tree with plants set up along one side giving the sense that it was placed just so to add an artistic feel to that part of the garden, it is suddenly a focal point of beauty and not just a fallen dead trunk. As we move further along we come across another coconut tree stump with a pretty vine growing around it with just the top of the trunk visible – accentuating it’s beauty and not its demise. Then my eyes catch an old Hummingbird watering can sitting in the middle of a big fern adding a bit of whimsy along the way. Nearby is a dead tree, this time with it’s branches decorated with old rope and a small bird feeder hanging from it surrounded by beautiful plants and ringed on the ground with stones – another centerpiece created, recycled and reused.
My absolute favourite though, is a pretty wooden all in one two seated chair and table that is weather worn with traces of green moss in places. On the table in the middle sits elegantly the most beautiful orchid, its colours of purple, cream and yellow enhance the whole feel of that space turning it into a delightful spot in the garden. It is inviting, you want to get a cup of tea, a small plate of cookies and sit there contemplating the joys of life surrounded by all the beauty of this really charming garden.
I am intrigued at the depths of love and passion Karen has for these beautiful plants, and I had to find out what goes into making all of them so beautiful and happy. She tells me with a smile and a twinkle in her eyes that she has love and a passion for them, she tends to them as individual plants, seeing what each one needs and takes time with them. She smiles that lovely smile of hers, and says that “now the children are big I have more time in my garden”. I suggest to her that she could be labeled a “gardener extraordinaire”, she disagrees, shrugs and says “I don’t think of it as anything special, because it just comes naturally”.
Karen Meyer is a beautiful person, she has a loving soul and heart. This delightful and enchanting garden that looks like it has fairies living amongst the leaves and flowers and trees is an extension of what she carries around within her. It is a reflection of the time, passion and love that she has lavished upon it through the years.
Thank you Karen for sharing your time and special space with me on that wonderful Saturday morning a few weeks ago! You are a true creative doing what you love with pure passion and a loving heart.