When I played “In An English Country Garden” as a young piano student, I didn’t imagine that I would be in such a garden some day. But recently Charles and I visited not just one English garden, but several. I’m still under the spell of roses blooming on a brick wall, of the scent of lavender, and of the graciousness of the owners of one particular English country garden.
In Georgia, USA, we’ve been blessed with acres we can landscape and maintain with large trees, shrubs, lilies and many, many flowers. In England, often, a resident has only a few feet to work with. Visiting that country this summer was such a pleasure. The gardens were vivid with green velvety grass; roses of red, peach, yellow and pink; and everywhere bright flower beds and window boxes.
We had the privilege of being invited to a garden party. Friends we were traveling with actually were honorees at this party so we were there in a special status. I was free to wander about the trim, neat garden with my iPad before the guests arrived.
I discovered a tiny trail, sort of Peter Rabbit size, which led tightly between shrubbery to a work shed. On another side of the garden was a sculpture of David and on the garden’s brick wall carefully trained roses and ivy grew. An inviting curved bench waited under a small tree for someone to alight. Tables were thoughtfully and strategically set where guests would be free to sit and enjoy the delightful little sandwiches, tea, and cake. One or two tables were set on the tiled patio where also potted roses and ferns offered joy. Everywhere there were signs our host and hostess had been busy with a grass edger, pruning shears, and much tender loving care.
Dave and Mathilda Armstrong had invited friends of Harley and Debi to come from London, Oxford, and other locations, friends with whom they had formerly worked as a team for Jesus. The afternoon was perfect for the gathering–blue skies, a hint of coolness, the scents of lavender and basil mingling with the roses, and warm inviting scents from the kitchen. Birds sang and took quick flights from tree to tree.
Of special significance at this party was a strong Christian connection between all those present. Charles and I knew only a few of the folks but we became instant friends, sharing ways God has been busy in our lives and those around us. It was amazing to hear the stories these missionaries could tell from Switzerland to Afghanistan, from Australia to Honduras. The thought occurred to me several times that this little English garden party was a foretaste of the beauty and joy we can expect in heaven.
There were other gardens as well. We spent a couple of nights in a sweet flat in West Wickham where our hostess, Vera, gave us a refuge for recovering from our trans-Atlantic flight. Approaching her red door were bright flowers along the walkway.
We visited the Cotswolds one day. Their little gardens are squeezed between their small stone houses and narrow village streets, absolutely charming.
In Bromley, where we were temporary residents in the home for transient missionaries called Manna House, we walked several times to the center of town a mile away. There was one garden we passed that particularly intrigued me. Flowers of red, yellow, blue and white flourished just inside a gate that was always open. A walkway curved slightly toward the door. Birds were especially vocal there and I think there must have been a feeder out back. I was tempted to tap on the door and tell the owner how much I liked their colorful garden!
One last note. Dave and Mathilda, on our last outing, took us to the lavender fields not far from their home. Not only was the blue almost hypnotizing, but we were wrapped in the scent of it. It was an unforgettable excursion made perfect with steak and mushroom pies under an umbrella at a stream-side inn.
The tune of “An English Country Garden” is spinning gently through my mind. Gardens and music–they go together!