Every time I thought about posting a blog about plants and gardening since the last time I did, back in November, it seemed too trivial to bother. So beside the point. Not worth your feed space. I also haven’t thought a lot about my garden. Politics and the steady stream of crazypants has sucked the life right out of it — or at least my interest in it. That, and maybe winter.
But life goes on. It has to.
I’ve heard birds (finches?) singing in the predawn. Witch hazels are blooming. My hellebore and pussy willow are weeks ahead of schedule. The little camellia I keep in the plantry has been wearing pink and a light clove perfume for days now. Snowdrops and crocus are blooming all over town.
Noticing is a start. I like to think going through the motions of recording every tiny event will help lift me out of the pit of despair. And my fingers are crossed that spring will be the elevator it usually is. I need its miracle magic more than I ever have before to remind me how to move forward and rise up.
So while I temporarily ignore the news and shirk my political responsibilities (I’m endlessly grateful to those keeping the fire burning) I’m going to try to get gardeny and garden blahggy again.
Because life goes on. It has to. (Plus I’ve missed you!)
We can always count on Mother Nature to give us gardeners something safe(r) to talk about when the news is bleak and full of polarizing politics. Temperatures in the 50s and low 60s for the last couple of weeks have made the weather a hot enough topic to justify changing the subject whenever things get uncomfortable. I’ve had the windows wide open on the warmest days. Night temperatures have gone down into the low 30s now and again but it’s the middle of December and we haven’t had a real killing frost yet. And some plants, like trumpet honeysuckle, borage, and daphne are still putting a surprising amount of effort into flowering.
A stunted borage (Borago officinalis) blooming in a sidewalk crack
Daphne transatlantica ‘Summer Ice’ won’t quit.
My Lenten rose is budded up.
Euphorbia longifolia ‘Amjilassa’ blooming like spring
Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’ still blooming — but the flowers are looking a little runty
Tanacetum parthenium – not pretty but still going.
And other plants are jumping the gun. A few weeks ago I noticed rhododendron buds opening. My holly, in full berry, was blooming last week. A local friend recently posted a picture on facebook of a snowdrop in bloom. People have also mentioned seeing cracks in magnolia buds and Lenten rose hellebores in bloom. (Or are they confusing Helleborus orientalis with the Christmas rose, H. niger?) It’s almost impossible not to see all of this as a sign of the apocalypse but it also feels really familiar to me. I freely admit that my memory is terrible but I can barely recall the last time we had a white Christmas. The forsythia always blooms in fall at least a little bit and so do the autumn-blooming cherry trees. I remember the year kniphofia and nicotiana were still spiking in December and the crabapples bloomed.
I know there’s cause for worry. Open magnolia buds will be torched by the cold that’s bound to come along at some point, and any cherry trees blooming prematurely won’t be able to put on much of a show in the spring. But I also am inclined to put worries aside and enjoy the mild weather and all of the weirdness resulting from it. Because if this winter is anything like last winter, the mercury will do a nosedive eventually and then it will be the cold that seems interminable, apocalyptic, and weird. And I’ll probably be glad for the excuse to change the subject.
Have you been talking about the weather? What’s blooming?
I’m giving some serious thought to becoming the kind of person who has fresh flower arrangements in the house. I’ve wanted to be that lady for a long time but have never been much good at keeping flat surfaces free of paper, books, and other random bits of stuff that make the addition of a vase full of flowers, which will sooner or later drop their own trash on the table, feel overwhelmingly chaotic. I also have cats. One’s favorite sport is Smack Things Off and the other has Rocket Butt, which is a super fun and contagious affliction that manifests in lightspeed skids from one flat surface to another three rooms away.
But last week I was lucky enough to hang out with Debra Prinzing, founder of the Slow Flower Movement (and website) and author of Slow Flowers and The 50 Mile Bouquet, and she, being a fresh-flowers-in-the-house sort of person — and a real beauty to boot, made the idea very appealing.
When Debra mentioned the commitment she made when she was working on those books to create a flower arrangement every week for a year using locally sourced and sustainably grown stems, I found myself biting the hook. (For more information on why we should care about where our flowers come from, here’s an excellent rant.)
Aside from clearing surfaces and discouraging kitteh mayhem, this week’s arrangement was too easy. I didn’t have to buy anything. There were plenty of pickings (I snagged a bunch of Robin Hollow Farm mums) left over from Debra’s Eco-Floral Design workshop and we haven’t had a frost yet so I grabbed plectranthus and spiraea foliage from the backyard and ended up with three little bouquets. Perfect subject matter, as it happens, for my return to painting. (Will I up the ante and pledge to make paintings of each arrangement? Maybe.) Next week, after our first polar vortex melts the annuals and strips branches, I’ll get to really sink my teeth into the challenge of finding/buying locally grown stems.
Do you bring flowers into the house? Do you pick from your own garden? Do you support your local flower farmers? Are you up for the challenge?
Yesterday, starting around 10 in the morning the sky opened over the longest running Fourth of July parade in the U.S. of A. It rained on miles of flag wavers, fire engines, Cub Scouts, Navy cadets, bagpipers, majorettes, trombone players, and drum corps. It poured on at least one politician running for governor, an ex-con running (again) for Providence mayor and all of the hands they shook and babies they kissed. It sogged picnics and postponed cookouts. It (temporarily) dampened everyone’s enthusiasm for illegal fireworks. And it soaked my dry-as-dust garden. Finally. This might sound unpatriotic coming from a resident of Bristol (admittedly, one of the few whose house is not draped in bunting) but after a long stretch of breezy, cloudless, and mostly crisp and perfect blue skies, for me it was the best day of summer so far.
Near as I can figure — why aren’t weather websites more forthcoming with historical statistics? — almost 3” fell here. (There was a good 5” at least in my tubtrug this morning. For accuracy’s sake, I really should invest in a proper rain gauge…) Even though a lot of it fell too fast-and-furious not to just run off into the bay, for a few hours at least, while I took advantage of its steadiness to spend blissfully lazy hours reading fiction on the couch and listening to distant drums with a dog on my feet, it soaked the soil and I swear today I could actually watch my garden start growing again. And not just the crabgrass either.
Is your garden getting the weather it needs? Are you thoroughly enjoying your holiday weekend too?