On a summer afternoon in early June, I had the luxury of visiting the Kirsch’s garden in Portsmouth, Virginia. Sitting on the back deck with a view of the Elizabeth River, Mike, Carolyn, and I basked in the environment.
As three nature-lovers sipped (very) good wine, the conversation flowed and only silenced long enough as we witness the squirrel’s antics on their dedicated peanut station or to watch the birds flock feeders. I can think of no other way to enjoy the day; time together continued, in our same spots, with coffee in the morning.
Viewing the garden, it was clear color was the operative word. As the Ascitic lilies, Lilium auratum, were finishing their show, the daylilies, Hemerocallis spp., blossomed for the second act. Of course, daylilies aren’t lilies at all, but who cares if they are only a Lily-like doppelgänger? It’s about color! Also, if you didn’t know, the genius Hemerocallis comes from the Greek words ἡμέρα (hēmera) or day and καλός (kalos) or beautiful. As such, the Hemerocallis common name is daylily since each flower lasts a day, but what a day it is! And of course, we know they are beautiful.
The color continued with tropicals, mostly in containers; even the containers were wisely chosen to provide color. Colorful containers are an exciting way to give a pop of color in the garden, with hues lasting well-past the summer’s floral glory.
Throughout the back garden, there was only one area void of flowers and other plantings save a blanket of St. Augustine grass. The open designed is low so as not to disturb the view of the river. I understand. Mike mentioned he wanted to garden it, but Carolyn loved the unobstructed view. I wondered if there could be a compromise.
During my time there, we also visited Paul English’s garden in the neighboring town of Chesapeake. (Look for a story soon.) While there were many takeaways from Paul's garden, the one that spoke to me most was a recirculating in-ground reservoir of bubbling rocks. Well, they were actually big boulders. It occurred to me this bubblier would be an excellent addition to the Kirsch's turf area.
Even though Mike and Carolyn have a pond with a waterfall, filled with abundant flowers, their philosophy must be more is better, so why not? On a smaller scale, I built something similar off our back porch. The key for Mike and Carolyn will be to get the scale right. I can help with that if they ask.
I'm with Carolyn, though. The grass is a relaxing square of negative space that also adds to the theme of color. Let us not forget, green is a color too!
OH, THEN THERE WAS THE FOOD
A visit to the Kirsch home and garden is about more than great conversation, color, and good wine. Food is holds center stage. Carolyn is an excellent cook, and given the rewards from the river with local seafood, the freshness only enhances the magic of the meal.
With more good wine, our bellies full of the best soft shell crabs ever served, along with fresh corn carved from the cob, and chilled cucumbers in vinegar, we were satiated. Even a BLT with tomatoes fresh from the garden can't compare. I didn’t count, but if I had to guess, I ate at least six maybe seven crabs. It was worth it.
There are glorious places to visit in this world. France, Spain, and Norway come to mind; but nothing compares to a visit with old friends and new conversation on the back porch of a home and garden sited along the Elizabeth River.