The Garden Chronicles ~ July 28, 2011

Gardening is edifying for me. I never seem to tire of it. Or reading… but that’s another post.

This spring’s six weeks of almost constant rain seemed to give my garden a turbo-boost of energy that’s resulted in lush and exuberant growth. Everything is doing amazingly well, except for my tiger sumac which Mark pruned on a hot day, promptly killing half of it. Apparently, tiger sumacs don’t take well to being sliced and diced in high humidity in mid-growth spurt. The colours in the garden are vivid and lively: sunny marigolds and dahlias, pink nicotiana, purple and white clematis, the new lime green growth of the black elderberry shrub, royal blue lobelia in the hanging baskets, and every other colour in the rainbow. The textures of garden delight me, too… the feathery plumes of the grasses, the waxy hens and chicks, the spidery raised veins of the caladium. The real satisfaction this year, in addition to the heady growth, is the more or less mature condition of the gardens in the backyard, a five year project finally completed. It’s the pinnacle of gratification to see my dreams come to life, a reasonable facsimile of the sketches I made when I retired five years ago.

It will always be a work in progress, though, as all gardens are. There are plants to prune or relocate. We pulled out eight older cedars this spring, and, wow, suddenly the pear tree in that corner, which had languished since we planted it, neither hot nor cold (something biblical there), started to grow like crazy. Sadly, my weeping cherry gave up the ghost. (also biblical). It was my second one at that. I’ve surrendered all hopes of having this exquisite and dainty tree be the focal point of my backyard. Our dense clay soil was declared the winner … and heavy-weight champion of the world! But another graceful tree with a multi-stemmed trunk and pale green variegated leaves has taken its place and looks just as flouncy and perfect. I don’t know its name, because it was given to me, but it’s doing just great. I love it. 

The most edifying thing about the garden, though, is simply how much time Mark and I spend there together. He enjoys all the things I don’t… removing baby rabbits (we won’t say how or in what ontological state… sentient or insentient), filling the bird feeder, buying and installing gadgets like solar spotlights, water sprinklers, and special wand attachments for the hoses (a new one with every trip to Home Depot). One night we heard a rustling in the patio pot behind him. Instantly I was down on one knee, ready to sprint away like a mutant superhero at Beast speed. He calmly lifted up the trailing bacopa and discovered a toad. He wondered if I wanted to kiss it. Oh, yes, we have fun in the garden.

Mark likes to encourage me by offering opinions on all my aesthetic choices… I think those cabbages would look better in rows, don’t you?  Or … that marijuana plant there needs to be pruned, doesn’t it?  I hasten to assure you that I have neither cabbages nor marijuana plants in my garden. When he says cabbages, he means my sedums, and the marijuana plant is my sumac. But he makes up new names for my plants every day, so I’m never quite sure which one he’s talking about. It’s fun to show him new blooms that are emerging, late growth on tardy plants, or how much weeding I got done during the day. He does a great job of pretending to be interested.

We like to watch the birds together. Of course, I’m terrified of them, so some of his enjoyment (OK, most of his enjoyment) comes from waiting and watching to see if any of our five resident blue jays will fly close enough to me to elicit a panicked squeal. He finds that amusing. Every night a neighbourhood cat tries to slink incognito along our fence on some obscure epistemological trek. But the blue jays always see him and dress him down with some seriously manic trash-talk. One night a couple of them actually dive-bombed him. It was quite the melee! Better him than me, I say. Mark gives the birds ridiculous names and the squirrels, too. Some of which are funny but not edifying, so I can’t share them here.

When we sit on the patio and have our coffee, watching the birds and the solar caps on the fence posts come on in uncanny conjunction with the fireflies, we can be quiet for long periods at a time. He’ll have a cigar (something I don’t like, but I don’t nag) and I will look at the garden. I might tell him that the fence is fantastic and thanks again for building that, honey. And that shed is the second-best one in Wyoming. By the way, thanks for building that, dear. I might tell him that I saw a hummingbird today. We’ll talk about the weather, of course, now that I’m a farmer, as he says, and what his golfing schedule will be… not that it ever changes. Golfing tomorrow? I’ll ask, and he’ll say, “Yep, I might, for a change.”

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