This is what passes for a flower bouquet at my house.
As a small space gardener I can’t grow the volume required to create large and frothy bouquets. I need to work with what I’ve got since we’re not growing cut flowers in Oprah quantities around here (I followed her Instagram account for a few weeks and could not believe the buckets upon buckets of roses that are harvested from her gardens). There wouldn’t be a whole lot left to enjoy in the garden were I to pilfer from it regularly. Instead, I harvest little bits of this and that and display them in tiny vases comprised of old perfume and medicine bottles, bud vases, and tiny bowls. I found a small stack of the tiny bowl (front right) at a market in Chaing Mai, Thailand. My favourite is in the right back, a rock with a hole carved in the centre. Can you believe I got that one free from a local junk shop? “Oh, you can just have it,” the proprietor replied when we inquired about the price.
Colourful bits of plant matter from my garden and an oddball assortment of free and practically free vessels = priceless (literally).
I believe it started with a small pot of Albuca shawii, a diminutive yellow flower that dances on thin stems in the breeze. It’s delicate leaves and stems are slightly rough to the touch and they have an unexpectedly nice, somewhat herbal scent. As a garden plant, it serves no real purpose except that it looks good and makes me happy, a fact that is neither here nor there now, but one that mattered a lot then. I’m still a small space gardener, but back then I was an even smaller space gardener and my primary garden space was a roof. There was no ramshackle shed or basement in which to hide the mess or store dormant plants. Every inch counted and if a plant didn’t serve at least two functions, it probably wasn’t welcome.
Since that first pot of albuca (which I still have in the same pot years later), I have gone on to grow all sorts of bulbs in containers of all shapes and sizes with very little effort. I look forward to their yearly appearance and wonder now, why on earth I deprived myself for so long.
Before I talk about the project I wanted to mention the awkward image sizes that are appearing on the site. We are in the process of a redesign and will be using larger photos in the future. I plan to post at a larger size from here on out, but it will be a bit awkward until the new site design is functioning.
Tomorrow marks exactly one year since I started the Herbaria. I knew the anniversary was approaching, but did not realize the date until I set up to take this week’s photo. There it is: one year complete. I wish this were coming at a batter time. Instead of feeling accomplished, I’m feeling frustrated, uncertain, and a bit sorry for myself.
Still, to commemorate the occasion, I decided to make this collection a theme that coincides perfectly with the current phase in my garden: the finished blooms of spring ephemerals.
I have written several times both on this site and elsewhere about taking a chance with forced or forgotten bulbs. My advice has always been to just try. Forced bulbs are often exhausted and will not produce flowers the following year. But sometimes they do. And sometimes they do the year after that.
One rainy Saturday morning six years ago I was kicked out of my apartment while a camera crew was there filming an interview with Davin. With nothing to do and no real direction, I found myself headed towards my community garden plot, which was then just a few blocks away. The garden was (and still is) an almost secret place tucked between an alley, the railroads tracks, and a beer store.
The documentary crew had been following me around for a few days and I was feeling contemplative and grateful for an hour of solitude to be alone with my thoughts. I didn’t have any work to do at the garden (a rarity) so I strolled around slowly, looking at little things. Eventually I caught myself standing still, just listening. I had never done that before. Here in the city we are always surrounded by sound and I think one of the ways we adapt to the constant assault on our senses is by tuning things out as if we are wearing earmuffs. The first sound I caught was the rhythmic, almost soothing hum of the beer store refrigerators. I had spent countless hours working in the garden and had never noticed the sound before. I heard car tires over pavement in the parking lot and the sound of car doors slamming. I heard a train zooming past, drowning out all other sounds for a minute. And then, when it got far enough away I heard crickets, small insects, people yelling, and my friend the mockingbird that often sits on a tower over the tracks imitating other birds and other sounds it picks up along the tracks.