My Garden's First Birthday
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Newlyweds Wins Wildlife Friendly Native Plant Garden Valued at $7,500 from American Beauties

From Danielle and Drew

| Published 08/21/2017

Newlyweds and new 1st time homeowners Danielle and Drew of Derry, NH entered a contest in Country Gardens magazine last year that was sponsored by American Beauties Native Plants. There were over 250 entries. “It was clear from their letter, that they understood the importance of landscaping for wildlife. I just knew we picked the right couple.” said Peggy Anne Montgomery, Brand manager of American Beauties. The couple has 3-acres of land that is mostly wooded with certified wetlands. Their new garden was installed at the beginning of September 2016, and dedicated to Danielle’s mother who was herself an avid gardener. This is Danielle's story about her gardens first birthday and what that means to her. 

My Garden's First Birthday It all started after my husband and I closed on our little 3-acre sanctuary in Southern New Hampshire in the spring of 2015. As we walked through our yard in the evenings, I noticed all the wildlife that called the property home. However, this joyous time was tempered by a profound sense of loss as my mother was no longer with me to celebrate the next stage of my journey. To feel connected to my mom once more, I knew I wanted to start a garden and help give back to the wildlife. But my knowledge was limited to the few times my mother and I spent together in my grandmother’s garden as a child.

I picked up a copy of Country Gardens Magazine for some inspiration and found a contest to win a “wildlife way station” sponsored by American Beauties Native Plants. This competition was an opportunity of a life time to have the garden of my dreams and to give back to the pollinators too!

Six months later Peggy Montgomery from American Beauties called to say my essay had won! This delightful news came two years to the day that I lost my mother, and I felt a few pieces of my broken heart had found their way back to me. I was excited for my new garden and ready to get my hands dirty.

The date of September 2016 was selected for the installation of over 100 plants and trees by the American Beauties Native Plants team. Everyone was surprised to discover that in “the granite state” there are loads of rocks invisibly nestled under the surface, as well as beautifully displayed on the surface.

Nevertheless, we planted with determination, love, and mission to give back to the pollinators what was taken away when our home was built. Our subterranean rock pile transformed into a beautiful garden that carried us through the fall.

Then winter dumped significant snow on the garden. I was terrified it would harm the new plants. Would the birds, bees, and butterflies find their new home? My husband assured me that everything would survive, that the wildlife would return and with each inch of snow that fell the plants would grow stronger.

As spring approached, I watched the ground intently, anticipating the first signs of life to poke through the soil. With each day that passed, I felt renewed warmth of spirit and hope as my garden grew.

Summer was soon upon us, and the plants and trees were healthy and growing strong. The flowers budded and started to bloom. When I felt unsure of my gardening abilities, I got down on my knees and weeded, connecting with the soil and getting my hands dirty. I transformed into the mother of my garden, and my heart was filled with gratitude, for the honor and responsibility of bringing such beauty into the world.

I expected to experience joy and satisfaction from bringing food and shelter to the pollinators, but I also got a sense of belonging to something larger, a deep healing and hope that occurs when you “get your hands dirty”; my mother’s lasting promise. Throughout my gardens first year, I discovered what makes me happy, how to nurture myself and heal my heart.

My experience reminds me of the Christmas classic “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” in which the narrator says “and what happened then? Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then, the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!”

As I celebrate my garden's first birthday, I realize gardening is so much more than growing plants; it’s a community of love and growth. An opportunity to heal yourself and place beauty into the world, to grow your heart three sizes (or more), and to find the strength within yourself that you didn’t know existed. I think of my mom every day and miss her, but now, when I go outside into my garden I feel her spirit and love all around me.

Thank you to the teams at American Beauties Native Plants and Country Gardens Magazine for choosing me for the Wildlife Way Station contest. Your generosity and kindness has healed my heart, filled it with joy and help me put more love and beauty back into the world.

By Danielle 

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