Golden Leaves

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I’m looking out over an ocean of golden leaves that covers and hides my garden. They are glorious, like gold coins, and I am the millionaire who owns them.

Soon enough they will turn brown but I don’t care. Today I am the golden leaf millionaire.

I should consider raking them up, but not today. Today I am the golden leaf millionaire.

For days the leaves have hung on the tree, gold coins against a vivid blue sky, but now they are falling, showering the path, the plants, the soil with gold.

Toddlers and dogs bounce in the piles, laughing, barking with joy. The spiders have cursed the weight of the leaves as they weigh down their webs. The earwigs have blessed the leaves as they have scuttled to hide underneath them.

Nature excels in profligacy – she has so many leaves on so many trees, each autumn for so many years. A few sample leaves would have done. We could have put them under glass in a museum. We would then have valued them highly and a few men might have made plans to steal them and sell them to a collector for a fortune.

But no, we have so many golden leaves that we complain about them and rake them up. Their only value is as compost. But my golden leaves have value as I stare out the window at them.

The sun is making them lustrous, glowing. Their brightness is almost overwhelming. I bask in their richness.

At some point they will turn brown and crisp. Like all wealth they turn to dross in the face of the ultimate realities. I will no longer be a golden leaf millionaire, I will be a gardener facing an annual task.

The worms will pull some leaves down into the soil and the micro-organisms will go about their dutiful work preparing the soil to get ready for the work of enriching the tree to create next year’s harvest.

More golden leaves then. Again for a few days I will be the golden leaf millionaire.

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Why Foxglove Corner?

20150730_125643Once upon a time – about five years ago – my garden had a foxglove year.

Has your garden ever decided that this year one particular species of flower will do exceedingly well? Not kinda well or very well but sensationally well. It’s like you hit the jackpot of that particular species that year.

Five years ago for me it was foxgloves. For no reason I can fathom foxgloves grew and flourished all over my garden. I had foxgloves in every corner, foxgloves across the back, foxgloves standing sentry at every corner of the house. I was overwhelmed with foxgloves.

I wanted them to last forever. They were so glorious, such an improvident splurge of pink. Bees loved them and it  was then I realized that bees have to completely disappear inside the flower to reach the pollen. I’d see a bee then it would be gone, only to reappear a few moments later to continue its task.

There were so many bees appearing and disappearing that I thought I might set up as a sort of bee traffic cop. “You, the bee that just arrived, over to the left, and start at the bottom, then work upwards.”

“You, start on the tall foxglove over there, but watch out for the big bee half way up – you can’t see him right now but he’s been working the stem for the last ten minutes.”

Somehow they managed their own system without my assistance. There was no bee quarreling and the plants stood still and tall, allowing their pollen to be harvested.

I thought with all this pollination there would be even more foxgloves the following year, but no. A few grew, but no glorious excess. However, I had already named my garden “Foxglove Corners”. The year of the foxglove is permanently etched in my memory.

With time, of course, even that splendiferous display faded. The flowers died. I pulled the plants up and consigned them to the compost. I wished that glory could have lasted forever.

But glory that lasts for ever is no longer glory – it becomes standard issue. You see a beautiful rose and it leaves you breathless with its perfection. So you go to a display of the local rose society and you see hundreds of perfect roses. Rose perfection becomes standard issue. You go home and realize that your own roses are nice but a long way short of perfection. The magic has vanished.

I believe that nature occasionally gives us a glimpse of her magic. When I was a child my grandfather would once in a while open up his big old-fashioned watch and show me the workings ticking away. It was like magic to me, so much happening in such a tiny space.

Once in a while nature allows us a peek at her magic. If you spend time in your garden you increase the odds of seeing the magic – you’re around it more and you become sensitized to it.

Sometimes it’s big, flamboyant magic, like a garden full of pink foxgloves. Sometimes it’s tiny magic, like a hummingbird bathing. It’s not woo-woo magic. It’s magic like someone lifted a corner of an invisible curtain and you alone were able to see what lies behind it.

I was privileged to have my foxgloves for a whole summer. ‘Foxglove Corner’ keeps the magic alive for me.

Growth

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Growth takes time. Be patient. And while you’re waiting, pull a weed.    Emilie Barnes

It occurred to me today that our relationship with our garden is a little unequal.

I go out into the garden and I’m thinking “That buddleja is getting a bit straggly – I’d better cut it back. That hosta isn’t doing well. I’d better move it to somewhere that will give it more shade.”

My thoughts are about noticing what isn’t quite perfect and how I can improve it.

The garden never looks back at me and says, “You hair looks a bit straggly this morning. Why don’t you get it cut?”

Of course not. It sits there peacefully and lets me be me and you be you – just the way I am and the way you are.

It may be one reason we love our gardens – they don’t point out our imperfections and they don’t try to improve us. Yet at the same time they contribute to our wellness and they leave us a little closer to being our best self.

They encourage us to be patient – each flower blooms in its own season. You can’t pay for it to bloom earlier and you can’t use your advanced degree in engineering to build a stem that grows faster. You develop patience.

They show us how to accept what we can’t change, If that bush has fewer, smaller flowers than it had last year there is nothing much you can do but wait till next year. A tantrum will not improve the flowers, nor will threats or bribery. You can weep or swear or stamp your feet. It will make no difference.

Perhaps this is the reason we feel calmed and made to feel more peaceful by our garden. It has its own inevitability. We can go out there with problems or worries and it does not demand that we follow one solution or change our thinking. It does not even point out that we brought it on ourselves or that it’s all the fault of the government.

It goes steadily about its business of growing, leaving the complaints and rationalizations to us. We come away with some of that steadiness. For every ounce of  outer energy we put into our garden it gives us back a greater helping of inner strength.

It is, perhaps, a little unequal. But then, the garden has the power of nature behind it.

Forget Me not

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“We do not see nature with our eyes but with our understandings and our hearts.”

William Hazlett

The tiny flower we call forget-me-not has the Latin name myosotis. This comes from the Greek word meaning ‘mouse ears’. Apparently the Greeks looked at the tiny round petals and thought they looked like the ears of a mouse.

Myself, I don’t see it. Yes, both are tiny and rounded but a lot of other flowers have tiny round petals too, so why choose the forget-me-not for this name?

I understand its common name – forget-me-not – rather better. It comes from medieval times and other European languages have a name for it that translates the same. In those times blue was considered to be the colour of fidelity so a knight heading off on a crusade would give his lady something blue to remember him by.

It was often worn by ladies as a sign of faithfulness and lasting love. Hence the wedding mantra ‘Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue’.

In a German legend, God was naming all the plants when a tiny one not yet named called, “Forget-me-not, O Lord!” And God smiled and said, “That shall be your name.”

Thoreau wrote, “The mouse-ear forget-me-not, Myosotis laxa, … hangs over the edge of the brook.” It reminds  us that the forget-me-not likes a damp corner.

It isn’t a showy flower but it can make an effective background against which to display brilliant tulips in springtime.

But back to mouse ears. It reminds us of the power of individual perception. So much is in the eye of the beholder. One person looks at a tiny blue flower and thinks of remembrance and faithfulness. Another sees mouse ears. Is one right and one wrong? Or do we give thanks for our different understandings?

Can we combine the two, as Thoreau did?

Some gardeners see a pretty flower and welcome the forget-me-not every spring time. Others say it spreads so fast it is practically a weed and they root it out. Is one side right and the other side wrong? Or is it simply another perception?

Springier

My small miniature daffodils are in full bloom now and just looking at them makes me happy. Their taller cousins are just starting to bloom The palest and least dramatic ones seem to bloom first, followed by daffodils with stronger colours and frillier shapes.

A tiny scilla plant lives quietly under the gravel of my side path and blooms cheerfully every spring. Its tiny blue flowers brighten a spot where no flowers ought to bloom. It is precious to me for that reason.

The grass is thickening up nicely and will soon be ready for its first cut of the season. Along the steep bank above the house ragamuffin dandelions are starting to flower. They remind me of the poor children of Charles Dickens’ Victorian England – overlooked, undervalued and disregarded – but irrepressible.

Just once so far I have been awakened by the song of a robin. “Here I am, a fine fellow! Strong, handsome, hard-working. I will build a fine nest for you! I will hunt for food for our babies! Lady robins, check me out! See how early I am awake! You won’t find a finer robin husband anywhere! Look at me!

I haven’t heard him since, so perhaps his song was successful.

March 4th

I’m loving the signs of spring – new ones every day. In the garden first there were the pale mauve species crocus, and now the deep purple ones brighten the garden. On a sunny day they open their cups to the warmth and light, showing off their bright orange centres. Purple and orange together – who’d a thunk it?

They stood bravely until a very heavy downpour of rain yesterday morning. They some quietly laid down on the moss. I keep watching them today to see if any have the strength to stand up again.

I have a tiny cluster of snowdrops too. Each year I plant snowdrop bulbs and they disappear over the winter, except for this one cluster that return faithfully every spring. They grow up through a small heather plant and it looks as if the heather plant has snowdrop flowers.

A few primula are braving the weather too – tiny punctuation marks of colour, randomly spread. Some of the later bulbs are stirring to life too – daffodils, tulips and bluebells anticipating warmer weather. Above them the hazel catkins tremble in a gust of wind and even the red alder catkins are lengthening.It’s the most encouraging time of year.

Renee’s Garden

This morning I received an envelope from Renee’s Garden. Besides sending me a free package of seeds (and I love freebies) Renee sent me a color brochure of her new varieties and descriptions of all the flower, veggie and herb seeds she sells.

Now I don’t know Renee, but I went to her web site (www.reneesgarden.com) and found out that she actually is a real person and that the warm, homey feeling you get as you read her brochure carries right through to all the company’s business. Yes, there is a professional staff but she tries hard to stock organic seeds and she is very conscious of avoiding GM products. In addition she asks garden centres who stock her seeds to give away left over seed packets to non-profit organizations. Her seeds are being used around  the world – not just for outdoor education but also for sheer food production in places where fresh green veggies are an almost unimaginable luxury.

Oh, yes, and she’s in the business of selling seeds – carefully selected seeds from carefully selected growers. She’s been in the business for 24 years and has highly trained staff to support her. Her seed packets are attractive and have generous planting information on each.

Now maybe I’m just an innocent and all this is just marketing hype, but I don’t think so. I’ll be buying her seeds this year. Check out the website:  http://www.reneesgarden.com