Garden Gifts

Out of nowhere, a robin landed on the concrete fountain. It took a drink, pivoted, and flew over my head towards the dogwood. Wings stirred the air just inches from my face. I felt the rush. 

Birdwatching was an added bonus on my frequent trips to public gardens like this one. On lazy Sunday afternoons I would amble down moss-covered brick paths flanked by ancient boxwoods and towering magnolias. I was captivated by blankets of wild roses scrambling over weathered trellises and fragrant lilacs peeking through picket fences along the winding paths. While blissfully lost in contented thought, a bird would always appear to punctuate the scene. Spending time in any garden became the respite I sought more and more often. Gardens promised joy – and birds flew in to seal the deal. 

I found myself traveling farther and farther for the experience. I had to. The sense of calm in these outdoor spaces was remarkable. It was a feeling I loved and needed, so traveling to find it was never an issue. Besides, there was no way I could recreate that level of serenity in my own back yard.  

Or could I?

At the time, my yard consisted of a pitiful patch of sickly grass flanked by two haggard shrubs and an old crepe myrtle, their placement decided by a previous owner. I only passed through to take out the trash, but lately I wondered whether I really had to rely on the horticultural efforts of others. Surely, I could create a garden of my own, not as large, but just as amazing as those I visited!

My excitement drove me outside to assess the yard. My disgust drove me back. Wow, worse than I thought. 

Resigned to the ugly truth, I trudged back out for another look. One shrub needed pruning and the other was actually dead. The jury was still out on the old crepe myrtle. And not a bird in sight. After accepting the status of my bleak little space, I did what any rational person would have done. I grabbed my car keys and left home. Hurriedly, I drove to the next public garden on my list and felt the familiar peace wash over me. Out of nowhere, a bluebird dropped from above to snag a beetle in the grass. 

Before the next weekend, I mentally regrouped. Then, with renewed confidence in my ability to transform, I ran into the tiny yard and feverishly dug at the yellowing grass to scratch outlines of future flowerbeds into the dirt. Would that look good? Should the borders be straight? Maybe curved? Wait, birds would never come anyway. There’s no way to replicate a fine garden here. 

Defeated, I grabbed my car keys and backed out of the driveway, list of public gardens in hand. Once seated on a bench overlooking a patch of blooming irises, I felt the familiar peace wash over me again. Harmony at last. Out of nowhere, a cardinal landed on a nearby branch.

Later, back at home, while pulling the trashcan across my dusty plot it dawned on me. I didn’t need to recreate a thing. No garden is wrong. They all change with seasons and years and mine didn’t have to compare. It had only to make me happy. 

Determined now, I walked bravely back outside to tackle things anew. Shovel by shovel my vision would be revealed. I began work that evening and in spite of fleeting flashes of frustration, felt no urge to grab my car keys. 

For days, I dug grass, said goodbye to the shrubs, and filled empty spots with fresh plants. The old crepe myrtle looked grand after a light pruning. I wrestled with hoses, tripped over trowels, and fell into holes I had only just dug. But I enjoyed getting every bruise. Paths appeared, and beds aligned. Jaunts to the local nursery were made, repeatedly, to purchase seeds, bulbs and vines. I even bought a concrete fountain as the final crowning centerpiece. I was done.

I thought fondly of my list of public gardens. I would still visit them, but that day I need not travel. Sitting on my new bench under my old crepe myrtle, I watched foxgloves sway, ivy creep, and water sparkle in the fountain. The little dogwood I planted would show off soon enough. Flowers, bees, and butterflies began to appear that before the transformation had absolutely no reason to be there. It had all come together. 

Yet, I watched in vain for a bird.

My satisfaction with the little garden was amplified by the fact that I created it myself. As the garden grew, so would my delight in its metamorphosis. My elation was overwhelming as I listened to the trickling water and there, in that moment, I felt the familiar peace wash over me.

Out of nowhere, a robin landed on the concrete fountain. It took a drink, pivoted, and flew over my head towards the dogwood. Wings stirred the air just inches from my face. I felt the rush. 

Stuart M. Perkins



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130 responses to “Garden Gifts

  1. I love the imagery, Stu! And the story. Once I was in complete bliss and peace while standing under a tree watching fruit bats as they hung upside down. One pooped on my face LOL.

  2. Beautiful!! I’d love to see pictures!

  3. Garrie Madison Stoutimore

    Lovely story. Put up a couple of bird feeders and you will never want for winged company.

  4. Bravo to you for your two creations: (1) your backyard garden and (2) your story about it!

  5. I love this! I had a very similar experience when I decided to transform my backyard years ago and also put up some birdfeeders. Birds definitely do bring life to the garden! I’m so glad you have your peaceful haven now, right outside your door. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Francisco Laguna

    The garden you created was beautiful. Birds, squirrels and so many other animals found the same joy you did in it!

  7. Ann

    Your stories always make me cry and/or laugh and inspire me. Thank you!

  8. It is rewarding to tend your own garden. Mine is my happy place.

  9. gloriad54

    I remember the beautiful garden you created in your friend’s yard. Mary Dell? Mary Gray? something like that. Your story shows a garden isn’t just plants and flowers but a refuge for birds and bees and you! Beautiful.

  10. Wonderful story. We love our “Butterfly Garden” and all of the joys nature shares with us.

  11. This was beautiful in every way, Stuart, in part because I “felt” so many aspects — none more so than this: “My excitement drove me outside to assess the yard. My disgust drove me back.” 😉 Yep. I know that feeling — the throwin’ hands in the air, what’s the point moment. But look at you! You rebounded SO well, and the birds found you and what a refuge you’ve created! Happy for you…although that whole business of wrestling with hoses and tripping over trowels? Gardening can be a contact sport, I say! Thanks so much for inviting us in. 💓

  12. Your garden is going to be so lovely. You’ll have your own bit of paradise in your backyard.

  13. masterkeyinterface

    Stuart. What a lovely story. So glad you did that work as the pleasure lasts for decades. Blessings.

  14. I convinced myself you were writing fiction until I read the comments. Wow! You were the magician who transformed the junky yard into an oasis to revel in! That gives me new hope. We inherited a small garden with the house we bought nine years ago. John said he’d take care of the lawn, and the garden would be all mine. I hated the constant weeding and never felt I could keep up. This year is different. I read about all the shrubs I should prune in February and began trimming one a day. Thanks to all the warm days we had, I finished. I’m waiting for the next set to bloom, after which I’ll prune them. Taking the new dog out several times a day keeps me looking at the ground as things are coming up. Now I’m going to think of your transformed space and the joy it brings you. I already have a fountain and a waterfall, and soon I’ll be eating on the screened porch overlooking the garden. This year I’m going to soak in the joy, as you do. Thank you for this most encouraging post. It’s real! It isn’t fiction!

  15. I love this story! So beautifully written and relatable 🤗❤️🥰 Have you hung bird feeders or cussed the many weeds yet? 😂

  16. A lovely and well crafted story, perfect for the second day of spring.

  17. This is a wonderful description of transforming a garden to attract birds and pollinators – and to create a haven for peace. We inherited a garden filled with crushed stones and cacti. Over three decades we have turned it into a forest and while my bird list waxes and wanes with the seasons, we are never without them 🙂

  18. To paraphrase John Muir, I went to my garden and found my soul.
    Nice story.

  19. What a fabulous display of a labor of love. Your story touched my heartstrings. ” Wings stirred the air just inches from my face. I felt the rush”. I can almost feel it. Perfect choice of words. Made my day to feel the rush. Thanks, and yes my vote is for a picture. Just one, 45 not required. 🌷🌷🌷🌷

  20. Just calling it yours and taking pleasure in its creation is reward enough.

  21. Sign. I would sit on that bench. It’s incredible the power we have in our own two hands to create.

  22. Having just recently got hearing aids (that I’ve needed several years) and now I can hear so many different birds and I love working in my flower gardens and creating beauty in my world. I have sparrows nesting in my rose bushes every year. I put hummingbird feeders on my front porch and delight at their motion and love of the hanging/flowering plants there every summer. Carolina wrens have two old shoes on different trees in my yard and they started nesting and raising two families each summer. Nature is wonderful and I’m glad you have it in your back yard now!!!

  23. I love your writing. Thank you for another lovely story and for creating a haven for yourself and wildlife!

  24. Sounds lovely! It’s been a bit cold here in Western Colorado. I can usually plant an early spring garden during the first half of March, but not this year. It’s still mostly muddy in my garden bed and I have seen no daffodils at all. It might be another couple of weeks.

  25. Yes, yes and yes!! Add a bird feeder and watch how many species visit them!! 😊💜😊

  26. I absolutely loved this story.

  27. What a wonderful story. I’m so glad you had the resources and energy and enthusiasm to create a yard and garden that brings you peace, butterflies, bees, birds, flowers and beauty.

  28. Brian

    Oh yeah. If I may? Avoid concrete whenever possible. It makes it harder to regroup when your garden suggests a change.

  29. I love the poetic prose of your story and can relate to the feelings you expressed. There’s great beauty, even grandeur in some of the public gardens I’ve seen but beyond beauty they all couldn’t match the evoked feelings of communion with nature in my own tended garden patch in places I’ve lived. Thanks for sharing your wonderful stories. 🤗💕✨

  30. Wow, I would love the robin too if I had a garden of mine. My family live in an apartment in a city. We have some racks fixed on the outside wall, where we raise some potted plants. An occasional feathered friend visit did brighten our day too. I love your writing, Stuart. It smells of nature.

  31. This is a beautiful piece of writing.

  32. Peaceful tale about expectations. Well done.

  33. What fun! Perhaps a bird will make a nest.

  34. Just lovely. My husband & I did that last summer after purchasing a bird bath at a charity auction. The purchase encouraged him to prune our 30 year old azaleas, add landscape stone to the beds around them & mulch. In September we added a concrete bench. As you said … it is our place filled with quiet & flower petals & birds stopping by for a moment in the bird bath we purchased at the charity auction. The auction supported 9 Christmas charities & sent a local kid to NASA’s Space Camp. Our little garden was a win-win … for us, for the birds & for that local young person going to Space Camp in June.

    All is right with our garden …

  35. My yard is covered in snow two to three or four feet deep right now, but you make me want to go outside and plant something! But I’ve been enjoying cardinals, chickadees, goldfinches, and house finches at my feeders.

    • I like snow ok, but that much? Wow!

    • Lorna Forrester

      Loved your story Stuart. Reminded me of all the joy of creating several small gardens from scratch. And of the friendship of the birds who accompanied me. Especially the tamed blackbirds who always built her nest in my climbers and who eventually fed cheese from my hand while brooding! She also would come right into my kitchen and eat crumbs at my feet!

      • I love that! A few years ago I had goldfinches come to my feeders and the adults would fly away whenever I went out there, but the young ones took me as part of the feeder environment and paid no attention to me. Made for fun close up photos!

  36. Ah yes, “Gardens promised joy – and birds flew in to seal the deal.” The tenacity displayed in this story paid off beautifully. Very inspiring, Stuart! ❤

  37. Tubuo

    True happiness can only originate from within. Great story!

  38. tucker perkins

    wonderful so well written and pleasant to read a great talent

  39. What a beautiful post! I’m inspired!

  40. That was inspiring yet tranquil. Thank you for the great little story.

  41. keithalvares

    As it was in the beginning. Beautiful. How the beginning creeped in at the end. 👏👏👏

  42. Pingback: The Hook – Surprised By Joy

  43. “Paths appeared and beds aligned…” kind of like life. A metamorphosis as you describe it. Such powerful imagery and deep meaning in this beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it.
    I’m here thanks to Wynne Leon and I’m looking forward to your future posts and reading your past ones.
    Nice to meet you Stuart. I’m Alegria. 🌸

  44. Stuart,
    What we won’t do for a glimpse of the paradise promised us.
    This is why we even have the inclination to dream. If the call were not instilled what would be the motivation to answer it.
    Ah, perseverance, tenacity and pursuit until the goal is reached. I love it when a plan comes together.
    Congrats and enjoy the peace due you.

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