My Dream Garden

My earliest memory is of giant pink petunias waving in the breeze near my face. Then I remember a hand, someone giving me a slice of apple. Sunshine. Smiles and laughter. A good memory.

I had the idea for years that this was a dream, because the petunias were so huge. But then I saw a photo from our early days in Texas, where I was born. I was a baby sitting in a little seat in the yard beside a bed of petunias. An arm was in the picture, at the edge, handing me a slice of apple. I was smiling.

A few years after that picture was made, we moved to Alabama, to a house in the middle of a cotton field. The field was awash in blooms, of all things. I didn’t know cotton started out as beautiful pink and white flowers that turned into hard green bolls, which later burst with soft, white, seed-filled cotton. Cotton that smelled like earth and sun and the sky and rain all wrapped up in a radiant white package.

If you ever see a cotton field glowing with white foliage, with cotton, stop, get out and pull off a branch. Risk it, just do it. You won’t be sorry. Smell deeply. Because then you will experience a small bit of why people who are brought up in the deep south can’t quit it.

It’s the giant petunias experienced as a baby, then seen again and again at the green thumb neighbor’s house in summer. It’s the way the cotton field smells after a hard rain breaks a brutal heat spell.

It’s the riot of color most of the year, even in winter, when the camellias bloom deep red against the houses.

The bounty never ends. The memories last a lifetime and beyond. You never get over it. No matter where you go, you fill your garden with those early flowers/memories, or you try, you approximate, you get as close as you can. Year after year after year you work on it. You feel like you are in a dream sometimes. And then your child bends down, his eyes closed, he is smelling a flower. And he is smiling.

Published in: on July 8, 2010 at 2:07 am  Comments (6)  
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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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The Sharing Space

I had lived here only a short time when a neighbor asked me to share in the rental of a community garden plot. At first, I was not particularly inclined. The space, a new one just opening up, was not close and the beds would need lots of work to resuscitate.

But squirrels had demolished my attempts to grow vegetables in the back yard, a hazard in our neighborhood. Plus I liked this woman. My transition to a new home and motherhood at the same time had not been easy. So I agreed.

I was in for some surprises. The first one was that my new friend, who had been a successful businesswoman before changing careers after becoming a mother herself, had absolutely no idea how to garden.

We were both busy and I went to the space several times by myself, turning over the packed soil, adding top soil, amending it to add richness so plants would grow. I remember wondering when she was going to join me.

Then, kneeling in the soil, spade in hand, with several tomato plants I had just bought at a nursery, she confessed. “Now what do we do?” she asked, or something to that effect. “I meant what I said. I don’t have any idea how to start.” She was laughing then, saying something about digging holes. Or was it rows? Or what exactly does a person do?

I had gardened with my parents in rural Alabama as a child. My sister and I skipped barefoot down garden rows, dropping potato pieces into the freshly turned soil. We pulled weeds and picked the produce we ate minutes later on the supper table. My father gave me a small plot to grow gourds.

His strawberries were so delicious people begged him to grow more and he did, turning it into a small side business. He paid my sister and me, and our friends if they wanted, to pick the berries and handle sales to people who made reservations for as many quarts as possible every year, their names written in a notebook he kept in the telephone stand in the hallway.

My friend’s mother was from Alabama, so I had assumed some familiarity with gardening had been imparted at some point. But I was wrong. And I’ve come to find that my friend is not really that unusual, at least not in places like this, in northern Virginia close to D.C., where available land and time is scarce.

But gardening is regaining in popularity, even in urban areas. People talk about it frequently, this yearning to have a closer connection to their food and to beautify homes and neighborhoods with living things.

In fact, another friend and I plan to start a raised garden soon in the yard of her new home. Her 5-year-old son can’t wait. He wants to grow beans and pumpkins. And I plan to slip a gourd plant into a corner for him. For old times sake.

So I’m thinking back to my other friend and our time at the county garden plot, her surprise “confession” that she didn’t have the slightest idea how to start. And I remember that she seemed a bit embarrassed by that.

But there is no need for discomfort. Gardeners aren’t like an old co-worker who would charm favorite recipes from others, then act coy and ultimately refuse to divulge her own. Gardeners love to share. We give of ourselves. But the thing we need to remember is that sometimes we really do need to start at the beginning.

And my neighbor? We aren’t gardening together these days. I got absorbed in flower gardening around my home. Plus, the plot was too far away and people waiting at the bus stop caught on and kept filching the produce. But my neighbor and I grew a friendship. She’s my closest friend in the neighborhood, to this day.

Published in: on March 24, 2010 at 9:44 pm  Comments (2)  
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Story Time in the Garden

My garden will be different this year. I want it to be like a storybook. That’s because I’m clear, finally, about the “autobiography” aspect of gardening. And that means it is time for substantial editing.

Planning hasn’t been a priority until now. My garden has been the whimsical me with a dash of sentiment laced with a big dollop of the crowd-pleaser. I’ve also cared for some plants beyond their time, maybe, because they’ve always been here. The roses in the back, for instance.

The elm outside my back gate was a youngster when we moved here almost 17 years ago. But now it soars over everything, throwing shadows over everything much of the day. The roses don’t like that. The dogwood and my holly reach into the elm branches, not a love embrace. I’m always having to call on somebody to please trim the tree back.

But it is time for another pair of eyes to look over my garden spaces. Someone who won’t be sentimental. Someone who wasn’t the new mother who saw those roses in bloom for the first time after moving in during the harsh winter just before the baby was born. Who had been hounded by such postpartum depression that she boarded a plane with her 3-month-old during a snowstorm and flew home, to the sunshine, and never wanted to come back.

But her husband kept calling, asking her to come home. And he kept telling her about those roses.

And then, finally, I was standing at the back door and there they were.

I never expected such a profusion of reds and fuschias, which were followed by creams and yellows. When I first saw those roses, I could have sworn I heard music from somewhere, under the leaves and branches. But that was just the sound of my spirit, lifting finally, after being held down by months of despair.

This year, I don’t plan to spend so much emotional capital on trying to save plants that need to be moved, or need to move on. I’ll plant other roses if I need to, for June, my birth month flower. And I’ll plant seeds for the tall, wildly colored zinnias the neighbors expect from me now. And I won’t stop growing Angel’s Trumpets, they are an addiction now.

But I intend to be even more specific with my gardening writing and editing, so to speak. Because the garden is my story, the one I show to the world. And one thing I have wanted for a long time is the Camellia. At least one shrub, maybe two.

The Camellia is the Alabama state flower. Other than magnolias and honeysuckle, nothing reminds me more of Alabama. But this is not something I can just run out and buy on a whim. I need the kind that is cold hardy.

So this is the time to consult experts, people who run quality nurseries and landscaping services. This is their lifeblood, after all. Consider them matchmakers.

William L. Ackerman, retired from the U.S. Arboretum, said colder winter started damaging and even killing the spring-blooming Camellia Japonica and the C. sasanqua in the late 1970s.

C. oleifera, a white flowered species from northern China, fared better. So the Arboretum began a breeding program to develop cold-hardy plants. A substantial group exists at nurseries today, Ackerman said. Within that group, he said, there is “a specific cultivar best suited to every special location or situation a gardener may have.”

I am in that group. Looking for something specific, a Camellia love match. Something with a glossy green leaf, a splash of flower. Which takes me, in my mind’s eye, to the place in the photo posted at the top of this article — home.

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Published in: on March 2, 2010 at 9:26 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Orchid Surgeon

I dreaded it, the trip to the surgeon. This was oral surgery, routine, they said. But this was my son going under the knife and it was new to us, to him. And even though he is growing fast and towering over me, he is my baby, still. And always will be.

So I pretended to be brave and walked us in with brisk authority, into the shiny new building and nice but initially non-descript waiting room. My heart was pounding too hard. I kept dropping things.

Then I saw the orchids. Not just one or two but many of them, lining the sills of the very long bank of windows. Windows that stretched the entire length of the very long office.

What in the world? I actually thought that.

I filled out the paperwork for the “routine” procedure for an impacted permanent tooth being remedied by what I frankly considered to be a medieval sounding solution. Even then I was already being distracted by those orchids.

As we waited, I watched the door to the surgery suites. Because the truth is I was looking to see whether there were more orchids back there. And there were!

“They belong to one of the surgeons,” said the employee at the front desk. My son’s surgeon by any chance? Yes. He had kept those orchids for years. He had bought some, others were gifts.

At that point, I relaxed.

The doctor had an easy manner and the procedure went perfectly. I did not watch. But the surgeon attached chains to my son’s braces and wrapped them around his recalcitrant upper tooth after making an incision. And then those chains started doing the work of dragging the tooth down into its proper place.

Of course I had to ask about the orchids. The surgeon tried to claim he had no real secret to why they were so beautiful and kept reblooming. He gave credit to the filtered light of his office windows. He also said he made sure the plants were not watered too much. And they receive a bit of orchid fertilizer too. But other than that, he said, keeping the orchids was no big deal.

But I knew better. Because the moment I knew he was responsible for those beautiful orchids flowing down the entire side of that office I relaxed, completely. I knew my precious child would be fine. That he was in the skilled hands of a man who also had taken exquisite care of long rows of the fragile orchid. Orchids that rewarded him, and every person who walked into that room, with surprise riches — bloom after bloom after bloom.

Published in: on February 25, 2010 at 3:18 am  Comments (4)  
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Friendships as Perennials

New Year’s Eve found us, uncharacteristically, plunging into the cold, icy night for a party in the urban wilds. I couldn’t believe he wanted to do this. And that I agreed. But the boy was out for the evening and maybe J. was feeling the chill of an empty nest a bit early. That’s just like him. Pre-emptive suffering via hyperactive behaviors.

But it’s good to get out, change long-established habits involving hibernating all winter, especially when the cold just keeps getting colder.

So, we found parking, got out of the car and braved the hoodlums making suggestive comments in front of the 7-11 (“How y’all doing,” I drawled, smiling, looking one right in the eye in a pathetic attempt at surprise tactics). We made it in through the gates and the security door, up the elevator and many other doors and into the hostess’s apartment.

Finally settled in, I looked around and realized that most of the women at the party were the soccer teammates of the hostess. Not work colleagues or other friends. Which represents a sea change from my generation in D.C., which is largely a transient city.

How does this relate to gardening? I’ll get to that.

I am 20 years older than the women who were at this party. But we operate in a parallel universe. The hostess and I are/were both journalists in the nation’s capital. And back when I used to pick up my son at the soccer practice fields, I would notice young men and women gathering on the sidelines in uniform, with coolers, tying cleats, stretching, getting ready to play a game under the lights.

They were very patient and polite. Waiting to start a soccer game when the little boys left their practices, sometimes at 9 p.m. On a weeknight. With work looming the next day. Because they loved it so.

And this is how those young women at the New Year’s Eve party bonded, some of them on teams that played in D.C. for 10 years or so together. And they all ventured out into the deep, cold, icy night to attend a party given by one of their number. An adorable young woman who is moving in about two months, back to New York. Only a few of her work colleagues came. But her teammates showed up, in force.

I was so impressed.

These women nurtured their relationships through the love of their sports, the way I nurture my plants. They started playing sports early, as little girls. I actually came from a state where schools could not by law field teams for girls back then. They told us a girl playing basketball had died on the court (not that I believed that). “Don’t tell that,” J. said. “You’re dating us.” Like I care. I told it anyway.

So I relied on work friends when I moved to D.C., away from my family, from my oldest friend, J., who I met at five., away from K., who I met on my first day of college, at the University of Alabama. From the many friends I met just going about my life. I worked so much anyway, I had few opportunities to meet anyone else.

And I found out those friendships, although splashy and intense at the time, like annuals, are ephemeral for the most part. They go away. As do most of the friendships made through the children, through the kids’ schools.

That’s why I loved seeing these women at the party. Because people move here, work long hours, spend ridiculous amounts of time commuting, then flee back home. I’ve been here so long I’ve become loathe to introduce myself to newcomers, something that goes against my every southern fiber. But, I tell myself, they’ll be leaving soon. Don’t get involved, you’ll grow to love them and they’ll leave.

But the women at the party defied that. They bonded early and intensely on their soccer teams, their friendships like perennials in a garden. They nurture them and stay, growing and evolving, over the years.

Which teaches me a lesson: To treat people more like my garden. Kindness for all. More lasting attention for the perennials, of course. But warmth and care for the annuals, too. Because the human garden is worth my time and cultivation, again, too.

Published in: on January 2, 2010 at 3:18 am  Comments (2)  
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The Tree Said Hello

myrtle1

I am drawn to a certain crepe myrtle just outside my back gate. I have always loved them and this one is particularly beautiful. My son recognized this at a very early age, too. He would run to this tree and stand in it, just stay there, quietly.

myrtle2son

I would sit on the bench nearby and wait for him until he was done communing. Even though this was not like him to do this. He was the kind of active boy who usually ran to the big pines out front and climbed, fast, before anyone could yell him into a stop.

I remember, because I had lots of trouble getting the pitch out of his clothes. Sometimes, of course, this was not possible and I had to “pitch” plenty of them.

myrtledclimb

So I wasn’t really surprised the other day when I walked by my myrtle and saw an accessory waving in the wind. It looked like something I would wear as a necklace. Or as an earring. It was a dried plant cap, attached to a gossamer thread from a spider web.

Earrings

It was really cute. I went outside at night with a flashlight to see if it was still there. It was. I knew it would photograph well in the night.

earring3

Look at the markings on this tree, behind my accessory.

lastcrepe

However, the bark on my myrtle not as dramatic as one out front, which is beloved by my friend and neighbor C. Which makes sense. You wouldn’t know it right away, but C. has more flair. She is a government bureaucrat, conservative dresser, initially very quiet.

But if you are out early on a weekend morning, you might see her coming out dressed in a formal riding habit. C. has a horse she keeps stabled in the country and goes riding with a friend. She is a lawyer married to an Irish chef she met overseas as a young woman. He fell madly in love with her and pursued her from afar, persuading her, finally, to marry him.

She loves my gardening and has very strong opinions about the plants. She says they remind her of earlier times when people decorated with large blocks of color via the flowers. She thinks the hostas and nursery flats of impatiens and pansies are boring. So there.

It makes sense that the crepe myrtle she has claimed as hers is one of quiet drama. Routinely, she dons gloves and collects her tools and carefully trims the suckers that try to grow from the base of the tree, which stands guard just outside her bedroom window. Her cats sit on the sill and watch the tree, too, which has vivid coloring.

myrtlecelias

There’s a new crepe myrtle out front now, to the side. I think the young tree is watching people, trying to see who resonates with this new plant life. I look forward to seeing who it chooses. I bet we’ll know by next summer.

new tree

It’s funny how nature leaves little gifts sometimes. Walk slowly. Open your eyes. See. Really see.

earring3

Published in: on November 16, 2009 at 6:15 pm  Comments (7)  
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Stolen Angel

Stolen1

My favorite Angel’s Trumpet was taken from in front of my house last week. My big white. I couldn’t believe it.

This was a cutting I had pulled from the first angel I had ever managed to grow. I planted the mother plant in the ground and got only one bloom. Still, I was thrilled. I heavily mulched it, all winter, but it died anyway. Middle Atlantic winters are brutal on plants like this. Too many freezes.

This past summer, I lost track of the slips I had kept the previous winter and rooted. I thought all the pots were pink. Then one big pot turned into a beautiful white. I even wrote a blog post about it. It was gorgeous and I was so happy to have a piece of the old white angel with me still.

Stolen3-nighttrumpet

Then, as the cold descended, I cut all the angels back in their pots, the two whites and the three pinks. I was letting them have some final time outdoors before bringing them in for the very long winter. They won’t be able to go out again until at least May. So three angels were in the fenced back yard, two out front.

And then there was only one out front. The pink. I kept looking and looking. Surely I was mistaken. It just couldn’t be. But it was. The white angel was gone. I’m down to only one white, the one I brought as a slip up from Alabama this summer.

I admit it, at first I was simply outraged. Quietly so, I’m not much of a surface rager. It takes some doing for me to really blow my top. Still, I was mad. How dare “they.”

Then, I decided to view the theft in a way that allowed me to come to peace with it. The trumpet had been cut way back, it was no longer blooming or even leafed out in green. It was basically a pot of sticks. This essentially is what it looked like (this is one of the pinks, but you get my drift):

Stolen2-cutback

So, I had to imagine the scenario this way: The thief knew what he-she was getting. The stealer had seen the blooms outside my home and couldn’t stand it any longer. Seeing two pots outside, shorn of their blooms and most leaves, just sitting there, well, it was all over but the crying (for me). Gone. Taken to another home to be nurtured and cared for and coaxed into reblooming indoors in a few months.

Even my husband said, “You’re known for your plants. I’m not the least bit surprised.”

So, I quickly brought the remaining angels inside. I’m not sure what this means for next year’s outdoor blooming season. I’ll deal with it when it comes. They need the full sun to bloom and that’s the only space I have for that.

Although, the truth is, we’ve been talking about moving. My husband has talked about it for years and I’ve resisted. He brought it up again Saturday, this is something he really wants. And what I didn’t say is that losing the angel made me really think about it this time. We wouldn’t move that far. We would stay in the area because my son likes his school and we need to be here for several more years.

And then there was the home for sale I was drawn to just the other day, the one quite near my son’s school. It is not much bigger than the one we are in now. But it is off the road and private and as I said to my husband, “Look at that, straight out of storybook.” He agreed. The notice said the home had a lovely, private backyard adjoining a wooded park area. Woods! I grew up in a house with a woods out back.

I thought when we drove past that house, “This is the perfect home.”

In some strange way was that angel a sign? Angel on the move? I’m not the angel of course, not even close. But still. We’ll see.

For the time being, I decided to focus on other things. On the fact everyone in my world is well. That the big white angel is no doubt fine and being loved by someone who needed him, knew his worth. That the teen boy was spending the weekend away playing a sport he loves, rooming with several of his many best friends (I can say without fear of being overly boastful that this boy has the very useful gift of friendship).

So, his parents went to an Octoberfest party postponed until November by rain. The husband bought beer for the host and I put together a small bit of bounty from my fall garden for the hostess.

bouquet

If you look closely you will see two tiny origami swans hidden in the bouquet. These exquisite paper gems were made by my favorite sushi chef, who gives them to me by the handsful when I drop by May Island to pick up food for my family and my favorite (vegetarian) dishes. I hid them in the flowers for the little boy of the party house to find after the party.

origami

The cool, crisp fall evening was a sigh of relief after long days and nights of rain. We ate brats from the grill, spƤtzle and German potato salads. We talked and laughed while children ran and shouted in the yard.

party

One little boy helpfully warned us shortly after arrival that “a dinosaur is outside the gate” and later told me “t-Rex is out there but he’s dead now.” There were marshmallows roasted on sticks over a fire. And fireworks. Well, sparklers.

And when a little cherub of a girl could not get her daddy to put the German music back on after popular consensus booted it from player, she did not miss a beat. She simply changed tactics. Not yet talking, the little pixie went straight to a new friend, my husband, led him to the table with the music, pointed to the CD and got her wish. Because he is a pushover for miniature charm.

J&Maxie
And then we had pie. The universal sadness balm.

wehadpie

Goodbye my angel. Godspeed, wherever you are.

goodbye white

Published in: on November 15, 2009 at 6:09 am  Comments (14)  
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A Gardener Released

rosegarden

For years I was the timid gardener.

There were roses in the back yard when I moved into this house. But with each year the elm outside the back gate got bigger, shadowing the roses, which strained to produce fewer blooms.

So I planted tulips to take advantage of the spring sun. But the squirrels stole most of them. I sent my little son and his friend after them with water guns once, and a neighbor scolded them about being “mean.” Mean?

I did manage to get a few daffodils and bleeding hearts to stay in the ground and bloom. Also peony, white and red, which I love. But peony, like a first kiss, is so fleeting that it is gone before you can properly appreciate this bloom’s full sensuous nature.

peony

But when the elm is in full leaf, the sun is gone from the back yard, which has a tall privacy fence. I grew tired of having a small burst of color in the spring and then mainly hostas. I needed a tall riot of color, blankets of it. So I went to the front where I had a solid block of sun a good part of the day.

Here is what happened, from the beginning, in pictures.

start

I had lots of failures and things I didn’t care for, in particular. The Angel’s Trumpets I brought up from Alabama as seed and tiny shoots leafed and leafed and finally put out exactly one bloom. Still I was ecstatic. It gave me hope.

onewhite

startingout

I wanted the flowers to be strong, to not depend on chemicals. So I spent several years amending the soil, bringing in bags of top soil and peat and this and that to get a good mix that somehow felt light and airy and well, right. This year I added the pulp from the organic vegetable juicing I’ve taken up. I didn’t use poisons. There are enough of those in the world.

I have mainly planted seeds. Somehow, these have worked better for me. I discovered that the flowers and I needed to start the journey together, from the beginning. I watched them carefully. Just the plants and me.

tinyblues

redtrumpets

But I was still being timid. I was out front where the foot traffic was heavy. It was hard to lose myself there. People walked by and spoke and chatted and gave their opinions about my handiwork.

This is the Washington, D.C., area., just over the Potomac River bridge in Virginia. There are lots of people from other places here. But the Virginians love their old-fashioned, unchanging sameness. Red brick colonials. And the plantings following suit.

I changed that in our little corner of the world.

The cleome were the first of the wild things. My mother had lots of it in Alabama. So I brought back seed in pods to plant in front. It took off like wildfire. One friend, a psychologist from Boston, shuddered when he saw it. “WHAT is that thing? Straight out of Star Trek,” he insisted.

cleome

Mother had always grown zinnias too. I cut a bouquet while visiting and it cheered up the house so. The flowers lasted and lasted. That’s it, I said, zinnias too. The nurseries had the same variety, State Fair or something. Small, only a few colors. I wanted tall and vibrant. So I went for the seeds.

Bent Zinnia

There were times they didn’t do well, so I learned to bend over a young zinnia plant, cover it with soil and it would grow long along the ground and push up new shoots and blooms. The picture above is all from one plant!

I planted lillies. Each year they grew bolder, as I did.

lillygardenfirst

And dahlias. These low-to-the-ground but showy orange flame blooms are the favorite of some neighbors. And they just keep coming back every year, despite the cold Middle Atlantic winters that freeze them every winter.

2nddahlia

I found my gardening sense of humor with the dahlias. Dahlias or zinnias, please stand up.

this dahlila

I have a fondness for the starburst hydrangea. I think because it isn’t the usual.

flowers 008

This year my something new was purple bells.

bells

But the star of the show is always the zinnia. I hate to thin them, so I keep taking over little plots of earth I find.

house

house2

sideview

They range from minis to California giants that grow as tall as me (5-5). Blocks of vibrant color, sometimes I feel like I am painting with plant life.

pinks

side too

This year I grew two new colors, white and a green called envy. New neighbors I had never seen before were coming around to see this one.

envy

And of course as much as I love the zinnias, for the joy they bring me, for the attention they get and for the bouquets they bring for months, the angel’s trumpets captured my heart. After playing coy for years, they burst forth. And bloomed and bloomed and bloomed.

whitetrumpet1016 013

pinktrumpets

So, is it any wonder that through my front door the following things have been on my walls for decades? These representatives of an inner life, pieces of art I selected for myself and which were selected for me.

flowerhouse

ellis

neworl

abstract

These paintings, some abstract, are of flowers and plants. Two are of places in the deep South where it is warm most of the year, where I yearn to be.

Proof that a not-so-timid flower gardener was inside all along. Waiting for the right conditions. To be born aloft by the completing elements of soil, sun, water and air. Finally, set free.

firstphotozinnias

Published in: on November 10, 2009 at 4:03 am  Comments (8)  
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Requiem For A Garden

Garden Gone

I had to say goodbye to the wild garden.

Powdery mildew was spoiling the zinnia leaves, it always does this time of year. And the men came to say they would be by the next day to put in the bushes in front of the basement window well.

The bushes I don’t even want, really. This is the husband’s initiative. We had some monster hollies taken out and he thought it looked too bare and yes, in the winter that’s true. But still.

It was too early. I’m bereft.

The regular walkers, the bikers, they’re gone now because the riot of color that drew them to the front of the house for months is gone.

Lilys

Dahlias

My neighbor D., whose big white dog I love, who says he needs the zinnias, hasn’t been able to speak to me. I understand. I feel cold all the time, aimless.

And what about the neighbor woman slowly losing herself to some sort of memory deterioration? The one who used to go to the community pool around the corner every afternoon and stand, grasping onto the chain fence with her fingers and stare into the water for long periods of time before I convinced her to go by my house and see the flowers. We would stand and stare at those astonishing blooms together. She loved every single one of them, as I did, with childlike wonder.

I never minded when she repeated herself, enthusing about this bloom and that. Like a mother with an incredibly beautiful baby, I never tire of the praise. She even complimented me for working in the garden in my bare feet. I rarely take off my shoes outside (I’m a tender foot). But it just feels right in a garden.

It started out this way in the spring:

Beginning

And then, after the zinnia seeds came in, the garden became this:

Zinnias

Cleome

starburst

So now I have some Angel’s Trumpets in pots to keep me from, you know, calling the suicide hot line.

White Trumpet

Pinks

And if you peek around in back you’ll find a few of these:

Roses

But all in all, I’m just sad. I realize now more than ever I’m meant to live where it’s warm all year. Where the seasons don’t change. Where I can keep the growing going in the sun and the heat. I don’t get tired of the hot. So I’ve been quiet, listening to talk about enjoying the cool and the changing leaves. I don’t say anything.

Because now I’m like the woman who used to stand at the pool fence. Instead I stand at my window, wrapped in shawls against the cold, peering out at bare brown soil, where a riot of color used to vibrate in the wind and sun and the rain, lifting hearts all around.

The End

Published in: on October 20, 2009 at 8:56 pm  Comments (13)  
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