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Plants: Feline or Canine?

I just took a rare 20-30 minutes alone and sat on my upstairs terrace, sitting with nothing to eat or drink or read or write or distract me.  I just sat, breathing in the late summer night.  There used to be a big pine tree I loved that kept me hidden from view on the terrace.  I didn’t mind that my view was obstructed.  I usually went there looking for privacy, not to street or people watch.  Tonight the night hid me.  And I thought about plants.  Some of them I baby more than others.  The zinnias out front, the lettuce out back which has loved me back tenfold, and the tomatoes who have been showering me with their appreciation this past month.

And then there are the ones that just always seem to get pushed to the end of the list, which I often don’t reach.  I’m usually remembering these guys as I’m racing down the block to the F train, or after I’m snuggled in bed.  So tonight I spent a little time with them, observing but not really doing anything other than turning them around to give them a good sunward stretch.  Surprisingly, they all seem to be loving my neglect.  There’s a jalapeno plant in a large container that just gave me a couple bowlfuls of fruit.  There’s also a cayenne pepper plant that wintered inside and I set on the terrace just to give a final good-bye.  There’s a couple nice plump peppers waiting to be picked on the plant I formerly left for dead.  There’s also a habanero out there because I hadn’t yet decided where to reuse the soil.  It gave me a weird little – I’m guessing cross pollinated – bell/habanero-like thing earlier this summer.  I’m keeping it going just cuz it keeps me guessing .  Everyone out on the terrace is having a grand old time, whether I’m paying attention or not.  They’re felines.

My front yard, however, is full of canines.  At least that’s the way they’re behaving this year.  All they want is all of my attention all the time.  The hostas, who usually can withstand any near death experience or slow torture, spent half the summer telling me they couldn’t take the heat.  Their leaves went into shock (and back again eventually).  They’re sturdy, and they seemed to have weathered it okay in the end.  I did spend several weeks this summer in a spin of shame.  I mean, it’s bad when you can’t get a hosta to look good.  It was painful.  The roses, I am finding out, are definitely dogs.  It was a drama queen for the last few weeks, looking at me accusingly whenever the zinnias got a little extra attention.  So it got a nice long bath, replete with vegetable/flower spikes, some sweet nothings whispered to its stems, its leaves lovingly caressed till I must have got too intimate and it halted me with a thorn.  But lo and behold, whenever it gets this one on one time, as if out of nowhere the most beautiful sweetly scented buds appear.  Ah, she’s a revel gardener’s best friend (hope my dog isn’t reading this .. she’ll be pissed!).

As I feel autumn inch its way into the evening air, I know very soon I’m going to be missing my leafy friends.  Each one, of the feline or canine persuasion, has given back more than I dreamed in life lessons and, in many instances, literal sustenance this summer.  I can only hope I honor them sufficiently by taking their lessons to friends and progeny in the seasons ahead.

One response to “Plants: Feline or Canine?

  1. Ralph Tzu

    I never thought of my little green friends that way, but you may be on to something. It’s probably a toss up as to whether my containers or bamboo get the most attention. Aside from watering, bamboo really doesn’t need much attention. I periodically rotate the pot a quarter turn to try to keep it growing straight, and pick the occasional yellow leave to put it back in it’s own soil. The rest of the time I just check it for possible bugs and check for the latest growth. Over the summer I’ve moved 3 or 4 earth worms from the ground into the bamboo’s pot to help break down all the leaves at the bottom of the pot. All this in plain sight of the main garden space- who knew plants could be green with envy too?

    The rest of the containers provide all the herbs that go into salads, so they get regular attention and water. As for the in ground stuff I’ve pretty much given up on any real amount of production this year. Sure there’s plenty of basil left even after I mowed down a section for a fall planting. There’s a few scallions growing in the ground but the one’s I use I get from a container. The tomatoes seem to have run their course, one cutting and my swiss chard gave up, and if my lettuce grew it is now buried in weeds.

    Note for next year- don’t let weeds grow too wild in the garden. They probably did some good conditioning the clay soil I have, but I think they got too plentiful and helped choke out things I planted.

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