Harry Link, a master gardener who lives in East Haddam, had the great pleasure of being Lee May‘s friend. They were next-door neighbors for 12 years until Lee, a well-known garden writer, moved back to Atlanta from Connecticut in 2013.
Having just been in touch by email with Lee in November, I was stunned and terribly sad when Harry told me that Lee died in December after a short and difficult fight with cancer.
Now Harry is planning to install a memorial garden at the East Haddam Senior Center in Heritage Park to honor Lee. The garden will be dedicated on May 30 — and it will be a surprise for Lee’s wife, Lyn, who will be visiting for a memorial service.
Here’s Harry’s sketch:
Harry told me that Nancy Ballek Mackinnon, a partner at Ballek’s Garden Center in East Haddam, is contributing “tons of perennials,” and other garden centers also are donating plant material. One section of the garden will be planted to attract lots of pollinators.
And, as an homage to the distinctive style of Lee’s own garden — with its rock assemblages and dry bed stream of stone — Harry plans to incorporate those sorts of elements as well in the memorial garden, on town property just off Great Hillwood Road and Route 149. The gently curved garden — about 90 by 45 feet — also will incorporate a rain garden and several pathways, and Harry says he’d like to buy an arbor for an entry.
He also says a granite bench will be carved with words of Lee’s: “Gardening … well, gardening is life.”
Harry has set up an account with the town for cash contributions (which are needed). They are tax-deductible, and can be made to the Lee May Memorial Garden Fund, East Haddam Finance Department, 7 Main St., East Haddam, CT 06423.
“Lee meant so much to me, so I just want to honor him the best I can,” Harry said.
I can’t think of a more fitting tribute.
I met Lee and Lyn when I visited to write about and photograph the garden back in 2010. Lee had shifted gears in the early 1990s from being an award-winning hard news and investigative writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Atlanta-Constitution to focus on garden writing.
Lee’s distinctive garden in East Haddam was one of Asian grace and playful touches. His quiet humor rippled through the landscape. For example, he tucked rubber snakes here and there in an effort to scare off squirrels. “They were amused,” he dryly observed.
Lee’s passion for pruning trees in search of their essence was fascinating, too.
Most of all, I was touched by Lee’s gentle demeanor, his sheer pleasure in both story-telling and in creating enticing and enjoyable spaces in nature. He worked with nature and shaped it, but he clearly revered it, too. Take a ramble through his wonderful blog: Lee May’s Gardening Life.
And here’s my story: Click here.
Lee May at his garden in East Haddam.
Photos by NANCY SCHOEFFLER
A Japanese lantern harmonizes with the stone and rock in the garden.
One of a number of handmade cairns.
Japanese blood grass, one of many varieties of grasses in the garden, adds a brilliant jolt of color alongside a bridge over a dry bed stream of stone.
Bonsai played an important role in Lee May’s East Haddam garden.