Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Lessons from the Garden

The saying goes, "First it sleeps, then it creeps, then it leaps."

This is meant to explain how perennials will grow when you plant them in a garden. No growth, a little growth, and then growth.

I don't think any of the plants I've ever planted have heard this saying. More often than not, they employ the strategy, "First it looks like it had died. Then, as soon as you go out and buy another one because you think the first one is dead, the first one pokes out two tiny leaves in that 'made you look' kind of way. Then it grows so big, it knocks on the door demanding supper."

Over the weekend, I spent a fair amount of time working outside. My name was Mows with a Toro, or would have been, if I actually had a Toro. Technically, I was Mows with the power mower of dubious origin. Nicknames aside, I mowed, weed-whacked, watered and swept. It was a (CAPS LOCK, LEANED OVER) LONG afternoon.

Whenever I needed a break, I headed for my favorite backyard spot -- the swing. At the moment it is prime swinging time since the grapes planted directly behind it are perfect for snacking. So I parked myself on the bench and proceeded to swing and munch while I took a break from the heat of the day.

The swing affords an interesting view of the back yard. There are ornamental grasses beginning to tassel, and the hibiscus are in bloom. The ivy is busy pushing its way up the house and across the way I see the ring of begonias that TinyTuna planted earlier this spring. Even the giant marsh mallow plant brought all the way back from the furthest reaches of the Upper Peninsula (eh?) is beautiful; swaying in the breeze while countless bees fly from flower to flower to flower.

The view, however, is not entirely idyllic. Across the yard is the flower bed that suffered greatly from nearly eleven inches of rain in a single month. In the back yard are beds that were meant for tomatos, squash, green beans and pumpkins. This year they were not cleaned out and improved, so I'm stuck with a bumper crops of dandelions, thistles and goldenrod. I don't have to look far to see days and days of work and lots of unfinished projects.

As I sat on the swing this weekend, trying not to be depressed by what had been left undone, the pussy willow bush (tree? bush, I guess) caught my eye. It was hard not to notice it, because that which was solidly in the "I'm dead" category two years ago, was now (along with its decoy replacement friend) taller than the garage.

It had thrived, despite a cold, tough winter, an overly dry April, and a May that only an ark-builder could love. It had thrived, despite absolute neglect on our part. It grew and grew and grew, even when it's back was against the wall. Now the uppermost branches were a good foot above the bricks and were free to sway gently in the breeze.

I don't know why, but every time I looked at this silly bush, I chuckled. Some plants needs so much time and attention (those are the ones that die first in my world), and here was this poor, ignored Pussy Willow that was now King of the Garden. I'm telling you, if plants could be "happy" -- this one was.

It didn't require special feeding or spraying or mulching. It didn't even mind being up against a wall; it used the bricks for warmth. It wasn't bothered by the mint or the dandelions that got pushier as the days grew longer. It may be just a bush -- and a weed-like bush at that -- but it was pretty darn smart. It took all that was given and found all that was needed. With no excuses and no special attention, it did just fine. In fact, it did better than fine. It thrived.

Point taken.


Gary said...

Excellent thought, Tuna. Thank you.

Mensch71 said...

I can almost smell the lemon balm...

MtnMama said...

I have been reading your work for quite a while on the Big Brother sites, and you're the best! You always make me laugh and think! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I too enjoy your commentation on BB.

As far as the bush goes, sounds like one uppity bush that needs a little smack down soon. Bush is all like, 'look at me growin so tall and mighty, above all other wannabe foliage in my hood'. Unless you wish to cause even more jealously and rivalry from your neighboring growth-challenged foliage, please trim the bush.

(sorry, waiting for the damn coffee to brew and killing some time)

Jule Romans said...

This gives me hope for my perennials. I, too, enjoy your writing very much.

Anonymous said...

Aww... Green Thumb Tuna!


Anonymous said...

Ah yes....I have encountered that over and over in my efforts on the gardens around the farm in the UP. How wonderful is the Rose of Sharon the first year it is planted; how sad when it never comes back!
How much more wonderful the peonies, iris, daylillies and so many others that held their own against herds of cows, ravaging hungry deer, lawnmowers, packs of evil children, and so many other attacks, yet they return, year after year, demanding nothing and giving so much!
brad der boese