Thursday, August 28, 2014

Summer in Review

Maybe the best spot from which to view my garden is the upstairs bathroom window, while sitting on the pot. I don't know if it is the angle and perspective down onto the garden, and the particularly nice view of the corner of the vegetable garden where, outside of the fence, there is a mix of plants that somehow looks just right, or if it is the enforced stillness that makes it the best place to actually see the garden. I don't know that I ever really look at it, except from that window. I sometimes wonder what my neighbor sees and thinks if she looks up at dusk and sees my head, back lit, peeking behind the bathroom curtain and down into the garden.

It has been a cool and lovely summer, a nice one for being out in and for looking out at. Last winter's polar vortex blasted many things, including the stink bugs and, I think, some of the Asian tiger mosquitoes. Some of the more wonderful things that were blasted, too, like Noah's fig tree, have come back. The fig's regrowth is now about 6 feet high, with some small green figs just shaping up. The limbs are soft and seem tenuously connected to the ground, but hopefully the tree is really and truly back. Noah won't be climbing it any time soon, but at least his friend is alive and well. The butterfly bushes seem to have enjoyed their bashing by frost, and are blooming beautifully this summer, and the raspberries are large and flavorful. It has been a less friendly year for the annuals, which got a late start and are just now taking off.

Grant and I forgot our wedding anniversary this month, and it occurs to me that our anniversary is also my anniversary with this little plot of land (roughly speaking, anyway, much to my mother-in-law's horror at the time). Eleven years I have gardened this one fifth of an acre. I still remember the warm summer night we had our rehearsal dinner in the backyard, and how wonderful the cosmos and salvias looked in their crescent shaped bed that arced across the back yard. That bed is gone, and new beds have been made and unmade over the years. I don't think, though, that one has ever been as beautiful or hopeful as that first sweep of flowers cut through a scruffy lawn. Happy anniversary, garden. And you, too, Grant.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Loss

The fig has died, I am afraid. I don't usually get too sentimental or even upset by the death of a plant, even an old large one, because the space it opens up is a space for something new. But this fig tree is Noah's special place to go when he is sad, or happy, or just needing time alone, his "happy place," as he calls it. The winter was too much for it.

It may spring from its roots, I suppose, but it will be years before new shoots are sturdy enough to climb on, and by then Noah will be beyond tree climbing. How can that happen, that a boy's tree climbing years are so fleeting? You cannot grow a tree for a child to climb, you must have one ready for him, or maybe plant one for your grandchild.

I remember the last figs we ate off that tree. Betsy came over with her family, and we picked the figs for her to take home. And now they both are gone, the friend and the fig, done in by a winter that was far too cold.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Rats and Bleeding Hearts

The peas are well up, the lilacs are blooming, and the bleeding hearts are dripping their flowers over drifts of violets. I found today to my surprise that apple blossoms have a powerful, sweet scent. How did I not know that, after all these years in the garden?

While planting those bleeding hearts a few weeks ago I pulled up, in my bare hand, the dry skull of a rat. I knew it was a rat skull because I had put a dying rat under the shade of the rose of sharon last fall, after we found the screaming thing in the back yard, hurt and terrified and dying. I wondered then whether there was anything I could do for it, other than get it away from the dogs and keep it out of the sun. I considered all the grisly ways I could help it into the great beyond, but in the end could do nothing but give it shade and let it be. And so now when I look at the bleeding hearts I also remember a dying rat, and how it made me feel like a coward. There are hellebores and daffodils and hostas in that bed, too, and I like it very much.

The dogs may have been responsible for the rat, or it may have been the feral neighborhood cats. At Noah's suggestion we put in a little fish pond this spring, and stocked it with four little feeder fish from the pet store. They did well and grew madly for a few weeks, and I could see them jumping after food as I looked out the second floor bathroom window. And then one day three of them were gone, and today the last one went. The neighbor over the back fence says there is a heron that has eaten her neighbor's fish, and I suppose it could have also been a raccoon. But I see those cats in my backyard, walking the fence tops, and I blame them for it all, the fish, the rat, all of it.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A friend returns

The bat is back. I hope of course, that it is the bats, plural, that area back. It is the first really warm night of spring, an eighty degree day of sun and a mild night with soft breeze. And so as dark fell I went outside to look up as the stars appeared, and to wait for the bat, though not with much hope as there aren't yet very many bugs. But he arrived, my friend did. I wonder what kind he is, and if he is affected by the bat plague, and whether he is the last sad holdout of his kind, because there used to be multiple bats in the summer night sky, but the last years I have usually only seen the one. He looks to be larger than the little brown bats I've seen in Main, and one of which I removed from a terrified housemate's room in Boston. This guy, this suburban bat, seems of a more substantial kind.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Truly Spring

The daffodils are blooming, as are the camellias. The camellias are more brown than pink this year, due to the cold winter, but they are blooming none the less. The tops of the trees are blasted, though, with a foot or so of each high branch brown and crisp. There is a spray of cheerful forsythia draped over the fence behind the (still leafless) rose of sharon thicket. Below the rose of sharon, where I can see them from the living room window, I have moved the Hellebores that used to live in the shade of the ornamental plum tree by the kitchen. I thought they would thrive there, and that I would admire them when I gazed out the window on a cold day, but they have been ravaged by squirrels that seem to think that patch of ground is their private property. Other plant friends are starting to wake up - the snouts of lilies are poking above ground, the oregano is green and growing, and there are buds on the lilacs, though the flowers are weeks away, I think. I cut the year's first asparagus tonight. It is spring, truly.

I can't recall ever feeling so relieved that winter is over, as if this year winter were some malevolent force that we have suffered through. Like the camellias, I feel blackened by it. We did go sledding, and drink hot chocolate, and celebrate Christmas. And yet I hope there isn't another winter like this last one for a long time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Long Winter's End

There are crocuses blooming in the snow, and daffodils in bud. Plants, surely, have some inside information that this long cold winter is done? I have had enough of snow. There are things that have not made it through the winter: the tender buds of pink camellias, now frozen and brown; last year's growth on the figs, and maybe more; a dear friend, gone in a flash and leaving so much she loved behind her. She would have had more patience than I do for the platitudes and schlock about divine purpose. I usually take great comfort in knowing our world recycles life, all life, great and small, but this winter I haven't. Life into death into life is all well and good in the long view, but this winter there is a boy who needed his mom, and I refuse to try to find meaning in it.

But the crocuses are blooming, and perhaps the snow is done. Perhaps.