“sun’s out!,” time to plant?

What a difference a day makes, even here in the Pacific Northwest! The sun’s rays are showering down on all the tree tops; glistening raindrops hanging ever so delicately from the twiggy branches of the apple tree. It feels like spring. Yet I have to remind myself that the calendar on the desk top reads January 19. No scurrying out to weed or plant bulbs. I did that when we first moved from the east coast 13 years ago.

Having left icy winters behind whose last dregs were not gone until Memorial Day, I was elated to find that here in the Seattle burbs my garden began to show signs of new birth in February. So I got outside and sloshed around in the mud, oft-times kneeling in it to pull out unwanted stuff, and replace them with finds I’d discovered at Molbak’s or Squawk Mountain Nursery.

I wallowed in early spring, in the sunshine, in the sweet smell of new growth. I loved the sun warmly beating against my bent back, as I toiled away in the dirt. I am my mother’s daughter, I’d think to myself. She left me her “green thumb,” and she’d be proud at my constant use of it, even when I lived in Redding, Connecticut.

Friends, neighbors, and passersby would often comment upon the lovely cottage garden that surrounded our small, Victorian farmhouse. I strived to outdo myself each year. But my loveliest memory is of the abundance of wildflowers which grew from a packet. I sprinkled its contents on either side of the walkway leading to our front porch. Never one for math, I overlooked the explanation that the seeds were to be spread over a larger area than where I’d chosen.

It seemed forever before the blooms all emerged. But as they filled in, overwhelming the space in which they grew, I was like a child experiencing nature’s glory for the first time. Every morning I’d bound out the front door, which slammed shut with a loud bang. I’d walk the path, oohing and aahing at the varieties, the colors, the scents. I couldn’t count the number of wildflowers peeking out from behind one another. I tried picking favorites but gave up, because en-masse they were all beautiful!

Soon the bees came calling. And the butterflies, tiny ones and Monarchs, began congregating in my garden. Nearby, robins and finches twittered and chirped in the massive, overhanging, rhododendron shrub. Being careful not to get stung by a busy bee, my husband, daughter and I would plop ourselves down on the porch steps or an outdoor bench. Gazing upon Mother Nature’s handiwork, we were enthralled by what she could do with one inexpensive, little packet of seeds.

Those among you who are gardeners, probably know the ending to my story. Yes, it didn’t take long, perhaps a few weeks, before happiness turned to sorrow. With the first heavy downpour, my glorious, little garden nearly drowned in the onslaught. Hardier flowers were able to lift their heads once more, but the more fragile were too frail to pick themselves up again. I tried for a time to help, leaning some against others for support, propping others up with twine and stakes. Before long I too gave in, digging up the whole mess, save for a few that didn’t “throw in the towel” like me.

I replanted with specimens that were tried and true. Though the results were lovely, they never recaptured that brief moment when our house and its front path looked as though Cinderella and her fairy godmothers lived there, or Snow White and the seven dwarfs, or Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.

Throughout the first decade of her life however, my daughter loved the first home she ever knew, and all the flowers that grew in its gardens. And so, while I could never replicate my cottage garden fantasy, I’ve continued to make my garden here my own. I try very hard to follow planting instructions, but I’m still inclined to want every plant that I fancy to have a home with me. Grumbling to dissuade me, my husband is usually won over, and moves plants to make room for a new neighbor, or two, or three.

But thank goodness my energy’s maxing out as the years pass, for my garden space is maturing as well, meaning that it’s maxed out too. Although there’s still that wild, unkempt patch of brush at the top right of our driveway. I Wonder what I can do there? Hmmm…

it never ends…nature’s beauty, i mean…hugmamma.

“moments” of unsurpassed beauty

I find great pleasure in gardening because I can work the soil and create my own special “magic,” by melding ground covers, vines, grasses, perennials, annuals, bulbs, shrubs and trees, according to their individual “personalities,” colors,  fragrances, and textures. My finished “masterpiece” may never be picture perfect, since it’s always a work in progress. But each “snapshot” captures a moment of breathtaking beauty.

I feel blest when nature graces my garden in the form of butterflies and birds, particularly the elusive hummingbird. I may see one or two through the growing season. So when a friend sent me the following, I was amazed. I’m certain you will be too…hugmamma. 

autumn, on the east coast

I’m back visiting with my daughter in the east where Fall is happening, if only somewhat. Walking around the surrounding neighborhoods and nearby park, it felt like summer had made a comeback. I wished I’d thought to pull a baseball cap down over my brow, for the sun was beating down relentlessly. Whenever  possible I’d wander down tree-lined streets, reveling in the overhead shade.  Every now and then, a passing breeze cooled my cheeks. Only then could I gaze about, observing the stately homes that sat in the midst of lush, green lawns, as though they were holding court.

Here and there, chrysanthemum filled planters  emblazoned front stoops with autumn hues of reds, golds, oranges. Flower beds were weeded, some sporting dried hay, ready for winter. I felt a momentary sense of dread, as I thought of the overgrown garden awaiting me at home. It’s been in need of some serious TLC for several months.

Right or wrong, I’ve always favored a garden where plants grow in close proximity, like good friends and neighbors. Eventually, weeding is down to a minimum, a great benefit. Bending over to pull bits of unwanted green from the soil is back-breaking work. Regardless of the gizmos and gadgets I’ve invested in through the years, weeding is still a pain, worsening as I’ve aged. Heavy weeding in early spring, means regular visits to my chiropractor for adjustments.  I’ve finally heeded her advice to take periodic breaks while working in the garden. No more all day benders.

The disadvantage of growing plants too closely is that my garden eventually resembles a mini jungle. Making my way down the pebbled path that winds its way through the midst of the garden, I often think I should carry a machete to lop off overhanging branches from the Buddleia (butterfly) bush and the pink flowering dogwood tree, and cut back tall stalks of Rudbeckia daisies and overgrown Sedum. But pruning 2 or 3 times during the growing season, more than compensates for weed control throughout. So I’ll gladly keep my mini jungle.

I often think my daughter has the best of both worlds. She lives in an apartment complex with lovely landscaping, cared for by a team of maintenance men. I’d love to supervise my own caretakers. But I’m biding my time, for when my husband retires he promises to tend the garden, leaving me to manage the house. Great! No more weeding. And no more worrying that I’ll come face to face with a bear, as I round the corner of my garage. Until then, I’m still weeding, pruning AND worrying.

autumn, hugs for…hugmamma.

hawaiian garbage, literally

Indians to U.S.: Take Out Trash – Washington State Tribe Sues to Keep Hawaiian Garbage Off Ancestral Lands” demonstrates our seeming disregard for the environment. Rather than find a long-term solution that benefits the planet and future generations, we prefer the less diligent response of wanting to hand it off to someonelse. Just as this particular dilemma isn’t new, neither is the solution. But will we ever resolve it once and for all?

The Yakama Indian tribe sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture to halt “shipment of municipal waste from Honolulu to a private landfill by the Columbia River.” A temporary restraining order by a federal court in Spokane on 7/29 prohibited the first shipment. Judge Edward Shea concurred with the Indians that the waste posed a potential threat to their use of neighboring land in the preservation of their cultural heritage. “In their complaint…the Yakama cited fear of invasive plant species from Hawaii, as well as microbes, insects and other pests that could attach themselves to the trash cargo and contaminate Yakama lands.” The 60-page diatribe went on to say that “future fishing stocks” would be threatened and that ” ‘Yakima citizens gather huckleberries and chokecherries and roots like lammush and bitter-root and pick various flowers and plants from the lands surrounding the Landfill–all for use as food or medicine,’…”

Beginning in 2004 landfills on the mainland offered to accommodate municipal waste from Honolulu, strapped for landfill. Eventually settling upon a site in Klickitat County, Washington “along the Columbia River dividing Washington from Oregon”, Hawaiian Waste Systems began “bailing tons of trash in anticipation of the 2,600-mile voyage from Hawaii. From the port of Longview, Wash., the bales of trash were to be taken by rail to a landfill in Roosevelt. While that route skirts the 1.4-million acre Yakama reservation, it would pass through the ‘ceded area’ the Yakama claim as a result of an 1855 peace treaty ending hostilities between the tribe and the federal government.” Rather than concoct a solution that expends so much time, effort and money in its logistical maneuvering, wouldn’t it make better sense to apply as much, or more, man hours and dollars in delineating a permanent resolution, like recycling?

Where we live in Washington State, we are required to recycle into jumbo bins, all plastics coded #1 and #2, all glass, and paper, as well as food garbage and yard waste designated for composting. What’s left that can’t be recycled is emptied into a small trash can. Our daughter is also required to recycle where she lives, as I’m sure people in other states are forced to do as well. Why then is Hawaii still exempt?

It’s hard to imagine that one of the loveliest states in the Union sends its ugly garbage hither and yon, in search of a dumping ground. It is  difficult to justify preserving the land of one native people who, consciously or unconsciously, irretrievably destroy the land of another native people. The Law requires travelers between the islands and  elsewhere, declare the transportation of fresh foods and plants. The concern, of course, being the infiltration of insects and other life forms which might destroy native species and their habitats. Shouldn’t the same consideration extend to the Yakama and their native species and their environs? 

Western civilization seems adept at pondering deeply the preservation of our capitalist society, but gives so little thought to the preservation and prosperity of the earth and its natural resources. Are we a narcissistic people, only concerned with ourselves and our needs? Is it inevitable that unless we change our ways, we may ultimately “pull the plug” on ourselves?

here’s hoping we don’t…hugmamma.