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friendly neighbors garden

What is a good garden yield? Lots of produce, plenty of flowers, and maybe a few surprises to liven up your life. Here’s a story about one of those surprises.

***

The first time Adam saw Rosemary, she was cursing.

It wasn’t just a few words, either. She was in the midst of a grand tell-off to a broken trowel. It was in two pieces, obviously having fallen apart right at the joint where the handle and business-end met. She was holding one piece in each hand, and giving it a talking-to that would have made a sailor blush.

He was so surprised that he stopped and stared.

This was his new neighbor, and it was the first time he had seen her up close. He had glanced over occasionally to see that she was working on a garden. First the pristine lawn was tilled up, then there were neat rows, and now she was planting seedlings.

Or she would be, if she hadn’t had the disagreement with the trowel.

An awkward introduction

Adam tried to discreetly back up into his own yard. He had thought to come over and introduce himself, now that she was obviously settled in to stay, but decided now was definitely not the time. He was almost back across his property line when she looked up and her eyes caught his.

“Oh no, oh my goodness, oh, no,” she practically wailed. She dropped the pieces of the trowel and put her hands over his face, dirt and all. She leaned forward on her knees, and for a moment he thought she might cry. But then she looked back up at him, her eyes wide and clear, her face blushed a crimson red.

“I am so sorry,” she said.

Adam grinned. “No harm done to me,” he said, walking slowly toward her. “I’m impressed, actually.”

She blushed even harder. He hadn’t known such a thing was possible. “I have no excuse.”

“Why would you need one?” he asked, reaching her. He held out a hand. “I’m Adam. I’m your neighbor.”

“I’m Rosemary.”

“Like the plant?”

She smiled, her blush starting to dissipate a little. “Yes. I actually have a few of those to get into the ground today.”

“Let me help you,” he said. “I have a trowel or two that will cooperate.”

The blush was suddenly back, but he liked the way she met his eyes anyway. “That would be lovely.”

Good things grow in a garden

They spent hours in the garden, planting everything from the rosemary to tomatoes, from sassy basil to aromatic squash. He had plenty of work to do on his own property, especially on such a perfectly sunny day, but he was more content to move up and down the rows with his neighbor. She promised him that he could have some of the produce when it was ready, and he assured her he would come over and help her pull weeds when they got to be too much. By the time the sun was low in the sky, they had solidified their new friendship.

Two weeks later, he wandered over as she was planting something else — flowers this time, in boxes she had put together herself. Soon he was helping her put in the verbena and dusty miller and sweet potato vine. They talked about work, about their families, about anything else that came to mind, until the sun went low again. This time she invited him for a glass of sweet tea, and he was much obliged.

Two weeks after that she brought over fresh sprigs of herbs, bundled up in a pretty ribbon. “A thank you,” she said. He took them and spent the next two days figuring out how to use them in dishes that he ate alone at his kitchen table.

But on the third night, he invited her over for dinner. They talked and laughed and ended the evening by flipping through seed catalogs.

It was the most romantic thing Adam had done in a very long time.

A garden comes full circle

Throughout that year, the garden gave up a ridiculously huge bounty, enough that they both became desperate to not let it go to waste. Together they discovered the art of canning, learned just how long squash and zucchini needed to stay in the dehydrator, and filled up their freezers with blanched veggies.

By the time the pumpkins were ready, they were talking every day.

On the night that the final squash was picked, he kissed her over the squat, flat plants.

Her eyes grew wide. She blushed crimson. But then she looked him right in the eye and smiled.

“Took you long enough,” she said.

It was a long and harsh winter, but Rosemary and Adam barely noticed. By the time the spring rains came and the seedlings began to flourish, they were making plans for much more than another year of gardening.

This summer, they will be married in the backyard garden, flanked by the herbs and vegetables, surrounded by impressive flower beds, under an arbor draped with roses. The broken trowel — the one that marked the day he started falling in love with her — will be tied at the top of the arbor, a kind of good luck charm.

A good garden takes time, steady effort, patience and care. You get more than you expected in return.

In that way, a garden is kinda like love, isn’t it?

 

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.