One of the garden projects I’ve had on tap to post about is the woven willow bean tripod I built last week, shortly after our return from a road trip that took us through my “hometown” and the place where I grew up. This sort of garden work is creative, but it is also physical, and I find that while my hands and body take over, my mind is freed to wander and meander over thoughts and emotions that have been stuck in my subconscious.
Meditation in motion.
All-in-all the bean support probably took about 2 hours to construct from start to finish and I spent the entire time mulling over the stark contrast between the lifelessness of that place and where I live now. I thought about the reasons why people can end up in a place like that without the resources or agency to turn it around. When I think about my childhood in that townhouse complex, class inevitably sticks out and I do not want to undermine that. Class Matters. To be clear, I am not speaking of or for the people who live there now, I am only speaking of the experiences I had while living there. What struck me when I stood at the edge of that walkway to the front door of #62 was that the impoverishment I experienced there wasn’t simply about a lack of money. It was not about a lack of things, which is what my mother often jumps to in her defence. Which is what people think of first when they think of impoverishment. We had shoes on our feet, cable television, and toys. We did not die. This is what she says. That my childhood was a success because I lived through it. No, it was so much more than that. The physical deadness of the place where even the few hardscrabble plants I remembered as a child were now completely wiped away served as a visual reminder of other kinds of deadness. The kinds that are sometimes hard to define and certainly less tangible than a lack of greenery or our very mortality.
This inevitably lead me to thoughts about making something out of nothing, which is what I was doing at the time. Here was a pile of branches clipped from a friend’s garden; yard waste that I was turning into an artful supportive structure. And here was a handful of bean seeds gifted from another gardening friend that in a few months time will grow into a beautiful, edible plant that we will be nourished by, which will also provide seeds for next year’s garden. And so on.
As I finished the structure and planted the seeds I felt proud and satisfied. I imagined the way it will look once the green leaves have formed and wrapped themselves around the brown branches. And the bright scarlet flowers that will follow them. Alive and colorful. A simple idea, come by simply. And yet to have this simple beauty in my life is not simple at all.
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Happy composting! And happy weekend everyone!
I leave you with a few recent scenes from my garden.
Clematis ‘Empress.’ I mis-identified it as ‘Crystal Fountain’ a few weeks back.
Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientale).
Before I introduce this week’s plants, I just want to say how much I am enjoying this project. I have walked through the garden these last few Wed mornings with an eye to what I will add to the box and I can’t tell you how much joy I find in artfully assembling the collection. This task taps into a part of my child brain that needs stimulation. It’s fun to see the images compile in a folder on my computer and I look forward to months from now when there are weeks of boxes within boxes within boxes all together.
Again there is so much going on in the garden right now it was hard to narrow it down to 9 plants that represent the garden as it is. I tried to chose plants that are at their peak or blooms that may not be around for next week’s collection. Still, there are a few like the Chocolate Cosmos that I know will be around for some time yet, but I was simply too excited to leave them out.
It’s that time of year where so much is going on in the garden, I can’t keep up. I LOVE it!
Clockwise from Top Left: 1. Two types of mint, pink snapdragons, and a geranium in pots. I set these pots on a metal table at the back of the garden, in front of the ramshackle shed. The geranium was not happy there and has since been moved. 2. My friend Barry bought me two of these video blue metal pails a few years ago. I love the colour and always try to plant them up with complimentary plants. This one is currently holding yellow violas and pansies. 3. My lunch on holiday Monday. The salad is from the garden. It was sprinkled with dianthus petals that are now blooming in full force in the dry bed garden. 4. May 19.
Assorted and Sundry
An article I wrote about cherry tomatoes was published in the summer 2012 issue of Garden Making Magazine.
A review of my recent book, “Easy Growing” in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Interview about planting weekend with Metro Morning News’ Matt Galloway. p.s. I am eating my words when it comes to basil because this has been the hottest late May I can recall. I have put my basil out, probably the earliest ever! p.s.s I should have mentioned Hens and Chicks aka sempervivums to the question about indestructible. Tough as nails and hardy to the cold, too.
Recently on HGTV Gardens I answered questions about Making Thrifty, D.I.Y Containers, Where and How to Score Bargain Plants, and Trouble with Lettuce That Won’t Form Heads.
Have a great weekend! And happy long weekend to my American friends.
This week’s Herbaria is a tribute to columbine (Aquilegia) and some of its friends. There’s a lot going on in the garden right now, but chances are good that this will be the last week that they are all blooming at the same time and I was eager to see them assembled together as a collection.
Aquilegia are charming, graceful, meadow flowers that dance and sway in the breeze on long, thin stems. They are generally very profuse self-seeders, although I planted a deep wine colored double last year that broke the rule and did not reproduce or come back, period. [Shakes fist] Despite the rare exception, they are very easy plants to grow and the toughest of the bunch will succeed in surprisingly shady locations.
Aquilegia are a diverse group with plants in a wide range of forms, colors, and flower shapes. I tend towards the simple native types and the elegant double flowers. I am generally not a fan of the two-toned or very open flowers, although you can see that there is an exception in my collection. Of the flowers and leaves I have assembled below, there is one missing that I was not able to add here, a dark double called ‘Black Barlow.’ I put it in as a bare root early this spring and it will be another year before the flowers make an appearance. Plus, Davin moved it and I don’t know exactly where it is so I couldn’t find a leaf to include.
In the future I hope to add the native Aquilegia canadensis to my garden, but I’m waiting to get one in trade. I just can’t bring myself to purchase a plant that reproduces so readily!