Friday, May 29, 2009

My sister has done it again--she's given me this wonderful Drinking Gourd Hosta, a plant I've wanted for a long time. I am not a hosta collector, you understand. I don't aspire to having one of every kind, but the Drinking Gourd appeals to me because the name so perfectly describes the cup of the leaf: a perfect name for a beautiful plant. Besides, I believe it is one hosta whose name--at least its common name--I'll be able to remember. As luck would have it, just hours after I planted this lovely hosta a deer was seen lurking only a dozen feet away. Time for the Liquid Fence. And a thank you note to my sister.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Last spring when I moved this decrepit little arbor back to this spot (it's a long story--first it was here, then I moved it because the area was too shady, then after a few years I moved it back...) I planned to make a path wend its way beneath the clematis I envisioned twining itself on the wires overhead. I moved the arbor in the very early spring, wanting to get it in place so that I could move the clematis while it was still dormant. Three weeks later, before I could get limestone in place for the path, this patch of wild phlox asserted itself--right smack dab in the place where I intended the path to be. So much for planning: I couldn't have planned anything lovelier than these phlox if I'd tried. Once again this year, I wonder about making room for a path, but once again I'm stunned by this singular island of lavender and am unwilling to tamper with it, at least until its bloom is past. Better yet, I think I'll move the arbor--again.

Friday, May 22, 2009

And the day came when the risk [it took] to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
--Anais Nin.

We all come of age, at every age, when risk confronts us. Flowers enact the drama before our eyes as their buds burst at spring's call. Packed in and secure, the petals increasingly resist repression. Finally, they break free and exult in lives that last a few days, or maybe just a few hours. Life is finite for a flower--and aren't we all flowers? Our petals our skin? Our souls our seed?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Trout lilies. Fish as flower. Except mine, so far, haven't seemed to flower. A friend gave me these, which were growing wild under her clotheslines, and I set them in along the edge of the woods with some Dutchman's breeches and wild ginger, but so far no blooms. I suspect they could use a little more sun--but I fear moving them, since they are famously rare and fragile. I feel quite blessed to have some growing in my world, their spotted, fish-shaped leaves reminding me of spring trout fishing in northern Wisconsin. Perhaps it is asking too much to want a blossom, too? Or perhaps I need the same patience in waiting for the flower that I need in waiting for a bite?

In a few weeks, the trout lilies will disappear from view and I will wonder if they have died out, in the same way I always fear that my Virginia Bluebells will never come back. Like trout, these plants lie at the bottom of a very deep pool to wait out the hot days of summer and the cold days of winter. Only in the spring do they rise--just like spawning trout. Flower as fish.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

As I cut back the variegated boxwood climbing over the garden wall, I unearthed this lovely rock given to me by my mother-in-law some years ago. She had planted it with hen and chicks and it has sat on the garden ledge ever since. This spring, only a clump of moss remains. Was it the winter sub-zero temperatures that did it, or was the rock too covered over by the boxwood to let sun in? It might have been the boxwood's fault--or mine. As the summer goes on and plants marathon toward their fullest potential, they get away from me--that's all there is to it. Besides, when the boxwood is full and lush, who would think of cutting it back? (Okay, I should have thought to move the rock, but I didn't.)

Now it is spring, when every plant is small and appears to be controllable. Ah yes, how appearances do lie. After a whole day of pruning roses yesterday, I learned anew that they control me--hence the thorns in my thumb today. When I started, I wasn't really planning to cut the shrub roses back too severely, even though I could see by their leggy growth that they should be cut back. Then I looked down near the base and saw that they were sprouting new growth down there, too, but nothing in the middle--a clear shout that they wished to be cut back so that they could start over. I obliged. By 5 p.m. I had a pick-up load of rose canes for the burn pile. Did I cut off my big June bloom? Possibly. Did I do a world of good for the roses? Definitely. There are few things more satisfying in the garden than making that low, deep cut and seeing healthy, green wood. Knowing that I have cut away anything diseased or detrimental fills me with the sense that I may actually be doing something right in the garden to make up for all the things I do wrong. Like killing off the hen and chicks. For my next feat of strength, I'll buy some new poultry and then try to figure out how my mother-in-law managed to get the others planted in this almost soil-less environment. Maybe, like the roses, they will send me a message. Then again, maybe I will just learn to love moss more than I already do.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Here is my garden a couple of days ago. I took the photo to show off the Arabis caucasia (Snow Cap) my sister gave me several years ago. The Arabis has been thriving on this slope with eastern exposure ever since, one of the few plants I ever planted in the right place the first time around. Last weekend, she introduced me to a wonderful new garden center, Hauser's Superior View Farm at Bayfield, Wisconsin. Yesterday I finally planted the pink Malva I bought, some Nepeta, a blue Columbine which I hope will not cross with my predominant yellow/orange wild Columbines, some Lavender--even though I know now that wintering it over is mostly hopeless, and two white day lilies. All of these were purchased bareroot, and all withstood three days in damp paper packing very well, a good reminder that not every pass-along plant needs to be potted, especially if it's going to its new home in a timely fashion. My sister, of course, had beautifully potted the Arabis she gave to me, presenting it not as some homeless creature culled from her garden but as a beautiful work of art nurtured by her own hands. Oh, to think of all of our plants that way as we struggle keep order in the garden against invading box elder trees, bullying Rudbekia Goldsturm and other demons of nature.

In plants we see the gift of peace, in the Arabis the gift of a sister, and in pass-alongs the gift of memory. As Mother's Day approaches, I look to plants that connect me with Mom, who loved bulbs, and so I anticipate the planting of dahlias and glads next week. So many of my perennials came to me from my mother-in-law that I see her every time I go to the garden.

My garden a couple of days ago/their gardens many years ago: What a gift the garden is.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

On Seeing a Wild Ginger Blossom For the First Time

You might be mistaken for a bug,
your pointed leaves for legs
(but only three, what kind of self-respecting bug would that be?)
your round body for a carapace,
your anther for eyes
your stigma a mouth.

Is that why you
at the bottom of the stems,
shy as the smart girl
at the dance--afraid some lout might
step on your feet
when you rattle off your name, family, genus, species,
and light requirements?

Or do you fear the spotlight,
afraid that you will have to show who you really are
and no one will like you?
Are you waiting to be discovered,
expecting to be touched
by the hand of fate
that plucks the ugly duckling out of the barnyard
and sets her down in a castle
where she should have been
all along?

Your life is short,
and so perhaps you wish to live it
on your own terms,
sheltered and secure
in your delectable green canopy bed,
but your wish
is not yours to command.
Today you find yourself exposed,
and confused.
Then you are surprised
to find that when you are seen
for who you really are
you are greatly loved,
and though you may not find your way
to the castle bouquet
you will be sought after
at every ball
and you will never
be mistaken
for a bug.