Earlier this week, I had a dream that I saw myself walking in a large, tall, glass building. I was wearing a thin coat. Everyone I saw told me I would be cold outside, that I should put a coat on. I told them I was fine, but thanks anyway. I saw so many people tell me this as I watched myself walk around in this building of multiple floors and various staircases, escalators, and elevators (but still plenty wide open space, for as much as a building can have such), that I began to wonder if maybe I shouldn’t put on a warmer coat, and maybe I would be cold when I went outside. As soon as I started to doubt, I watched myself take off my thin coat, and I saw there was another under it. I then proceeded to take off that coat, revealing another under it. And another came off revealing yet another, and another, and another, and so on and so forth. I never saw myself leave the building, but I knew by what I had seen that I certainly wouldn’t be cold when I did.
This year’s garden has had more flowers in it than ever before. Not that that’s a lot. Previously, I had committed to only planting things that were useful — things I could eat, or that would protect plants I would eat. There were some flowers that I was only partly responsible for their presence: hostas that were given to me by the neighbor across the street the first summer I was here 13 years ago; day lilies my sister brought from Wisconsin a couple summers ago that now have the opening act before the hostas are in bloom (and often steal the show); a wild white rose bush that I don’t remember planting but which could have been from the summer I threw seeds with abandon wherever they would land behind me, like tossing salt and having about as much faith (I’m not one to bend to superstition but will take its gains when they happen across my path). So I was surprised to find myself being red with envy at the bright red poppies I spied through the picketed fence that separates me from my back neighbors. They nearly spat their color burst taunts at me. And I caught myself feeling ill at ease when the morning glories that usually sneak out ahead of the pack and try to hold my whole garden hostage never really made much of a show this year, and not a single sneaky purple twisty flower did I have to tear away from fences or gates or the preferred “planted” plants.
Flowers, I am finding, have got me in a big crush. I seek them out, trying to spot them, trying to name them, playing the line over in my head — a rose by any other name would smell as sweet — and wonder if it’s true. Their scent seizes me. Like a peeping tom peering through the blinds, I cannot look away. And so I resign myself to the corny fact that this is my summer of love … of flowers. Accepting that, I finally bent and took myself to Shannon’s to buy some flowers to plant, to keep my day lilies company till the hostas appear, and to perk up the lonely dirt surrounding the wild rose bush since the wild roses went away. It pained me to buy annuals – so against everything this revel gardener espouses: frugality, practicality, simplicity, efficiency. But true to the one thing that underlies it all. Under all the doing, and the digging, and the planting, transplanting, replanting, soil scrounging, compost turning, and sometimes back breaking exhaustion, there is joy. This summer, the flowers give me that. So I am making room for them.
I may have mentioned I worked with a clutter buster for about a year. A spiritual type who got to the root of the matter, he helped me see that letting go of one thing makes room for something better. My front yard right now is largely a patch of dirt. I dug up the weeds (native plants) and other plant paraphernalia that was hanging out waiting for the concert to begin. The yard seemed to heave a sigh of relief. But stripping it nearly bare, I also saw the bends and the hills and the dips and the valleys where all this recent massive rainfall has an opportunity to seep in and make things uneven under there. (So I am looking for dirt. If you got it, let me know.) I thought that I would come up with a plan — one that was organized and scheduled. With useful things like echinacea that I could use to stave off illnesses and flu. Maybe there would be mint for tea, but perfectly contained in carefully constructed border walls throughout the now-untamed yard. Something in me could not bring me to assert such control over the space. So I have left it the largely bare naked ground it is, waiting patiently for an occasional flower or two to greet the curious passerby.
This week, while I was sticking my nose in yet another stranger’s plants, the master family came out to check me out. They’re Chinese, and our conversation was choppy but largely we all got the points. No, that other one over there was not a hydrangea (though I still question this). The one that I had my nose in? Those are edible petals — to cool down, to balance heat. They were delicate and slightly twisty yellow and white petals, with a fragrance resembling that of jasmine but with a slight bit greater perfume. It was heady, exotic. I wondered if it would be the polite thing to do to leave this poor family alone and be on my way. But I couldn’t. I’m sure in part-pity, one of them, who had come up from across the street or the store or wherever she was coming from when I wasn’t looking, broke a twig off, handed it to me and told me in her own way that if I put it in water it would grow roots and then I could have one of my own (and I wouldn’t have to rendezvous with theirs). Mission accomplished – I left them alone. Went on my way. Ran my errands. Bought my groceries. Got home. Did dishes. Made food. Ate. Remembered the twig. I stuck the thing in water thinking I had ruined the opportunity. Not twenty minutes later, I was in the kitchen wondering what that marvelous smell was. And there I saw it. It’s amazing how flowers give you their scent to let you know they’re okay.
Later this week, I was on an evening walk and noticed several small plastic cups of shoots from a single plant. Handwritten on paper taped to the cement was a note indicating they were free for the taking, and to just give them a couple days till they have their own roots, and you can plant them and they will … all year long. I don’t remember what it was they do – bloom, grow, something. It was enough for me. I took one, and it now sits on my windowsill.
Somewhere inside, I knew I was going to finally deal with those tomato seeds I’d abandoned last fall. I knew I had to. They were clutter to me otherwise. Clearing them from where they’d been placed opened room for new and better things. The yellow and white mystery jasminy plant. The generous offering from the neighbors I don’t know who set out their multitude of gifts for strangers. Then out of the blue, I received a call from my very most favorite neighbor who — I didn’t tell you — moved away a year ago last November. I shared my yard with her because where she lived down the street, there was no room to plant the vegetables she wanted to grow. We spent the better part of the summer a couple years ago talking plants and soil, and comparing notes on wild edibles, and going to community free talks on urban gardening.
My partner once teased I had a crush on her. This was after my partner saw us talking plants in the front yard from the upstairs window. I can see how this was the inference. People who have the love of dirt between them are connected in a deeper way than those who merely share desktops and cubicle walls (though I don’t disparage office friendships – they are simply different). About a month or more ago, she sent me something she had written. Two stories I’d been meaning to read. I’d started them. She’s such a good writer, it was hard to put them down. But life happens, and tasks, and untended gardens, and etc. I felt bad about not reading them, and worse about not writing to her to tell her I hadn’t read them. I finally broke my own silence with her, apologizing in an email I sent earlier this week. Luck had it she was coming back for a visit, and so I got to see her tonight. We drank coffee and talked about how I just finally planted those tomato seeds and would be reaping them in December if climate change continues to screw things up, and she helped me identify a “native plant” (read: weed) that she let me know was not the cool, edible plant I was hoping it might turn out to be and instead is an invasive one that was about to eat my strawberries. And I was glad to see her again. She brought me sugar snap peas from her garden in New Jersey, that we agreed I would see come August.
As we were talking, she noticed a couple of tomato plants that sprouted up on their own in the patch of dirt behind us. Just like last summer when I brought in tomato plants because I doubted my own seeds would take, here today I found I do have more than I need. More importantly, I have all that I need, even if no one else can see it.
Within a few houses either way from me the back yards have pools, decks, concrete or some combination of those. Nobody appears to be growing anything, and to be fair, excluding containers on my deck neither am I. One show I listened to had a question about what to do with an already failed garden this year. The answer was to plant cover crops now, cut them back, and plant cover crops again. From there, either plant a fall garden or chalk up this year for soil building. I wonder if wild violets qualify, those things seem to love my yard.
Everything I have planted seems to be doing well except cucumbers. They are growing really slow, maybe they don’t care for all the heat. My bamboo cutting does not appear to be dead yet, so there may be hope for a new bamboo. The question is what to do with it if it grows. Seeing how rapidly it spread in it’s planter I wouldn’t risk putting it in the ground. I am reminded of a bamboo site where somone wrote a post saying for years he thought it was called ‘fu***ng bamboo’ because that’s what his father called it year after year hacking away at the stuff trying to get rid of it.
My string beans got their first flowers- beans to be following soon. Mini strawberries have been appearing, I think my potato experiment is due for a larger pot, and the little spearmint plant I took away from the rest is growing new plants pretty quick. This morning I planted some herb seeds in a ‘mini greenhouse. I’ll see what happens to them with a late start. All in all, I am pretty happy with my containers this year. Give containers a try!
Wild violets seem to be everywhere this year! I have noticed this too — a decrease in local gardening lately. I know it’s not for lack of trying or interest. We just seem to have bum weather and, I suspect, worse on the way. I, too, am chalking this one up to a soil building season, and am beginning to think of fall. Not too far away.
I think you were right … bummer weather and worse on the way. Yesterday, mid-day there were a bunch of mushrooms on a houseplant I had set outside and over-watered. They were really rather pretty, a warm-hued yellow with tiny flecks of brown. Today, they are gray and bent over, with their heads dead on the soil.
I just read a story at:
that I received an email about. Having just read the title and brief description from the email I thought I was going to read yet another story about our rights being taken away. After reading the story I am not so sure my initial thoughts were correct. Ignoring the feelings (mine included) about possible govt invasion into our lives, I was reminded of a question on one of the shows I listen to asking why certain plants and seeds were regulated and not allowed to be sent to certain states. Outwardly it seemed, even to me, that some of the regulations were put in place to prevent competition with commercial producers. Some plants were simply invasive and would cause all kinds of damage if let loose in the wrong places.
In spite of searching for the actual explanation I haven’t been able to locate it among the hundreds of shows on the site, so until I can locate it here’s what I can remember. Basically it boiled down to plant diseases and virus infected plants. While it seems that prohibiting certain grape seeds into California or orange seeds into Florida are giving large producers a monopoly on their markets, the real reason is that bringing a plant disease into these areas by infected plants or seeds could destroy commercial crops possibly ruining commercial producers and cause economic problems. Reading seed catalogs you can see notes that a particular seed resists some disease or virus. Seeds, somewhat like people may be immune to certain illnesses, but if a ‘foreign’ illness is brought in it will often spread ‘like wildfire’.
As for the corn in the story, corn can be pollinated by other corn miles away, so a contaminated field can spread disease far and wide. We have already seen this with GMO corn. While no fan of needless regulation, it is possible the seeds in question should not have been allowed to grow. That being the case, I would have to ask why e-Bay was selling them.
Here’s the link to the USDA site which I am going to look through when I have more time:
On the mushrooms, I have spotted a number of them growing in my bamboo box. Most are located in the section that has the most shade which makes sense. I’ve also had them periodically pop up in my banana pot indoors. It seems a day or two with the sun on them and they quite literally vanish over night. If I recall correctly, mushrooms can do some great things for the soil, leaving lots of plant and bacterial matter behind to keep the soil softer and more fertile.