French’s garden began in 2010 with the creation of a medicine wheel in East Dallas. The residents decided to make a Native American stone structure that would be for contemplation and healing, and it was inaugurated with a ceremony in December. The Wheel was sited with a compass and at the four cardinal directions are large boulders anchoring them. Each direction is associated with an element and a stone. For example, North means Air and is symbolized by the crystal which stands for illumination.
Gravel was laid down over an old patch of grass, and the stones came from Craigslist. For a while, the Wheel was simply a hardscape, but in the spring, French, Carly and Ellen decided to plant it and create a garden inside.
We dreamed through the cold winter, and in March bought simple plants….boxwood for the large boulders, French lavender, rosemary and purple sage. Two junipers anchored the back wall in front of a bank of azaleas. We learned to say, “Can ya get that in the ground, French?” 32 holes were dug (Ellen provided labor) and the garden took initial shape. We found four urns cheap at Garden Ridge and made topiaries with black eyed Susans.
Against the wall of the garage, we planted knockout roses. We also made an herb garden. French painted an old wood container with the words “Lettuce Box” and we started our first crop. We added some fruit bushes in the back. French got crazy one day and decided to prune the whole property. We didn’t have any implements so we went to the pawn shop on Carroll and negotiated for some shears and an electric saw. He went to town….”Too much?” he said, holding the saw like a madman. Ellen looked at the back fence, now nude. “I don’t want to see those houses,” she said.
“I don’t want to see those houses!!!” became one of French’s fave sayings whenever he pruned anything. French was always cost conscious so he liberated a roll of bamboo that was left out and used that to line the back chain-link wall and cover areas of the fence that literally had oven grills nailed over them. “Who covers a fence with pots ‘n pans? Please,” French said.
At night, we sat outside and talked about all the changes we’d make to the garden.
French would look up at the canopy of trees overhead and said, “Has there ever been such a beautiful place? Isn’t it wonderful?”
There is a koi pond on the property and French had spent years with fish and aquariums. He took it upon himself to fix the sludgey pond pump and clean the whole thing. The brackish water turned clear and he brought two gold fish over in plastic baggies.
He watered by hand and tended everything. Every morning he was out in the garden, walking through and checking buds, leaves, the most minute changes. It made him happy.
Next French decided to extend the patio and for three days he labored, setting sand and fitting rocks to make a new seating area. “Do you love hostices?” he said. French loved to say hostices for hostas….and we said, YES, a carpet of hostices! So we went and bought tender new plants and those went in the ground.
Every day French had a new idea. He was brillliant and so creatively gifted.
We hope you’ll enjoy celebrating his garden with our blog showing it off and stories of his life and art.