A Tip for Transplant Shock

I am making sure my garden is extra special this year because we are selling the house after 17 years. This is sad, but I’m feeling better. One thing that helps is getting in some gardening work at the new house in between unpacking boxes.

I’ve been deadheading and pulling out vines and removing buckets of clay from the front flowerbed in the new place so I can transplant a few things from the old one before it goes on the market. Just a few things. I want to leave the essence there. It is part of what makes that house so special.

A friend’s father, Chuck, reminded me of a gardening tip I had forgotten. We were putting in hostas in the back yard of the old place, which had been cleared of clutter and the small dogwood and holly trees trimmed. The roses had barely bloomed for years because of the large shade tree just outside the gate, so I took those to the new house.

So now the back is a serene, shaded meditation garden. The patio is lined with hostas surrounded by smooth stones flanked by bursts of pink flowers. Chuck, who is an artist, suggested this to contrast with the bold splashes of color from the giant zinnias and Angel’s Trumpets that line the walkway out front.

I was talking about watering the plants after putting them into the ground and Chuck said, “I dig the hole, then fill it with water.” Of course! The summer heat in northern Virginia has been sweltering, reminding me of Alabama. I had already lost a couple of zinnias I tried to transplant. Zinnias don’t like to be moved, anyway. I had forgotten this old gardener’s trick.

So now I’m back with the program. It’s so simple. Dig a hole, put in the tip of the hose, fill with water. Pop in the plant, let water trickle in as you fill with potting soil and make sure that is nice and damp.

Even in the hottest part of summer, this will lessen transplant shock.

As for me, I’m still working on that.

Stay tuned.

Published in: on August 5, 2010 at 4:58 pm  Comments (2)  
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Once Upon a Greenhouse

We moved into this house just weeks before I became a mother. It was my refuge. It sheltered us as we cried a river of tears, all of us adjusting to a new life, a new way of being. And those tears reshaped us, molding us into a family.

Later, the house spoke, telling me that the roses, the dogwoods and the holly that had been there when we moved in weren’t enough, that I needed to garden in the small spaces outside for the first time in decades. So I went to nurseries and garden centers and talked to people there about what to do and brought things home to plant.

Then I discovered the wonder of seeds. And I found, over the years, that I was a gardener. We all are, it just takes time and learning from others to find the things within to bring out into the open, to coax into bloom. When we are gardening from that inner space, we are so like our gardens.

Someone I grew up with told me recently that she has great success growing orchids. I didn’t know that, but I wasn’t surprised. She yearns to live in a tropical climates. That’s like me and my obsession with Angel’s Trumpets, another tropical native. I’m too far north to be happy, really, so I grow the angels instead, defying nature, surrounding myself with the accessories of the climate I yearn for.

I place the angels in pots outside my Virginia home, the house where I felt my late father’s presence, so palpable, on the night before my son was born. I was waiting for dawn to break so I could wake up my husband and go to the hospital where our son was born. My eyes were drawn over and over to a dark corner of the basement family room where I chose to wait, while in labor. I could not see my father, but I sensed him there, in just that spot. At times I was sure I detected his scent. He kept my terror at bay.

And it may be for that reason I have resisted leaving here. We grew out of this house long ago. We never intended to stay long-term. My husband has wanted to move for years and then a couple of years ago my son, now 16, started lobbying for that.

So now it is time to move on. Another house is in the works. It is a a storybook house with plenty of space for my gardening, a lovely wooden deck and a covered back porch that needs a ceiling fan and wicker furniture.

It also has a greenhouse window, over the kitchen sink. I’m always so sad in the winter, because of the northern Virginia cold, because I can’t garden at all. Even indoors, in my current house, the light is wrong, the electric heat too drying.

But in the new house, there’s a greenhouse window. When I saw it, I knew. The house had spoken to me.

Published in: on April 30, 2010 at 4:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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