Hydrangea blooms fading away.
I stepped outside this morning and I could see my breath. Clearly, summer left the building — or at the very least, it left the garden. Almost immediately, I began singing Lana Del Rey’s smash, “Summertime Sadness” — or, rather, just the chorus: “I’ve got that summertime, summertime sadness, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh.”
I’ve actually been a little melancholy over the past few days. Maybe it was the 9/11 anniversary. Maybe it’s the start of another school year. And maybe it does have to do with the change in weather. While the cooler weather signals the time to clean and store terra cotta pots, elephant ears, and canna — as well as myself — for the winter months, there is something else on my mind.
Hi, August. It’s me.
Listen, I’m not going to beat around the bush on this one. I’m just going to dive in and let you know . . .
It’s over between us. I know I waited until the end of your days to tell you this, but I was really hoping you and I could have worked things out – maybe come to some sort of agreement on the nature of our relationship. That seems to be out of the question now.
Each year, I hope to look forward to your arrival, but you are very skilled at trying my patience – and as quickly as my expectations rise, you find every opportunity to walk all over them.
Take my impatiens. Please. When I first saw that they weren’t thriving, that their stems were barren of leaves, I blamed myself (not enough water). Then I blamed the slugs (they had to be munching all night). And then I learned about the fungus. Maybe you didn’t create the fungus, but your heat, humidity, and rain games certainly didn’t help.
I’m in love with a terracotta pot. I’m not sure if that’s even possible, but the truth is there is one pot in my collection of which I’m especially fond – and each spring when I remove it from its winter storage, it’s like reuniting with a long lost love. I know its curves and warm tones and textures. I accept all of it, even the irregular sizes of its pockets. Yes, the terracotta pot of my dreams is the three-foot tall strawberry pot. And today is the day that I am going to demonstrate my love for it. It’s planting day.
The pot holds a place of honor in the garden, nestled among ferns and hostas and bleeding hearts. It’s tall enough that it provides not only a focal point, but some vertical color in an area of the garden that is heavy with foliage.
May days are a wonder in the garden. It seems that each day there is something else budding, blooming, or fading away.
A few posts ago, I featured the gradual blooming of the first peony.
When children recite, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” perhaps a more appropriate question would be, “From where does your garden grow?” That’s the question I ‘m asking myself this Columbus Day weekend after reading the best-selling new book 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, by Charles C. Mann. This meticulously researched book examines the world after Columbus set foot in North America.
While Columbus certainly has his critics, there can be no mistaking that his arrival in the New World placed the entire world on the globalization frontier. The author’s position is that much of what we enjoy today can be traced back to what he calls the Columbian Exchange, a means of moving plants and seeds and animals from one part of the world to another part. It is why, for example, that tomatoes arrived in Italy and citrus arrived in Florida. So much of what we take for granted wasn’t always so; and much of it would not be if Columbus had not set the process in motion.
I myself am a bit of a mutt: English, Scottish, German, French, and Italian. My paternal ancestors arrived in North America in 1675; my maternal great-grandfather entered through Ellis Island. While this is my gene pool, I wonder just how diverse and worldly is my garden?
Thanks to the Internet and Google, I learned that what I plant has traveled a long way to be planted. In fact, my garden could be a lesson for world leaders seeking peace. Although it heavily favors Asia and Central and South Americas, there is little conflict in plants from many lands successfully sharing common ground. (Note to self: bring Australia into the mix, but wait until full-out global warming for Antarctica to come into bloom.)
And to think my melting pot only took 518 years — and still counting — to plant.
Happy Columbus Day — and enjoy the weekend in the garden.
Generally speaking, I don’t like surprises. I tend to get embarrassed by the effort that people put forth, not to mention having to be the center of attention. As a kid, I would duck under the kitchen table when my family sang “Happy Birthday” to me — a moment my family will still remind me of no matter whose birthday it happens to be.
There are, though, only two surprises that I can take. The first is a Joe surprise, one where he plans out a day-long adventure. I am only told to be ready to leave by a certain time, and then off we go to our destination. I think Joe has as much fun giving me clues as I have trying to guess the destination.
The second surprise comes from my plants. I imagine them putting their colorful heads together and coming up with creative ways to entertain me and keep me on my toes.
A few posts ago about gardening quotes, I credited my friend and co-worker, Alisa, with this one: “Gardening is like a natural suprise party.” Although we laughed when she uttered this about 15 years ago, I catch myself saying it over and over, sometimes weekly, sometimes daily. It has become a mantra of sorts, something to keep me from stressing out when I spot something growing that I never planned.
If you would like to see a few pictures from this year’s surprise party, just click on the “Continue Reading” link.
For all of my life, I have been a morning person. As a kid, I loved being the first person awake in the house — especially on a Saturday morning. That was prime television watching time, and I didn’t have to share the clicker. As an adult, my favorite morning is Sunday — it’s designed for pre-crowd food shopping, breakfast, a leisurely read of the newspaper, a crossword puzzle, and a nap — all before 11:00 a.m.
Drops of rainwater on an Elephant Ear leaf look like beads of liquid silver in this morning's light.
Now that I’m on summer vacation, mornings are even more special. You see, I love my garden in the morning — and there are some times when morning almost feels like a religious experience. The light is soft. The air is fresh. As the sun starts to warm the air, the dew evaporates, so that the few rays of light are like beams.
But it’s the human silence that I appreciate. For many of us, this is the closest we can come to feeling alone, as if we were the first person to set foot on this land. There are no lawnmowers revving. No cars and sounds of traffic. No voices. Just a non-stop soundtrack of songbirds — sparrows, robins, doves, cardinals — all stirring to greet the day alongside me.
Yes, the garden changes throughout the day, and volumes of poetry could be written about the garden and the play of light and shadows as the day goes on. I just think there is more of an intimacy in the morning. The plants seem to agree with me. They appear rested and alive and alert, as if they are determined to put on their best show.