Welcome to . . .

I’ve named my garden! Maybe it’s because I love Agatha Christie mysteries—where there’s always a gardener or two lurking about, and all the homes have quaint names and gorgeous borders. Or maybe when I spent most of 2009 immersed in baby-name books, I hardwired my brain to name things. Whatever the reason, I’ve wanted to give our home/garden a name for quite some time, and I’ve finally settled on one . . .

Last Oak.

The dominant feature of our front yard (besides our house, which sits just 15 feet from the sidewalk) is a beautiful old oak tree. I always thought it should play some part in the name of the garden, but couldn’t quite figure how. Originally I came up with Acorn Hollow, because our house/yard is sort of pocketed into a ridge. I tried Acorn Hollow out on my sister, who replied, “Isn’t that where the Woodsies lived?” The Woodsies being a family of finger-puppet squirrels we played with when we were little. OK, scratch that.

Finally, last weekend out of the blue “Last Oak” popped into my mind. The perfect name, and the obvious choice now that it has actually occurred to me. See, there used to be two similarly large, old oak trees right across the street, but they were cut down last year. So now our oak is the last oak on the street—at least as far as you can see from here.

Which reminds me, I’d like to mention what else you can see from Last Oak: A gas station/convenience store/Dunkin Donuts. The back of a restaurant and its parking lot. A lot of cars and trucks going by. Telephone poles and wires. If you crane your neck a little, or take a few steps past our driveway, you can see a Meineke. You can almost always hear them working on cars.

You get the point. It’s a nice neighborhood, full of lovely people, but not quite the type of place where the homes and gardens have names. Oh yeah, and our house is 1,000 square feet.

So am I totally pretentious? Am I really flippant? I swear I’m neither! I just wanted to give this place a name, a homey name so when I’m very old I can say something like “Ah, what happy times we had at Last Oak.” Sort of like the opening line of Rebecca, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”—except without the psycho housekeeper, etc.

What does John think of all this? He agreed it’s a nice, logical name. He also, a few hours later, announced out of nowhere, “I like my beef brisket messy, on dirty rice; or just on bread, like a sandwich.” The poor guy. There will never be beef brisket coming out of the kitchen at Last Oak, and he knows this.

I guess we both like to daydream, and that’s what makes these happy days.

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30 thoughts on “Welcome to . . .

  1. Hello. I could probably adopt “Last Oak” for my home as three giant old oaks on my front lawn have come down in the past year, the last with hurricane Irene. However, I have revealed my penchant for dark green shrubbery by naming my home “Yew Hall.”
    P.S. I drape my Taxus in black netting to keep the deer off. It works and you can’t really notice it.

  2. Hi,
    I like the name Last Oak and it will probably become your families memory reference. We have named the 12 various areas of our gardens, but haven’t named this property we garden now. Our last place was Bush Prairie Gardens. It was on Bush Prairie,near Tumwater, WA, one of the first American settled areas of Washington State. One of our mini gardens there was Swedish Curve. My daughter made a sign, painted yellow and blue, which we brought with us to this place, but there is no curve here. So we decided to change the sign to Swedish Curves (mine) and put it by the bench in what we call The Reward Garden, where we sit at the beginning of the day with a cup of coffee and at the end of the day to watch the sunset with a glass of wine. Maybe you could toast your tree with something aged in an Oak barrel!

  3. I love the name of your garden, and how it pays homage to a venerable part of your neighborhood landscape!
    Like a good tome, a symphony, or even a fine recipe, a garden is the result of the creative process, often reflecting not only the creativity of the gardener, but also the vagueries of local climate, time spent (sometimes decades, as is mine), and even financial considerations. A good garden deserves the honor of being named.
    My own garden, an endeavor of over thirty-two years, was aptly named for me by a friend who said that while walking through my property, he kept enjoying little niches and differing vistas – naming it “Bosky Dells” which sounds at once fanciful and charming.
    With a meager budget, my garden was based on “making do’ with what was already in place, and has grwon into an amalgam of indigenous plants, wildflowers, and ‘collections’ of plants with their varied leaf shapes and colors having more importance than for their flowers.
    I have taken advantage (here in the northeast – Long Island, NY – north shore, of an array of perennials: hostas, ferns, lilacs, hydrangeas, and the subtle inclusion of winter houseplants into the midst of the summertime garden, as well. Casual, somewhat informal, and easy to care for, “Bosky Dells” offers privacy, a home for many nesting birds and other native critters, as well as weary humans.
    Naming our gardens confers a respect for their place, their time, and their memories.
    Well done, Meghan! (and take good care of that oak!).

  4. Sorry about this, sometimes it just comes over me!

    We had a very pretentious kid in our school, named Barton Oaks.
    So of course we called him Dumb Barton Oaks.

  5. Meghan,
    I too have been searching for the perfect name. Because my grandchildren call me Bum, I thought about using Bum’s Garden in French, Le Jardin de Clochard, but didn’t want to encourage stops by French hobos who might be wandering through Louisiana! Speaking of Louisiana, am I correct that your husband has roots here? I’ve never heard anyone from another state refer to Dirty Rice.
    Suzanne

  6. I think naming a house or garden gives it an identity. I named my house and garden after the first families to live here, “Byrnes Wood”, when I found a picture of my house in a book of photographs by a famous turn of the century (last) photographer. In our community its not uncommon for 120 year old (or older) houses to be named. Of course when I refer to the yard, its “the garden at Byrnes Wood”.

  7. The area where I live was actually referred to as “Bunny Hill” on the plat record. So this is how we refer to it. I currently have 14 separate garden areas, but the names are unfortunately pragmatic, referring to their location, such as Dining Room garden or Mailbox garden! This was done so my Sweet Baboo could know which area of ground I was talking about. So I’d not only like to come up with better names, but also install signs for each garden. Maybe by next year…

    • Patricia, I completely understand where you’re coming from! I’ve named all of the diverse areas in our garden and have long wanted to get them signs. Some are named based on location (Borders, Midland Garden, Corner Garden, and Carriage Garden, which used to be the driveway), some based on what’s planted in them (Ferndale, Shrubbage, and Hostas of La Vista), some based on shape (the Piano Garden, the Landing Strip), others for sentimental reasons (Mikey’s Meadow, Santa Fe), and on and on…I name them all, and then try to get My Sweet Baboo (yes, I really call him that) to learn them so we can talk about the same garden at the same time. Your post gave us both a smile!

  8. Meghan your article caught my eye this morning and I have to admit I have never thought to name my garden but maybe my youngest daughter did when she got a sign for me that says: “Ma’s Garden” and it hangs proudly on an out-jut in the bark of our 200+ year old pecan tree that graces our backyard. It has really been a family project over the years but there isn’t any place I would rather be than in my garden. (or any garden for that matter!)

  9. Last Oak is a lovely name. One that will ever remain with you.

    The first garden I ever planted was named ‘Heartsease’; a lovely English garden around a very old farm house.

    The second ‘Pine Hurst’ planted around a little cottage in the piney woods.

    The third ‘Paradise Lost’ planted around our home in Corozal,Belize. We were missionaries there for a couple of years. Sadly the nationals didn’t have gardens around their homes. They missed all the beauty, but I planted a gorgeous garden from cuttings picked up here and there hence ‘Paradise Lost’
    Names are lovely and conjure up precious memories. ‘Puddlemore’ and ‘Last Oak’ will always be a part of who both you and Bryan are.

  10. I named my garden after reading an article on the subject a year or so ago in HORTICULTURE MAGAZINE (of course!). I call it THE OTHER SIDE. As in “The grass is always greener on the…,” “Milk and honey on the…” etc. It’s my little Garden of Eden!

    • Ah yes — there was a back page essay by Carol Michel of May Dreams Gardens! http://www.maydreamsgardens.com/
      I was on leave when we published that one but I remember assigning it and I’m so glad it inspired you. Carol is a great writer. And you thought of a really clever name! Hope you are continuing to enjoy Horticulture and thanks for visiting us online!

  11. Names are handier than descriptions. We have two inside dogs and take care of three small children. The dogs sometimes use the inside for their doggy business, and we have spills of various things all the time. So I came up with “Puddlemore” for our house and yard.

  12. Oh,a much-loved yard needs a name–nothing pretentious about it! As a regular columnist for Northern Gardener magazine, I wanted an easy reference for our perpetual project in northern Minnesota. Inspired by two natural ponds and the trees that embraced them, I chose Willow Fen. As the project grew to include 27 perennial gardens, I began to name them as well: Lily Sweep, The College Try, Long Island, etc. Warning: names are addictive! (Now I need to come up with a name for our new work-in-progress in Washington state.)

    • I can see myself naming particular areas of the yard as my garden takes over more and more lawn. I already have an area that I think of as the “weird triangle” — maybe naming it would help me figure out what to do there. Good luck with your current project!

  13. We just bought a house in Uruguay where houses are named and your address is The name of the house on such and such street between this street and that street.
    Took a little getting used to but works well. Our new house is called Las Caracolas or Seashells in English.

  14. It is a nice story for the name, but I liked Acorn Hollow better, I guess because of the extra syllables and a hollow sounds so cozy. I wouldn’t have cared if it came from child hood playtime, another good, garden naming story. But Last Oak is a good second choice for me. I haven’t named my garden, but often think of Beasley’s Acre and maybe spell it like the buzzing bee instead of how our name actually is spelled. I live where it is still pretty quiet country so I am sorry you have so many noises to deal with made by man instead of the critters. Sometimes things set off the coyotes off in the pasture across from us. This morning two army helicopters went over the house; otherewise pretty quiet.

    • Hi Sharon! It was hard for me to not picture myself as a giant stuffed squirrel once my sister made that comment about Acorn Hollow. I like your idea of “Beesley’s” Acre — I can picture a cute sign with a bumblebee on it and the name. Yes, we do have a lot of noise here…lately there is some sort of giant jackhammer going constantly because they’re building a new market around the corner. Happily we do have a lot of little songbirds around, which I’m trying to encourage!

  15. Meghan, I love it! You chose the most fitting name, a lovely tribute to your yard’s centerpiece: that proud old oak! I, too, have wanted to name my garden now for quite some time. Alas, the “perfect” name has alluded me so far, but I continue my quest. It will come to me in time! My neighbor has named her garden, “Wabi Sabi, ” which loosely means “beauty that is imperfect.” As our gardens are always in a state of perfect flux, it is a great name that suits her to a “T”. Pretentious? Quite the opposite, I think. I believe an aptly named garden is a welcoming beacon in a landscape of otherwise identical-looking bland grassy lawns.

  16. “Last Oak” is not pretentious, sort of sad. We are down to just a few since one of them was hit by lighting. An Agatha Christie fan have you gotten to watch the old “Rosemary and Thyme” mystery series? Perfect for gardeners!

    • YES!! I love “Rosemary and Thyme!” I have the DVDs. I agree with you — I would recommend it to anyone who loves gardening and even just halfway likes mysteries. It’s worth watching just to see the amazing gardens they filmed in. I bet it’s available through Netflix.

      • I have to add, while I’m at it, I was a little disappointed by the movie “The Constant Gardener” a few years ago. Overall a good movie and interesting theme — but not enough actual gardening as the title would seem to imply!

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