Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hardy Hibiscus

Floppy as Scarlett O'Hara's favorite hat
and almost as large as her favorite hoop skirt,
a color too bright for polite society
but not for hummingbirds
or bees--
or me.

Petals like paper
a ball gown's pleats and ruffles
dance away summer.

Memory of a three-inch pot
with a five-inch flower,
hope of hot pink amazement yet to come.

Friday, September 11, 2009

When a dog needs shade, sometimes a low-growing arbor vitae has to do, even though a spreading chestnut tree might be preferred. Flag's favorite hideout on the dog days of summer, which we haven't actually had too many of this year, is this unpruned cone-shaped shrub I've been trying (with very little success) to make into a truncated, four-sided shrub. One reason she likes it is because robins and other unsuspecting birds nest near the top, and so when she isn't posing for her portrait she can be jumping up to try and find them. The docile looking creature in this photo has taken all of the low branches off from another arbor vitae, and broken a few branches on another. This shrub has managed to stay intact, perhaps because Flag doesn't want to destroy this one little patch of shade. Or maybe she has seen something in that crystal ball in front her that I have not.

Summer days in the garden are numbered. Flag is glad about this. I suspect the wilting foxtail lilies are glad about this. I'm not so glad. I think I'm already anticipating what must be the "people days" of winter. I will be suffering from the cold and Flag will be totally oblivious to it, racing all over the yard in her mostly-white camo. She will jump from the snow-covered ground up into this same shrub to see if some winter bird might be hiding there to keep out of the cold. Summer. Winter. It's all the same to the arbor vitae. And if I never get it pruned, it can be called a "spreading arbor vitae". Hmmm. Not quite as melodic as Longfellow--but it works for Flag.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Remember those magic bulbs from way last spring? Well, here they are again, all grown up. I planted some in a flower bed and some in a pot (with asparagus fern), and both groups are doing well. Maybe one of you will recognize this plant now after seeing the shape of the leaves and the unusual spotted stem. If not, I'll just go on calling them magic plants and enjoying their tropical, palm tree look. Their real magic may be not their ability to send out a flower before the leaves, but to make themselves so much at home this cool Minnesota summer. One frosty night and the magic will be stowed away with the other bulbs, except that when I put these away I'm not so much a gardener as a magician packing in rabbit and silk handkerchieves I will pull out next March as flowers. Perhaps they would prefer to winter in a top hat?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What the world needs is a scratch-and-sniff photo option. Imagine this tomato picture in the dead of winter when only your houseplants and a one dollar bill show you any green love. You might be killing time on a January day by organizing boxes of old pictures and you come to this one, run your fingernail across the fuzzy stem, or even a leaf and voila! Instant August! The first cookbook to come up with aromatic photos would be a sure bestseller because cooks would know right away whether or not a new recipe had possibilities.

Until scratch-and-sniff photos come to be, however, we settle for this one. While the great globe of gladness that is a tomato has a nice aroma of its own, it is the leaves and stems that really say "tomato" from day one on. Each leaf has a complex design of deep veins, a pleasingly lobed shape, and so many tiny little hairs. The stems are tough, fibrous--and hairy. Then we have the tomato itself: smooth, round--hairless--and not as aromatic as its vine. With the tomato, however, smell gives way to taste (and looks). Fruit of the vine, sweet summer wine, tomato mine. Maybe what the world really needs is a scratch-and-taste photo option?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Garden Party List

Wash the white chairs coated with summer's dust
and the table top perched on an old martin house
like a porkpie hat
spread on a table cloth carefully crocheted by ancient fingers
pick roses and heavy-petalled dahlias
arrange them in a cut glass vase
load trays with old rose-patterned china
take the starched linen napkins from the closet
polish the silver coffee spoons
pile up parfaits of fresh raspberries and cream
in tall Carnival Glass goblets
knead dark cherries into buttermilk scones
stow strong coffee in vacuum pots
place cream in a pitcher that doesn't match the plates,
which don't match the cups and saucers,
except that someone has painted roses on them all
in England
a thousand moons ago
fill a crystal compote with the black currant preserves
you made in July
set butter on ice in the old pressed glass butter saver
cut up fresh melons and adorn with strawberries you leave the green caps on
because that simple act makes the red look redder and the cantaloupe look more pink--
carry trays to the garden
being careful not to trip on the bumpy lawn
where earthworms work at night
feel the shadow of the crow soaring above
smell the fresh cut grass and flowers' sweet scents
see the ripe tomato that begs picking
listen to the blue jay's call
set the table
pour some wine
savor sweet cream when your fingertip slips into the dessert
bring in the women with their broad-brimmed hats
set them among the nodding climbers and let their sandaled toes touch
the pergola's Fairy rose foothills
surround them with cleomes in every shade
soak them with warm sun
temper with shadows and a cool breeze
delight in their laughter that ripples out across the lawn
like sun on a blue lake,
flowers among flowers.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Marking Time

She ties strings
saved from
flour sacks
and sugar sacks
and feed sacks
to bent nails
on the porch fascia
each May
around the oldest boy's birthday.
Evenly spaced
neatly tied
ends clipped,
the strings wait--
a harp
for the song
blue morning glories
will strum
accompanied by a yellow sun
and soft September breeze.