Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spring Ceremony

White petals perfume the path
of any bride
who might walk the soft green labyrinth
around the old magnolia tree.
Setting sun gilds
a thrush in throaty warble
and the rooster pheasant struts
his iridescent stuff,
ready for his vows.

Seated on this velvet pew,
I warm the still-cool earth
as confetti
drifts soundlessly to celebrate
this flowered-but-leafless marriage
of time and temperature
that defies natural laws
and some manmade.

Trumpet of cardinal,
flute of robin,
processional in perfect pitch--
I offer up my thankfulness
for the invitation to this ceremony
which arrived in its furry envelope
just days
after the last petals had fallen.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lungwort sounds like something you don't want to have ailing you. Pulmonaria sounds a little less ominous, and so this is one of the plants I like to call by its Latin name. I also call it the "Willie Sutton Plant." This particular variety--which does not even sport the heavily spotted leaves that make other varieties so appealing--apparently thinks I'm trying to imprison it in my garden, and it insists on busting out. It seeds itself down wherever it can, spreading its leaves into fuzzy hemispheres and looking quite lovely during the early summer, but then showing its dark side later in the year when it can look moldy and black. It is not a bank robber, as Willie Sutton was, but it is a habitat robber--and it is currently invading my woodland.

I have, however, put it on parole for now. It is among the earliest bloomers in the spring. Its hairy leaves are not bothered by any creature that I know of, and the detailing of its petals is quite lovely. It is not really a felon, I suppose. Just a misdemeanor. Maybe probation is all that's necessary? My job, as probation officer, is to stop crime before it takes root. Or at least dig out the roots. Time to snap on my badge--I mean, shovel.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Well, this, too, is spring. It can't all be pretty little wildflowers and soft-petalled hellebores. The truth is that in spring we must try to undo what we did the year before, or, in the case of these Hansen Hedge Roses, the years before: namely, not pruning. The hedge roses, I have learned, are supposed to be pruned like any other hedge, snipped into shape with pruning shears just after they bloom in June. I suspected that this was probably the right thing to do from the start, but I just never did it. The hedge row grew taller, and wider, shooting out onto the lawn and spreading over into the vegetable/annual garden, and because it was so vigorous and I was so busy, I just let it. Even after several years of this expansion, the hedge was still quite beautiful, although it was dying out at the bottom where sun could no longer reach the canes. Serious cleaning out was called for.

In early March, before the snow was gone, I started cutting back live canes and cutting out dead ones. In appreciation, the rose canes scratched and stabbed me with abandon. I managed about two hours per day on the project for four days--then walked away and left it all until the lawn was dry enough so that I could drive the truck out to pick up the rose brush. Now, four pickup loads later, the site is neat and manageable. Spring, always portrayed as tender new shoots and the joy of new life, really begins with destruction. It may not be pretty, but it's pretty important.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

From this on March 14....

 this, on April 6.

The Lenten Rose missed Lent by only a couple of days, an amazing example of perseverance and a testament to our early spring, no doubt. In March, the leaves emerged from winter's leafy mulch sleepy but green, despite bird feeder litter and squirrels thrashing through in all directions. They woke up, stretched, and got right on task.

Most spring flowers are tiny compared to their summer cousins. Hellebores, however, hit six to eight inches with a two-inch bloom that instead of lifting its face to the sun like bloodroot, prefers to look down at the earth--even at those pesky sunflower seeds. I just couldn't get a picture up into the center of this one, though I tried and got sunflower seed hulls stuck to my elbows for my trouble. Not having succeeded, I will have to be satisfied with the sight of white and green amid the winter brown, with the new growth promising a long period of bloom to come, and with the large showy leaves that will grace the shade garden all summer.

So the Lenten Rose missed Lent by a few days--so what? If we had had a late Easter, it would have been right on schedule. I'm going to try to remember that when I neglect to bring in tender plants before the first frost: if we had a late frost, I would have been right on schedule. I'm cutting the Lenten Rose some slack--and while I'm at it, I'm cutting myself some slack, too. It's a good way to begin the gardening season. Or any season.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Autumn Dreams

The big yellow backhoe's teeth
a clump of concrete
that used to be her front stoop
as the driver cocked an ear.
"Save it," she shouted
into the November gale.
The man in the battered Carhart jacket
shook his head,
but did not drop her treasure
onto the dump truck
with the footings of the old house
and the pieces of its cement floor
tossed into the truck
like tiles in a Scrabble box.

She pointed.
The backhoe swung southward,
work-gloved hands pulling the levers
and settling her prize
onto the clay soil
like an egg into a carton.

She cringed.
"No...not there...
And turn it upside down, could you?"

The driver smiled,
charging by the minute, after all.
He leveled
the flat surface of her prize,
angled it just so.
Clank. Clank. Rrrrr.
She lusted after her own backhoe.

Autumn dreams conceived perfection
from this squared concrete confection.
Viewing platform or urn stand?
rock feature or fountain grand?
Spring brings the chance to lust anew--
if she only had a backhoe, her dreams would come true.