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.

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Published in: on August 5, 2010 at 4:58 pm  Comments (2)  
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Watching My Terrain, Too

I kept snapping away at the star-like lily with my camera. This is the first year for these spectacular bulbs. And they have such an unusual appearance that of course they are right at home in my wild garden.

The sweet new neighbors, who fly helicopters for a living, eyed them suspiciously. I suppose if you have such a precarious career, you might need a more tame bloom to provide calm in your off hours. The Hymenocallis, Greek for “beautiful membrane,” is definitely not tame.

So, I clicked away on my knees, then practically lying down on the sidewalk at one point, trying to get the pinwheel blossom centered in exactly the right background. The blossoms, radiant white trumpets pushing from a base of long spirals, look best in contrast against grass or bushes painted deep green by the warmth of spring.

And what about us, I wondered? What setting looks best on us?

I remembered how I looked when I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t talking about it, but the state of my mind and heart were in plain view.

I lost so much weight people were calling me “emaciated.” And I cut off my long curly hair, not in a flattering short cut, but in a pixie or nearly a buzz cut. I wore much beige, khaki clothing, nondescript. I wasn’t sure my gender was particularly obvious, in fact. I wasn’t engineering my silent scream on purpose. I wasn’t even aware my state of mind was so obvious until I saw pictures much later.

This happened several times over the course of about a decade, during my first marriage. Then finally I left that life. My hair grew out, for good, and my clothes regained their color and flair. I often have on shawls now, light in texture but vivid in color.

I carefully watch my terrain now. The flowers I grow taught me this.

Published in: on May 17, 2010 at 11:19 pm  Comments (3)  
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Desperately Sprouting

The winter has been so harsh and long that I have been driven to extreme actions on the gardening front. After typing out a (sort of) joking threat to call the suicide hot line, I was directed to the winter sowing pages by sympathetic gardeners. My plastic containers filled with soil and seed are now out back where I anxiously eye them multiple times a day.

And now, I am a sprouter.

I needed some instant gratification. I didn’t realize growing sprouts, baby plants in their prime, was so easy. I had read about this for years. But the truth is I didn’t particularly care for sprouts, so I thought why bother.

But it turned cold so early last fall in Northern Virginia, the snow followed shortly after that and just kept coming. I grew sadder. I’m not good at waiting. My hands itched. I needed to grow something. And my indoor efforts don’t work out very well. I don’t have enough sun. And where I do, I have heating vents. I can keep a few foliage plants, but that’s about it.

Next year, I am going to have to manage a greenhouse of some kind. I don’t have the space for a real one. I saw an interesting one a blogger constructed using five discarded old windows, adding hardware to keep the four standing windows together and a hinge to allow opening and closing of the top piece. I love that idea.

But until then, I’m sprouting.

I bought a sprouting jar, but you can use your own and buy some mesh and fit it on top of the container. You need the mesh for straining. I read about one woman who used lace. I got a package of sprouting mix. And another of broccoli. These both had directions for sprouting written on them.

I rinsed a couple of tablespoons of the mix, then added double the amount of water and soaked that for several hours. I poured out that water, through the strainer, and rinsed again.

Then over the next several days I rinsed the seeds in water twice a day. I used a bit of food-grade hydrogen peroxide in the rinse water several times to kill any bacteria in the seed and inhibit mold. This also increases the amount of oxygen and nitrogen available to the sprouts. I kept the jar in a dark place with a towel over it, tipped at an angle to allow it to drain well.

After several days, I had sprouts. So I took my towel cover off for the last day to induce some green. I took the hulls off by soaking them in water. Then I dried the sprouts with a dish towel (some people use a salad spinner). What I didn’t eat right away, I stored in the refrigerator and started another batch.

They were absolutely delicious! They were much better than any of the sprouts I have purchased or eaten on salads at restaurants. The consistency was much better. They were crisp, pungent (I think that was the radish in the seed mix) and were just cleaner tasting than anything else I have had previously.

And that’s not all. Studies show broccoli sprouts have 20 times the concentration of sulforaphane, an anticancer chemical, than the mature vegetable, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Published in: on March 7, 2010 at 8:22 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.

.

Published in: on March 2, 2010 at 9:26 pm  Comments (2)  
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Feeling Lost Without the Garden

I’m feeling lost without my garden and zinnia and rose bouquets that filled my house for months. I’m dabbling in the kitchen to try to fill the void.

We are strictly in survival mode here. That means I am just doing my best to keep the plants in pots alive until April when I can start taking them back outdoors for a bit during the day. Maybe I can plant some cuttings in May. June is for the zinnia seeds.

Meanwhile, everything has been cut way back for the long, cold winter in Northern Virginia. My husband, the Iowan, thinks I am not normal for saying that. But for someone born in Texas and raised in Alabama, the winters are long and cold here. And they always will be (meaning I’ve been here for 30 years and I’m not going to change my mind).

My plants are squeezed into small spaces and corners with trays of gravel and water around hopefully to provide some humidity against the onslaught of the electric furnace heat. It’s cold here, in the 30s at night.

I’m blue about it. I’ve never done much indoor gardening in winter other than buy the occasional houseplant, which I don’t do much with. I promised myself to do something about that this year. But so far I’m resorting to my old tricks. I’m baking again and catching up with old friends. I have three book club sessions this weekend, one of them at my house.

Recently, I said sure when my husband asked me to bake cupcakes for someone who works with him. It was his birthday and my husband assumed I would use a mix and buy some frosting. He should know me better than that by now.

I decorated some with chocolate grated from a semi-sweet chocolate bar with a carrot scraper. I sprinkled others with French Dragees. That’s a smart way to market sprinkles to grownups. I also have some glowy powder, fairy dust I guess, in the small bottle.

I used a recipe from a restaurant called Eve’s in Old Town Alexandria, VA. The cake is light and airy, angel’s food-like, but the taste is buttery, like pound cake. Absolutely delicious. It wasn’t easy to make cupcakes out of this confection, but I managed. The frosting is made with cream and powdered sugar. Heavenly. Eve’s is famous for its birthday cakes.

The chefs make a tiny one and tints it pink. They say even straight-laced businessmen are seen in the dining room at night, digging into the small, pink birthday cakes. The cupcakes I made weren’t pink, but everyone loved them.

I think all of us should be fussed over on our birthdays.

But my fussing is because I don’t have the garden. The baking is old news. I’m not really happy with this substitution. After all, I’ve been baking since I was a very little girl and would pull a chair up to the counter to stand on. I would pull down ingredients and make cookies and cakes and everything my siblings and I liked from Mother’s cookbooks.

We thought we were scamming her. She gave us free run of her kitchen and everything in it. If we needed ingredients, we got on bikes and rode down the country lanes to the general store and charged things to her account. That way we indulged our sweets habit with my baking using Mother’s ingredients and my labor. And we saved our allowances for other things. Meanwhile, I taught myself to be a decent cook and baker.

But the baking is not really scratching the itch I have now.

Because it’s not really feeding me down deep inside the way the garden did this past summer. Being surrounded by all that wild beauty, working in it, touching it, bringing the flowers inside, filled me with such light that it carried over into everything I did all summer. I miss that.

How do I replace that in the cold dark winter? I just don’t have any idea.

I’ll make it, I always do. I’m just wondering what other gardening fanatics in cold climates do in the winter. While waiting for, say, the lillies to come back.

Published in: on December 2, 2009 at 5:16 am  Comments (11)  
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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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The Elm Made Me Do It

Elm

(Special thanks to the writer of Secret Cottage Garden for showing me I was on the right track all along, even when I didn’t know it: Mary Delle
<a href="http://secretcottagegarden.blogspot.com/&quot; and of course someone who inspired me to write about it all, Ms. Moon, blessourhearts.blogspot.com)

I have fallen in love with the big elm just outside my back gate. I resented this tree for years. The wood giant drops seeds and dead leaves all over my patio. But my former dislike had roots in the tree’s glory, the full leaves that block the sun, keeping my back yard in shade during the summer.

Not to mention the times it has tried to strangle my holly and my dogwood tree.

Crowds holly

My old tea roses bloom lavishly in the spring, before the elm wakes up properly. Then I have to settle for a bloom or two here and there for bouquets.

roses

Between the shade and aggressive squirrels, I also can’t grow vegetables back there. No bright, splashy sun lovers. Only shade plants. So for years the back has been neglected.

But I ignored what this big elm was telling me with the big fat leaves and long arms that blocked the sun during prime growing season. Go to the front. Show yourself. Don’t hide in the back, behind the privacy fence. You have something and you don’t even know it.

So I did. I started cultivating the small plots in the front of the house, little squares of dirt that had been lying fallow, covered by mulch and defined by monkey grass. With her permission, I pulled out the dead lavender that a neighbor had planted on my side and hers. Dogs with careless owners had promptly killed these with daily markings.

The neighbor was thrilled that I was working on the plots, even though my style was undefined and hers was: English gardens, precision, careful cuts and frequent trims. She even owns a chain saw. But her work for the Secret Service meant she was away frequently and she had no time for gardening. She happily turned it all over to me.

At first I bought plants from the nursery. They were nice, but I was not satisfied. So I started buying seeds. Better. I was enjoying myself, experimenting, shaping the beds, putting my imprint on it all. Letting the garden grow on both sides into riotous shape and color. No English garden this!

That’s when neighbors started coming out of the woodwork. Yes, with the occasional disapproving glance. The architecture is prim and proper here, all red brick and white columns. The plantings run to hostas, evergreens, impatiens. In the fall the mums and pansies are broken out.

Except for my wild garden. And the yeas for this rare color riot far outnumber the nays. We need this, they say. It is different. It breaks the sameness and brightens our day.

ColorRiot

Pinks1023

Before the wild garden, I had been so timid. In that front plot, I had planted two miniature rose bushes from Trader Joe’s. They were nice. Sweet. Tiny. One still blooms, a reminder of my timid time.

And every year these roses are dwarfed by zinnias grown from seed, some old and some new. Angel’s Trumpets multiplying in height and number like wildfire now that I am not just talking to them, but listening to their needs. Starburst hydrangea. The flame orange dahlia, which survives every winter even though C., who designed the ghost lamp in my previous post, says “they don’t come back here, how do you do it?”

Well, I started putting the pulp left over from my vegetable juicing into the soil this summer. But the dahlias were coming back before that. I do give the flowers a bit of Miracle Gro now and then, sprinkled on the ground, no mixing it in water or such carrying on for me. So, I just love them and they respond.

The elm was behind it, really. The elm pushed me to the sun, to the front. I had grown vegetables with my father as a child and again in a plot rented from the county and shared with a friend. But I had never tried my hand with flowers. It just finally seemed the thing to do.

At last, I listened to that small, still voice. And it was saying you are a gardener, you were born to this. You are not alone. We are with you.

Show your love.

beach 00008

Published in: on November 5, 2009 at 5:55 pm  Comments (11)  
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The Plant Was Telling Me

whitetrumpet1016 004

The tall plant that refused to bloom until the last possible minute tried to tell me all summer that it wasn’t a pink Angel’s Trumpet. But I wouldn’t listen. I wouldn’t even hear it from myself.

Why is that? When someone tells us who they are, why don’t we listen? Like the new friend who abruptly inserts into the conversation that she’s “not as nice as you might think.” Then smiles and laughs and charms away the chill she brought into the room with that announcement. So the warning is forgotten. Wariness dropped against good reason.

But back to the trumpet.

Last year I finally coaxed a trumpet into bloom — a big white brugmansias. I had tried for years to manage this through trial and error in northern Virginia, bringing up seeds and shoots from my hometown in Alabama. This one was planted in the ground. And just before the first frost I took cuttings and trimmed it back, mulching heavily. I brought in the pinks in pots.

Despite carefully protecting the white all winter, it did not make it. I was upset, but I brought another shoot up from Alabama this summer. And I set out the cuttings I had cultivated during the cold months in water in the basement window well. They had strong roots. These should make it, I thought.

Not a single white survived. I thought.

The pinks were beautiful. They bloomed and bloomed. The new white finally bloomed just last week.

And then the day before yesterday, the last of the trumpet cuttings bloomed too. This “pink” just barely survived the chopping block. Because I absolutely have too many plants to bring inside this year. I have a small house and not enough room. I kept counting up the pots and hoping I was off. One white, four pinks. Wait, five pinks, but two are tiny, so they really don’t count.

I’ll never get away with all these pots inside the house. One of the pinks will have to go, I thought. So I was going through the sad routine of having to choose. I kept looking, balefully, at the same pot.

“You don’t even look like a pink,” I told this plant once. I remember it because the plant is tall and bushy on top, like the other white, the trunk strong and thin. The leaves are longer and smoother than the pinks. “You’re not like a bush at all. It’s like you think you’re a tree.” Which of course, it is. But I can’t grow them as trees, not here.

The plant was telling me. I was even telling me. But I wasn’t listening.

Then yesterday, to my absolute delight, I was confronted with the beautiful truth. The “pink” wasn’t a pink at all. The blooms waving in the wind weren’t pink at all. They were white. The offspring of my long-mourned white Angel’s Trumpet, my first born, the one that died in ground over the cold winter despite assiduous mulching efforts.

WhiteToldMe1025

Somehow I had mixed up the cuttings. I’ve been so sad about the loss of the colorful annuals to fall. And now, I am beyond thrilled. In loss, there is new life after all. And to think I was considering sacrificing this one.

The garden shows us these lessons, over and over. Regeneration. Truth. Hope. Never giving up on a life. And once again I am shown that my intuition is a thing to acknowledge and trust. And if I falter, the garden is there to help me along with ancient metaphors and knowledge. Circle of life.

Which brings me to the topic I’ll be writing about next: “The Secret Life of Plants”

ToldMePink1025

Published in: on October 25, 2009 at 1:57 pm  Comments (4)  
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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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Bringing It To The Surface

October

zinnia-fall

whitetrumpet-october

So why did my garden grow so wild and beautiful this year? There’s my notion that the plants embody the people growing them, working on the blooms, talking to them everyday. And I was in a good place this summer. The flowers reflected that.

I was writing, for one thing, for the first time in many years. Really writing, beginning the process of opening up, stretching, reaching for something. I’ve just started to let the light into spaces long silent and dark. I have a long way to go. But I pushed away the packed dirt and opened the trapdoor.

Another reason is I’ve been amending the soil in a different way. I’ve been drinking lots of fresh vegetable juice, especially this year. And I started putting the finely minced pulp into the garden.

I heard that suggestion listening to a gardening program on the radio one day. The expert said to take a spade and dig a hole, drop in the pulp and cover it with soil. I juice with organic produce so I especially felt good about amending my soil this way.

Another theory is related, but more whimsical. I’ve been juicing because I changed my diet to nearly all raw vegan late in the summer of 2008. Initially I went all raw, something I had played around with for years. This actually reflected, in a way, my summer style of eating as a child. My father grew a Garden of Eden of fruits and vegetables and I loved eating them raw, on the go. My mother rarely ordered me in for meals since I was mostly “too busy” running in the woods. I took food from branch, stem and vine and ate that. So switching to all raw felt like coming home.

After several months, I lost the weight that I gradually had gained over the years eating in ways that did not agree with me. So I added back in some non-raw food, supplements and a bit of fish. I also happily eat what I’m served when I am not at home. It’s too much trouble when traveling to try to strick to a raw regime. And it’s not right to decline food in the home of someone who has been kind enough to invite me over.

Besides, taking breaks from this style of eating has given me the willpower to stay with it. I enjoy the breaks, then am relieved to return to it, ultimately because of the way it makes me feel.

So, now for the whimsical part. What if filling up with fruits and vegetables, organic at that, has actually contributed to this feeling of lightness I’ve had all spring and summer. Not just the physical part, but something else. The light body I hear people talk about sometimes. The truth is I don’t really know what that means. It’s not just that I’ve the lost excess weight I never carried when I was younger. I literally have felt lighter, more buoyant, spiritually as well as physically. Hence, the light body.

Do the flowers feel it too? If I’m pouring green juices into my cells everyday, nourishing myself with unprocessed fruits and vegetables, literally existing on these, am I resonating with the flowers in a different way?

Consider this: Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society recently reported on a month-long study into the effects of the human voice on tomato plants. Recordings were made of volunteers reading to the plants. Controls plants were not exposed to recordings.

Researchers found that plants responded to being read to, that they grew more than the control plants. And that female voices had an edge over males in helping plants grow.

The study, and others like it, indicates plants aren’t just, well, concrete blocks. They are alive. They are responsive. And time after time, all summer long, people I know and those I don’t have stopped me as I worked in the garden and asked, “How do you do it?” And when I say, “Um, to start, I get zinnia seeds from Target,” they point to blooms the size of salad plates and are incredulous. “You grow these from SEEDS?”

And the Angel’s Trumpets, which I’ve not seen anyone else grow here. Surely somebody does. But they certainly are rare in the D.C. area. In fact, the neighborhood gardening aficionado came by the other day with the head of a gardening service and actually asked me whether one of the pinks, which was getting ready to bloom, was “an okra plant.”

Because how do I explain the wild garden, really?

Well, I started to write after years and years, and I also talk to the plants. And I slip outside more than I should, sometimes at night too, just to be with them. And I feed them with finely minced organic vegetable pulp. From my juicer, which I started using because I started eating mostly raw fruits and vegetables again. Which is one of the reasons the garden is so beautiful, you know, in my opinion, because in a way it’s like I’m turning into a plant too and the flowers resonate with that, being raised by their own.

But I don’t say that. Because generally I’m not prone to admitting this sort of whimsy. Not in person, in public, not in the real. At least I wasn’t.

But here in the dirt, with the trapdoor pushed up and the sun beating down on my head, I’m going to cop to it.

And who knows what else I’ll bring to the surface, into the light. Next.zinnia-fall

Published in: on October 14, 2009 at 4:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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