Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Enchanting Story Behind Nana’s Peacock Garden

Ally, the chief creative influece of Connie's garden, admires its namesake peacock.
Featuring Yummy Garden Party Snacks!

The Nana Network sat down to interview one of its fans, Connie Lohse, a St. Louis grandmother of 4. She’s enjoyed a distinguished career as an elementary school principal, and has since learned to put the “pal” into other pursuits, like entertaining her young grandchildren. This is a wonderful story about what it means to transform a part of your house or yard into the sanctuary you always knew it could be.

Network: Thanks for talking to us about your garden, Aunt Connie. The pictures say so much, but we’d still like to know more. Do tell!    

Network: Well, the garden is pretty small. It is the size of a small bedroom. Maybe 10 X 10 or so. I built the actual garden years ago and planted hybrid Irises in it. It started out as two huge boulders the neighbors put there for a flooding issue back in the 90s. Over the years, we put many stones in there, two giant hostas, a cherry tree and maybe forty iris bulbs. I hadn’t kept it up very well, but this year I got the idea to make it a children's garden.

Network: How wonderful! Your grandkids are awfully young: Ally is 6, Katie 3, Nelle a toddler and your fourth still a baby boy. Were the grandchildren able to help you create the garden?

Network: Well, sure! Ally is my garden buddy and she and I did a little dreaming. We decided it needed a stone path. I had a child's bench that we moved under the tree. I put two bird baths in there that I already had. As I cleared away all the debris, I found a small Bradford pear tree growing by the rocks. It took two weeks and 10 bags of cleared weeds, tree limbs, vines, and such.

Network: OK—let me stop you right there. It sounds like it’s getting expensive! How long did this project take?

Network: Actually, it wasn’t too bad. It has taken three weeks to actually finish it. I bought the stepping stones with my $50 of birthday money, and that also covered the 4 bags of mulch to make the path. After that, I probably spent another $100. Ace Hardware had adorable metal butterflies and hummingbirds.

Network: Sorry to interrupt again, but this is a particularly interesting detail—all the animals you bought to make the garden appealing to little people. Is that how it eventually took on the name, Nana’s Peacock Garden?

Network: Yes! But before the peacock, there were other critters. I moved three concrete rabbits and a turtle from my other garden—(chuckles) we’re big on gardening here.  Ally and the neighbor children planted some seeds on the outer edge, and we hung a large fern in the tree. Ally named it the Peacock garden because that is the most beautiful bird she knows—and that’s what prompted me to go out and shop for a peacock, made of colorful metals, from Target. It greets visitors at the entrance.

Network: That all sounds so sweet! Do you have picnics out there?

Connie: The kids do eat their snack on the bench, but otherwise the garden is just for playing games, resting on the bench, and hopping from stone to stone. Ally is also responsible for filling the feeder, hosing out the bird baths, and keeping all the critters clean and in their correct spots.

Network: I’m sure she’ll always remember doing that even when she’s an adult. It’s clear how much the kids love what you’ve done in your backyard. Tell us why you love it.

Connie: There is no other purpose for the garden other than to feel peace and to imagine that all the animals are real. The real birds love it and there are many birds feeding, bathing, and flying through. Maybe all the make believe critters come to life at night and frolic in the garden. What a story that would make!

Network: We’ll wait for that children’s book, and thank you so much, Connie!
Maybe these recipe links will lead to sweeter garden play dates for Connie and the ones that she’s inspired:

·         Strawberry Buttermilk Scones

·         Scottish Style Shortbread

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