by Teri Radtke McCombe
A coastal garden is a thing of regal beauty and an incredible amount of maintenance. My creaky knees and worn garden tools are proof of having worked in mine for over forty years. The pampered blooms arrive only after much mulching, pruning, watering, edging and feeding. They require special care after a storm drenches them in salts from the ocean. Then there is fencing to prevent the deer from enjoying a tasty salad or enticing slugs into dishes of beer. Let's not forget the spraying of obnoxious smelling coyote urine to deter critters and, worst of all, surviving the startle from snakes emerging from the sun warmed rock walls. With all this effort, some fussy hybrids still fail to thrive in the harsh seaside environment. At some point in time, I began to view my flowers as beautiful but demanding children.
It was then I noticed the wildflowers. These free spirits were seeded by the wind or a helpful bird. They managed to not only endure but flourish in the meadows and marshes. I began to see even the lowly dandelion as brave, persistent and honorable. I marveled how the wild honeysuckle scaffolded itself up tree trunks and marsh roses trellised themselves upon fallen logs. Oxeye daisies cheered the meadows next to mulleins and wild mustard. All this without manipulation by human hands! I found charming bluets and sunny yellow toadflax thriving on roadsides, mere inches from tire tracks that had packed the salty soil. Sometimes the dust obscured the colors of the wild violets and clovers but a good rainstorm baptized them to their full glory. These were not demanding children; these were survivors.
And so I began to draw the blossoms with the same abandon I saw in these unfettered
wildflowers. I could relate to their independence and simpler needs. Oh, I still maintain a smaller coastal garden but I far prefer walking the trails to discover the beauty of nature’s hidden gems.
Teri Radtke McCombe is an artist, a retired art teacher, and an avid gardener. Barbara, her sister, has enjoyed not only her coastal garden but also her wild flower tours.
Response by Kathy Hendricks
Welcome, Teri, as our guest blogger. You have not only shared a gorgeous piece of your art with us, but you also painted a beautiful picture of wildflowers with your words. Once again, I am taken by the reality of living so many miles apart geographically and yet sharing so much common ground. Here in the mountains of Colorado, we are blessed with an abundance of wildflowers, including our lovely state flower – the columbine. Your mention of the “lowly dandelion” brings to mind the delight my two little grandchildren take in gathering them into bunches and presenting them to me as if they found the rarest treasure. Your post is a wonderful reminder that the wild things that flourish around us have potential to cultivate gratitude and wonder in us.
Kathy's two children picking dandelions in the mountains of Colorado. Photo by Ron Hendricks.