To Buy or Not to Buy

The last two times Arbor Day Foundation sent me a gift to thank me for my donation (though really, it’s not so much as a donation as payment for the gift), the plants and bulbs were worthless. The plants were too tiny to plant, though in retrospect, I should have put them in a pot and babied them, but considering that I didn’t remember ordering them and didn’t even know what they were, it didn’t really matter what I did with them. The bulbs I got at the beginning of summer were a disappointment. Only one gladiolus bloomed, and I’m afraid if I dig up the bulbs like they suggest and replant them next year, the same thing will happen, so I’m going to cover them with some sort of mulch and leave them where they are. Maybe with an earlier start, they’d be okay.

Normally I’m not disappointed in the failure of Arbor Day Foundation “gifts” because I know how seldom they thrive, at least with me as their caretaker, but I was disappointed in the bulbs because the bulb collection they sent last year did well.

Because of the disappointment, I’d decided to toss away any further solicitations unread, but today, as I started to shred the card with my name on it, I noticed the most beautiful blooms. These are yellow, light orange, and apricot, and last year’s collection (the one that did well), was pink and purple.

I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t tear up the card, I mean. I know even if the bulbs bloom, they will never look like the photo, but even if one of the bulbs comes up, it will be a delight. So I’ve added this card to the stack of planting items to order this weekend when I have time to concentrate.

In my defense, I received a flower catalog yesterday, and though the gardens portrayed made me envious, I set aside the catalog and didn’t order from it, so perhaps my will power was all used up, and that’s why this gorgeous sunset-colored collection of bulbs got to me.

And the plants I’m not buying? Well, there is still plenty of time for me to change my mind, and if I remain steadfast and don’t change my mind, there’s always next year. So, it seems, when it comes to plants, bulbs, and seeds, my quandary is not “to buy or not to buy,” but “to buy now or to buy later.”

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Just Like That

Awhile back, I accepted a job as a part-time caregiver (more of a companion, to be honest) for an older woman. I promised to stay a year, and wow! Just like that (snapping my fingers), the year is gone. I signed up for another few months, which is nice for all concerned. I get along well with the women, both the client and her permanent caregiver, they get a break from each other, and I get help with some of my expenses, most notably, my gardening expenses.

I spent a nice chunk of my paycheck on bulbs to plant for this fall. I got carried away, and so my spare time (weather permitting), will be spent preparing the soil for the bulbs. I have a good idea where the bulbs will go, so that’s good. Tulips will go alongside one of my garden paths, and lilies will go to augment the lilies I already have, so that eventually I will have a lily forest.

One area of the yard I have no idea what to do with is the six-foot space between the two sidewalks in my back yard that lead from my back door to the garage and gazebo. This year, I just planted whatever seeds I had plus any extraneous purchased plants. What seemed like a good idea has devolved into rather a mess, and I don’t want a repeat of that next for next year.

I’ve been considering a combination of cosmos, zinnia, larkspur, and baby’s breath because all of those go well together, but since those are all tall plants, I’m not sure how well they’d fit in the overall scheme of my yard. I considered various flowering groundcovers, but none of the samples I bought and planted seemed to take hold. In fact, some of them simply disappeared.

Luckily, I don’t have to make any decision about that particular garden space quite yet. We haven’t even made it through this summer. But the fall and winter will go fast (in fact, by the time next spring comes around, my most recent job stint will have come to an end), and I’ll need to have some idea what to do. I guess if inspiration doesn’t strike, I’ll go with my idea of zinnias, cosmos, larkspur and baby’s breath. Considering that those are all annuals, it would give me an extra year to decide what would look good in that area. Maybe a perennial about a foot tall with big showy flowers. I have no idea what that would be, but it would give me a place to start looking, because (snap) just like that, it will be spring and time to plant.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Possible Dreams

As I water my various plants, I daydream about what the yard will look like in the coming years, assuming I can keep up with the work. I hadn’t realized I would like lilies, but I find them amusingly cheerful. I looked up my order for the lilies I planted and discovered they are orienpet lilies, a combination of oriental lilies and trumpet lilies. To be honest, I hadn’t remembered planting them. Luckily, they remembered! Apparently, their lying dormant the first year is not unusual. Even better, every year they’re supposed to get bigger than the previous year, and eventually they will grow to be six feet tall. Now I am dreaming of a lily forest. I bet it will be beautiful, especially if I order more lilies to fill in the space around where these lilies are growing. And since I water and weed that area anyway, there won’t be any extra work once the lilies are planted.

Although the lilies are supposed to be strong enough not to need staking, mine are still so young that I need to invest in some garden stakes. Right now I am using wooden stakes leftover from the various concrete jobs around the property, but although functional, they detract too much from the flowers.

Another place I have dreams for is the area in front of the lilacs along the path next to the garage. It seems perfect for tulips. I water there anyway, just like with my future lily forest, so once the bulbs are planted, there won’t any extra work. And it won’t look like a mess once the flowers have faded.

I felt more like playing in my yard today than I have the past couple of weeks, so I harvested hollyhock seeds, which I am willing to share with anyone local who wants some. Just let me know. I also cut down a couple of the spent hollyhock stalks that were unsightly, but that only made the weeds along the fence more apparent. I’m thinking it would be a good idea to extend the slag driveway along the fence line to help with the problem. There will be way too much inside the fence for me to take care of without having to worry about anything outside the fence. I also did a bit of weeding, but wore out quickly. And anyway, I had to put the gardening on hold because I needed to start my car. Even though the brakes aren’t fixed yet (the brakes work, but the brake warning light still comes on), I’ve been doing a bit of driving just to keep the car mobile.

It still amazes me how gardening has gotten into my blood. When I first moved here, all I could think of was putting in some sort of landscaping that would take care of itself, and now I’m dreaming of a mini estate that will take plenty of work.

But we all need dreams, right? And not impossible ones either.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Gardening Chores

I went out this morning to do a couple of quick gardening chores. Two hours later, dirty, sweaty, and exhausted, I finally gave up. Each chore had led to another, until it seemed (and rightly so) that I’d never be finished. I suppose that’s both the frustration and fun of gardening — that there is always something that needs to be done, and that there is also always an excuse to go outside and play in the dirt.

I did accomplish some of what I wanted to do. I planted the bulb collection I got from the Arbor Day Foundation.

I realize this summer cutting garden will never look like the photo they sent — for one thing, the plants all flower at different times, and for another, I planted them in a straight line at the back of the flower garden I’m creating outside the one window I regularly look out of.

And then there is the problem with the gardener. (Meaning me.) A rank amateur, that’s for sure! Though admittedly, I am learning, and I am managing to keep some things alive besides waist-high weeds. As you can see, my marigolds and the cherry tomato plant are doing well despite the grass that insists on growing back.

After I planted the bulbs (being careful to follow the directions, which I don’t always do, but I wanted to make sure the bulbs at had at least a slim chance of coming up), I pulled weeds. Then I trimmed a tree/bush. It’s a locust that was cut down a couple of years ago, but it continues to grow. I’ve been undecided about keeping it since I’m not sure I want the responsibility of trimming it as I grow older, so I thought I’d have the tree guy grind out the stump when he comes to grind up all the other on the property, but I kind of like it. It looks like a fern with its tall, wavy branches.

After trimming the tree, I pulled more weeds. There are still more weeds to pull, and the weed patch I laughingly call my lawn needs to be mowed again. I also need to transplant some bulbs that will be buried under gravel if the landscaper ever comes back to do some more work, and then . . . yep, there’s always something!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Things Are Happening

I dragged out my hoses today and watered my plants. I don’t know if it was the right thing to do, since I don’t know if they need water, but I am erring on the side of wetness. We haven’t had any moisture for several days now, and the last time it rained for any length of time was more than a couple of weeks ago. Considering that today was the first of a series of 80 degree days, the water seemed called for, but I might be sorry when the temperatures drop again. And they will. The last frost around here is around the fifth of May, and that’s still a month away.

The problem with an area like this with early warm temperatures and late frosts is that so often plants grow expecting it to be spring and then go into shock when they realize they woke too early.

Eventually, I’m sure, I’ll be more confident when it comes to gardening, but for now I have to do what I think the plants will appreciate during these unseasonably warm days, and that is give them water and hope I’m not overwatering.

So far, it seems, most of my bushes came through the winter okay. The only ones that seem to have given up the ghost are those that struggled all last summer. Luckily, I am in this for the long haul, so the garden spots in my yard don’t have to be perfect. It’s more important for me to cultivate plants that will survive the wide swings of temperatures.

The most surprising thing so far this spring is that bulbs are springing up all over the place. The first fall I was here, I planted 300 bulbs all around the front lawn area, hoping to see flowers midst the green, but not only did a scant few of the bulbs peek out of the ground, the grass remained inert, too. I figured the bulbs were a lost cause, but apparently not.

It’s amazing what even a sort of wet winter will do! So far, though, only the greenery is visible. No buds. The crocuses bloomed, but they were short-lived. Now the glory of the snow is coming up, and they seem to be hanging around a bit longer than the crocuses did.

Someday, maybe, I will have a yard to be proud of, but for now, the bushes are still tiny, the greengage plums are trying to decide if they want to live here, and many of my fall plantings seem to be hibernating.

Tomorrow, perhaps, a couple of the workers will come to lay out more rock. (Another reason I watered today. I didn’t want to get in their way if they do show up.)

So little by little, things are happening.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

A Thrill of Rain

It rained last night and most of the day. The dreariness of the dark clouds and the windblown drops could have made this an unpleasant day, but instead, there seemed to be a feeling of excitement, as if the sodden ground was thrilled by the possibilities of spring.

Or maybe it’s just me feeling thrilled. After the dryness of the past years, seeing so much rain is a joy. Besides, the chance of seeing green shoots this year, perhaps some flowers, adds a bit of effervescence to the grayness, though I don’t want to get too excited. After all, there are still weeks of possible freezes coming up, and around here, any freeze after the start of spring can kill off incipient blossoms or keep them from budding in the first place.

Still, it’s fun dreaming of greener days.

During the fall, when the workers were here putting in the sidewalk, they used a skid steer, which pretty much tore up my lawn, though lawn is a misnomer. Since I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the yard, last year I didn’t water what grass there was, so basically the workers just created more bare spots in the brown grass.

People tell me that Bermuda grass is hard to kill, so I’m hoping the rain will resurrect the grass in the dead zones. If not, I’ll think of something to plant once the pathways are in. That way, I’ll know where to plant things so I can take care of them. The scattershot approach to planting bulbs seemed like a good idea, but without knowing where I’d planted things, I didn’t know where to water when rain was scarce. This year, every time I see a bulb, I mark it with a stake, so I’ll know where to water. For now, the clouds are doing the watering for me, dumping plenty of moisture on the grateful ground. We won’t be warming up too much in the next few days, so perhaps the ground will remain wet for a while, giving any lazy bulbs time to wake up.

The gray day put the croci to sleep, but one more dwarf iris did find its way to the surface. A pleasant surprise in a surprisingly pleasant day.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Croci

The plural of crocuses can be crocuses or croci, but either way, a plurality of crocuses is a beautiful sight.

I didn’t realize it, but crocuses are from the iris family. Even more interesting to me is that crocuses were originally grown as a spice — saffron — though not all crocuses yield saffron. Saffron only comes from the saffron crocus, a fall blooming crocus.

I don’t know why, but I never particularly liked crocuses. Maybe they weren’t showy enough for me or too low to the ground or some such, but now I am delighted with mine, especially since the blooms were a surprise. Only yesterday, the plants looked like tiny tufts of grass, and considering my non-green thumb, I wasn’t expecting anything from them, though did I hope they might bloom eventually.

When I stepped outside this morning to see if there were any new signs of life, the croci were in bloom, a welcome splash of color in my otherwise drab yard.

I made my rounds, checking the ground for other signs of life, and found another area where crocuses might be coming up. It’s like an Easter egg hunt, though I don’t collect the plants, I merely mark them so I don’t end up walking on them.

I planted the crocuses this past fall, and I spent a lot of time digging a flower bed, measuring the proper depth, and making sure they had enough water all through the winter. In the rest of the yard, the shoots digging their way up to the sun are a surprise since so few of them came up last year, and because of the drought, I figured they’d all died. Such a surprise to see so many potential flowers!

Once my paths are in place, I might even find the courage to plant more bulbs this fall. Or I might chance planting a few bulbs this spring in the hopes of summer blooms. The problem is that because of our winters, the spring-planted bulbs need to be dug up every fall and replanted in the spring, and I haven’t want to do that, but as time goes on, and I get more comfortable with gardening (and the plants stop taking one look at me and dying in despair), I might be more willing to do the work.

Meantime . . .

Croci!

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Frigid Temperatures on the Way

I spent the morning getting my yard ready for the frigid weather that’s headed our way. I did one last watering, then stored the hoses and insulated the outside faucets.

And I planted bulbs.

After last year’s fiasco, where I planted many bulbs and almost none came up (due probably to my following directions and not watering them during the early spring drought as I probably should have), I hadn’t planned to do any more bulb gardens, but I donated a few dollars to the Arbor Day Foundation, and they sent me bulbs for a purple garden.

I followed their directions exactly. Dug down deep to loosen the soil in the whole garden area (as difficult as it was, it was easier than it sounds because this particular garden is only about two-and-a half by four feet), planted the bulbs at the requisite depth, and watered extremely well.

I took a picture of my garden, but it looks like . . . dirt! So here is the photo of what it would look next spring in the hands of a real gardener:

Halfway through all this work, I wondered if I was jumping the winter gun because I was HOT. By the time I finished rolling up the hoses, however, cold winds had sprung up, bringing a promise — or a warning — of cooler weather. Although the high today will be near seventy, the low tonight will be in the twenties, and tomorrow we won’t warm up beyond the mid-forties. Saturday will be warm again, in the seventies, and then it will get really cold, down to 10 or 15 degrees with a high around freezing. Brr. Just the thought makes me shiver.

Luckily, I just stocked up on tea! Nothing warms me — body and soul — like a special tea. The one I’m drinking now is called Breakfast in Paris, and is a combination of black teas, lavender, bergamot oil, and vanilla. Very nice! Though truthfully, I could still enjoy the tea if frigid temperatures weren’t on the way.

***

What if God decided to re-create the world and turn it into a galactic theme park for galactic tourists? What then?

Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God
Click here to purchase the Kindle version of Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Deep Thoughts. Or Not

My last few posts have been more think pieces than my usual diary-like posts as I tried to figure out the truth of what is going on, but today, there isn’t a single thought in my head. Not a deep thought. Not a silly thought. Just . . .

It’s been a pleasant day so far, but I’m not sure it has anything to do with thinking, overthinking, or no thinking. It’s more a matter of having accomplished something.

I’d ordered some summer bulbs a few months ago, thinking my garage would be done by now and I could start landscaping, but nope. Not a single wall has gone up. Even worse, the yard is cluttered with building materials, the things that are supposed to stored in the garage, a metal carport that has already been traded but not yet taken away, and leftovers from the fence and other projects.

Still, the bulbs were just sitting in their packing materials, probably crying out for the sun, so I found a place for them in the yard that won’t be in the way of the workers when/if they ever show up.

I even connected a hose to the front yard water faucet, which is not as easy as it might seem. In fact, last fall when I tried to connect a hose, water spewed all over the place. Enough came through the hose that I was able to water the bulbs I’d just planted. (Some of which recently peeked above the ground, saw who was going to take care of them, and committed hari-kari instead of waiting for my ignorance to do the job for them. Others didn’t even bother checking to see what was going on.) Today, I cleaned the rust from the nozzle with Vaseline, and then the nozzle screwed on.

Such excitement, right?

I hope your day is as pleasant as mine is.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Treasure Hunt

I’ve been going on a treasure hunt every day, looking for signs of spring. A few leaves from the bulbs I planted have started peeking through the soil, which has been fun to see.

Even better, as a special surprise, I found one dwarf iris blooming in a far corner of the yard.

I suppose it’s just as well most of the bulbs haven’t yet broken ground — it’s snowing right now, and I’m not sure how hardy the poor things are. It’s not that cold, though, so they should be okay. (I’m okay too, sitting here at my warm computer, thinking of the flowers to come, and drinking a cup of blueberry tea.)

The most interesting aspect of the bulbs so far are the ones I didn’t plant. Last year, I noticed there were a few flowers by the garage — a crocus, an allium or two, and a couple of daffodils.

We thought it was the watering of that small garden plot that caused the problems with the garage’s foundation, so I tried to move as many bulbs as I could. I dug deep and sifted through the soil several times, and thought I’d gotten them all, but this year, there is an expanse of growing bulbs — several dozen at least. Considering my efforts to dig up the bulbs, the disturbance of the soil when the garage was torn down, and the additional digging when the sidewalk was pried up, there really shouldn’t have been any bulbs left. But there they are — if they survive the snow.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.