A Garden Muse.

As I mentioned in my first post, the original inspiration for this blog and my own garden-to-be is my grandfather, Chuck Richards. I usually describe the feeling of walking into his garden on Great Wass Island in Maine as the Pevensie children felt walking through the wardrobe for the first time.  Okay, maybe I exaggerate, but it absolutely has the feeling of a secret, magical place.  It’s difficult not to approach the place like a child seeing a flower for the first time.  At least this is my experience when visiting.  It’s funny I only vaguely remember one visit to his garden as a child. I was about nine or ten.  I remember being fascinated with the place, but mostly with the seaweed-riddled water and of course climbing all over those big rocks. As fond of a memory as that trip was, eperiencing Great Wass Island as a child did not have nearly the same affect on me as when I visited there again as an adult— almost twenty years later.  Since that first time back, I try to go every chance I get.  Unfortunately, it’s about a 10½ hour drive, so it’s not very often.

Besides the garden, the ocean, and the overall wonderful smell on Great Wass Island, part of the joy of visiting has been the incredible opportunity of getting to know my grandfather—as an adult.  Growing up, we only saw my grandparents every once in a while on a summer trip to Maine maybe every other year or a short visit from them here or there, but not for any long period of time.  As a child, I saw my grandfather through my mother’s eyes: as her father, not as an individual.  I heard stories of how he spent too much time looking at plants, too much time at his property on Great Wass, and of course how he made her and her brothers endlessly lug rocks for the borders of his garden.  But this description of him was always tangled with her pride in his accomplishments as a gardener.

Getting to know my grandfather—as person and as a friend—has been both unexpected and enjoyable. There are two important things that I discovered about him.  First, his love for nature, specifically Great Wass, is absolutely undeniable. Every morning that I have had the pleasure of being there, I have watched him stare out of his large picture window as the cold ocean fog slowly lifts and it is obvious. It’s intoxicating and contagious. There is a lot more I can say on this subject but it would require much more background about his upbringing, his family and his relationship with organized religion, so for the sake of brevity: loving and enjoying the natural world is the faith my grandfather has built his life on.

The second thing I’ve learned about my grandfather is that he’s an extremely likeable guy.  He’s easy going, social, and very open-minded.  He’s definitely a liberal, but he’s not exactly interested in following politics too closely.  From what I can tell, he has spent retirement enjoying life.  He takes two hot tubs a day and never misses a happy hour cocktail.  He even has his own house drink:  a delicious combination of whisky, ginger ale, and grapefruit juice. Overall, I feel extremely lucky to have the opportunity to get to know him better and I try my best to listen when he talks about the importance of truly appreciating our complex and beautiful world.

From what my grandfather tells me, his gardens used to be bigger, better, and more diverse.  However, in the last several years due to knee surgery and general aging ailments (he is 91), he has scaled back quite a bit.  Less annuals, less experimenting, even less weeding!  He does what he can and he tells me often that if it ever becomes work to him or something he is supposed to do rather than wants to do—it’s not worth doing.  Gardening should be fun and enjoyable.  Stress-relieving never stress-creating. I’m definitely adopting this philosophy.

For more details about Dr. Charles Richards and his garden you can read this article found online.


Since the article doesn’t include photographs, here are some of my favorite photographs I’ve made of his garden.  They span a few different seasons and most of them are close ups.  I will make a point of getting some landscape views during my next visit.

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One Comment to “A Garden Muse.”

  1. Fascinating, story about your grandfather-I didn’t realize he was famous for his garden. Now I understand the reason for the name of your blog. Stunning pictures and great post!

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