A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Book Club

“Beautiful at All Seasons: Southern Gardening and Beyond with Elizabeth Lawrence”

I have to confess that I never finished this book. I found it to be unreadable. At first I thought it was because she writes of many plants that I cannot grow in my NJ garden. Or perhaps it was because I couldn’t relate to what was blooming in her garden during the winter months when my own gardens are completely bare.

About halfway through the book, I realized that it was the quality of the writing. I was terribly disappointed in the Ms. Lawrence’s writing. Many columns started out well, but it was sadly apparent that she could not figure out how to end them. Other columns were merely laundry lists of plants.

I understood when I began the book that it was a collection of columns written for a newspaper. And I can readily imagine the pressure of having to crank out columns on a regular basis. Unlike a book where one can take one’s time and edit and rewrite until one is satisfied, it is understandable that not every piece written under the duress of a deadline will be a literary gem.

Sadly, I have put the book aside. I enjoyed “Two Gardeners”, an earlier GBBC selection. I’m sure that I would enjoy Ms. Lawrence’s other books. This collection of columns was not my cup of tea.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Iris on Parade

My garden is at its best in the spring. The season begins with a burst of yellow and white from the many clumps of daffodils that increase in size each year, then transitions to a multi-colored celebration of tulips. As the tulips finish their performance, iris takes the stage. Normally this happens on or about Mother’s Day. The cooler than normal weather delayed the iris’ appearance this year.

Every year that I have lived in this house, the lavender iris that came with the house has bloomed first.

This year, the honor of the opening act was taken over by an iris that I obtained at a Master Gardener plant swap last fall. I had only the vaguest idea of what the blossoms would look like.

This iris is very vigorous, sending up multiple flower stalks from a single rhizome.

Not to be outdone, the Batik iris joined the ensemble.

The pink version, purchased for its name (Baboon’s Bottom) rather than its looks, continues to act the Diva and refuse to bloom. I moved her to a more favorable location last fall, but she has contemptuously rejected her new quarters.

The chilly weather which delayed the bearded iris has given way to warmer temperatures encouraging the Japanese iris to begin their chorus.

Normally they wait until their larger cousins have left the stage.

Two new iris are gracing the garden this year. Both are Dykes Medal winners and part of a collection of iris I purchased a few years ago.

The first to bloom was Beverly Sills, described as pink, but arriving clothed in more peachy hues.

I don’t particularly care for the color but it is perfect for the pastel palette of the Entry Garden.

Making its debut yesterday, an iris called Bride’s Halo (oh, the irony!)

Supposed to be edged in gold, she prefers the traditional bridal white. Or perhaps she is an imposter.

You will note in your program that the once scorned yellow iris was featured in the previews yesterday.

Coming Soon: the roses are already in rehearsal for their annual production.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rising Through the Weeds

I don’t handle change well. I like my routines, every day the same as the one before it. But therein lays stagnation so sometimes I force myself to go outside of my comfort zone, to stretch my wings like a butterfly newly released from its chrysalis. While my garden slept this winter, I allowed what I thought was a healthy change to take shape in my life. I nurtured it for months. Like a new plant in my garden, I tried various ways to help it grow. I made mistakes of course, but it continued to develop, gradually consuming more and more of my life.

As winter turned into spring, so much of my energy was taken up by events outside of my garden that I fell behind both in the garden and in the blog where I record its progress. I struggled to keep up. I tried to make time in my by now busy life but even as I lost control of my schedule, I lost my creativity. By the time the tulips began to bloom, all was lost. This blog fell silent.

Spring overtook my garden and the change that had consumed so much of my time, my energy, even my spirit, began to fail. For the entire month of May I could only watch helplessly as it began its inevitable decline. The lovingly nurtured change died this past weekend. Yesterday, as the rest of the nation celebrated the beginning of the summer season, I was surrounded by gloom. My feelings, my very being had been ruthlessly tossed aside much like the weeds that we gardeners rip from our gardens and toss carelessly into the compost.

I have not felt that much pain since the birth of my daughter. This time, the pain was in my soul rather than my body. Pain so great it even robbed me of my voice. I silently writhed in torment on the floor. Many hours later, the cleansing tears finally came, like the soothing rains of a summer shower on the parched landscape. Sleep, however, escaped me. As the sun rose this morning, I found myself gazing into the abyss. What was it that tore my gaze from the seeming comfort of nothingness? Was it the cats meowing for their breakfast? Was it the soft warmth of the breeze through my windows? Perhaps it was the glimpse of a new iris blooming. Whatever it was, I dragged myself away from the false promise of relief and reached out to friends, fellow gardeners and animal lovers.

My cry for help is being answered very generously. My healing has begun. I know it will be a long time before I feel whole again. Time that will be spent in my garden. I will be documenting that time with my new camera. An unreported death occurred this month. My digital camera, originally a freebie as a result of gross overspending on a credit card, has faithfully served me through four years of abuse. Despite being tossed around my tool bag, covered with dirt, used in the rain and mercilessly banged around, it has taken pictures so wonderful that they have garnered First Place ribbons in the photo competition at the State Garden Show two years in a row.

After careful consideration, I have replaced it with a much coveted digital SLR. I chose the Nikon D40 for its price and simplicity. Its lack of features, much lamented by reviewers, is what I find attractive. It’s a great camera to learn on. The first batch of photos showed me that I had something very special.

I heart my new camera. It allows me to finally capture my garden the way that I see it, like this iris bud.

It turns ordinary moments into magical scenes.

Click to enlarge. The raindrops on the rose are spectacular.

It even turns an ordinary flower into an extraordinary flower.

2007 – Ugly yellow iris

2008 – the same iris seemingly glamorized

I haven’t given up on change. As a gardener, I know that failure is a common occurrence. It’s just a matter of the right plant for the right spot. Through the usual trial and error method, I’m confident that I will eventually find the right companion plant for this old rose.