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A rainbow of surprises from an old house

By: Shannon Dauphin Lee , Contributing Writer
In: Garden And Lawncare, Old House Musings

I will never forget that day in the spring of 2007.

I had just purchased a beautiful Victorian home, one that needed a great deal of work (as has been chronicled numerous times on this blog). I moved in with high hopes, but I was completely unprepared for the wealth of restoration issues I would face with that house. There were days when I was so discouraged by the mountain of work ahead of me that I could hardly believe I had saddled myself with that place.

But then there would be a moment that gave me a second wind. Sometimes it was the beauty of the hand carved banister, or the way the light fell through the dining room windows, or the sound of that old schoolhouse doorbell ringing to announce the presence of a friend or new neighbor.

And one day, it was the rainbow.

The hidden beauty behind the old house

One of the reasons I purchased that particular house was the land around it. The house sat on three acres of perfectly flat, carefully manicured yard. The landscaping was extraordinary. The house sat near the front of the lot, so the backyard was enormous, a perfect place for my children to play in complete safety.

I had dreams of turning one corner of that property into a garden. There was more than enough room. I didn't have time to do so that year, given all the work I was putting into the house, and during those early spring days I would stare out at the empty space and long for a garden I could tend to when I needed to get out of the house.

But then came the surprise.

My son had gone outside to mow the lawn, but he came back into the house after only a few minutes. "Mom, I'm not sure where to mow," he said.

"What do you mean?"

He shrugged. "There's stuff growing everywhere. And I do mean everywhere."

We went out to the backyard together. And sure enough, there were tiny plants breaking through the soil, already standing about an inch above the grass. They were neatly spaced about one foot apart, in what appeared to be a grid pattern. They covered the entire yard -- absolutely all of it.

"Don't mow," I said. "Let's wait and see what this is."

Those plants grew like weeds, sprouting what seemed like several inches each day, until one morning I woke up to see little blooms here and there.

Two days after that, I was awakened by my very excited daughter. "Mom, look outside! Look!"

A reminder of old house love

Literally overnight, those plants had burst forth into blooms, and now I could see that they were arranged by color. In my backyard was a beautiful rainbow of flowers, perfect lines of green and yellow and purple and more, blooming in riotous joy that covered the entire yard. What had been simple and nondescript was now something fit for the cover of a gardening catalog.

I admit it: I cried.

That old house had given me plenty of problems. But years before, someone had loved the house so much that they had taken the time to plant a rainbow in the yard, one that would bloom when I needed it most. It was a reminder that this house had a beautiful history that went deeper than the stuck windows and squeaky stairs and crumbling chimney.

Someone before me had dearly loved that old house, and now it was my turn.

I settled in for good that day, finally determined to give that house the restoration is deserved. And every year I lived there, the rainbow bloomed for a week each spring, reminding me that I would leave my own mark there -- just as some previous owner had done for me.

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