Gardening is Like Life

Sometimes gardening it too much like life to suit me. Come to think of it, gardening isn’t “like” life, it is life. All those plants and other living creatures go through the same sort of life cycles we do, with ups and downs, growth and stagnation, illness and death. They might not have to deal with the angst of their traumas, but we — in this case “I” — suffer the angst for them.

This has been a particularly confusing time for me garden-wise. The sun desiccates plants so quickly, that what was thriving yesterday, is all but dead today. I’m glad I took a photo of these petunias yesterday because today, not only are the flowers gone, but the plants themselves look as if they might not make it through another drastic heat wave.

The same thing happened to the zinnias, though I don’t know why. They generally like this climate and this area especially — at one time, 92% of all zinnia seeds were grown in this valley not far from here. Luckily, only the flowers desiccated. The plants themselves seem strong enough to produce more blossoms.

The grass especially confuses me. The large area of the lawn that had turned brown about a month ago was doing well until last night, and now it’s even worse than it was the first “brown” time. As if that weren’t bad enough, I’ve been infested with slime mold in a different area of the lawn. How the heck does such a dry climate even have slime mold spores? And how can a certain area be moist enough for the slime mold to take hold when the area all around it is gasping for a drink? (A while back, a cat with diarrhea left its offering in that very spot, so all I can think of is that it somehow ingested the spores and was generous enough to share.) Even though I clean up the slime mold every morning and sprinkle the grass with baking soda, it grows again overnight in a different spot.

And no, I didn’t take a picture of the white blob. I wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible; I certainly didn’t want to memorialize the creature. (I suppose it’s a creature, though it’s not an animal, a fungus, or a plant but an amoeba. A smart amoeba. Supposedly these plasmodium can solve problems even though they don’t have a brain. Sheesh. As if the life of a garden — and gardener — wasn’t horror enough.)

Another issue I encountered was with a hen and chick plant that flowered. This rooster, as the blooming rosette is called, came right on time. (They flower about every three years.) One gardener told me the flowering stage was the end of the cycle and to pull up the whole rosette so the “chicks” could grow. After I did that, I found out the flowers produce seed, so I could have left it until the rosette died on its own. See? Too much like life. Either way, the chicks will soon become hens. And that, too, is life.

Although I have enjoyed the wildflowers, I’m not sure if I’ll buy more seeds to plant next year. (I still have some left over, so I can change my mind about planting them at the last minute.) The blooms are staggered, so there’s not a lot of color at any one time, and the mass of plants mask weed and weedy grass growth. I’ll need to completely clear out some of the wildflower areas since that will be the only way to get rid of the weeds, but it won’t be a problem since most of the flowers were annuals anyway. The flowers that went to seed won’t be affected — the seeds should still grow.

One thing that does so very well here is the magnus echinacea no matter how the weather or the gardener treats it. I’m considering getting a lot more of those plants for problem areas.

And that, too, is like life — when one thing comes to an end, you do your best to find something else to start.

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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.

Gardening Goals

I had to work most of the day today, and my plants needed to be watered. Because of the intense heat, I couldn’t let the plants go an extra day, so I was out in my yard with the early morning humidity, the gnats, and the mosquitoes. Oh, such fun! You do know I’m being ironic, right? Although I usually enjoy my outside chores, there’s something utterly annoying about gnats up one’s nose and mosquitoes whining at one’s ears. I can only hope my mosquito repellant worked because I’ve already had more than my share of mosquito bites this year.

Despite those small annoyances, I still took the time to enjoy the flowers and was even awake enough to think about what I was seeing — California poppies with a few Icelandic poppies. Where else can you get such a disparate mix, not just of color and interest, but of geographic distances? I can’t imagine that those two places have much in common, and yet, there are representatives of both areas in my yard.

Maybe next year I’ll look for poppies from other places and make a true international poppy garden. Or not. It’s a lot easier to let the seed companies mix the seeds for me.

I paused here to Google the company where I purchased my wildflower seeds last year, and it turns out they are now selling a different low-growing mix that includes a European poppy but no Icelandic poppy, so if I want more Icelandic poppies, I’ll have to get those seeds separately. There’s no hurry to decide. After all, despite various flowers in my yard, it’s not even summer yet.

I’ll be interested in seeing if I’ll have any blooms come summer. The larkspur is already going to seed, and I have no idea how long most of the wildflowers will keep blooming. Luckily, there are plenty of things in my yard, so there should be some color. The trumpet vine is just beginning to flower, for example, and I do know that it blooms all summer.

As for the rest, I’ll keep track of growing cycles to see what I’ll do differently next year because ultimately, the goal is to have something blooming all season long.

A different goal, of course, is to remain free of mosquito bites. Luckily, I don’t often have to go outside as early as I did today, though with temperatures heating up, I might have to. Oh, well. One takes the bad with the good and hope it all evens out one way or another.

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Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

A “Not Too” Sort of Day

The problem with taking a day off is that it doesn’t give me anything to write about. I didn’t need to do any work in my yard today or catch up on household chores. I did make a quick grocery shopping trip to the next town over, but even that was pretty typical. They did overcharge me for an item and it took a while to find someone who would correct it, but that, too, is typical and not worth discussing. There’s not even any weather to comment on because so far, it’s been a “not too” sort of day. Not too hot. Not too cold. Not too sunny. Not too cloudy. Not too windy. Not too dry. Not too humid.

I did wander around my estate for a few minutes, checking to make sure my charges were all doing well. And they were. In fact, more wildflowers are springing up, though I had thought all the seeds I’d planted last fall had already sprouted. But they are still coming in.

Since there’s nothing new to talk about, I thought I’d post photos of some of my garden whimsies. Ever since seeing my sister’s garden, where she planted broken pieces of pottery among her flowers, I’ve been enamored with the idea of garden decorations. (Though, truly, a garden should be decoration enough!)

There were a few stray tiled concrete blocks in the yard when I bought the place, so I moved them from the refuse heap to the middle of a garden. Not only are they attractive, but they give me something to stand on when I weed in hard-to-reach places.

And who can’t help smiling at frogs courting among the petunias?

Or at birds creating a home for themselves in a teapot?

I’m limited in areas where I can place such artifacts — because of our wind, they need to be in protected locations. I am looking for something large to be a focal point, but I don’t know what that would be or where I would put it. Since the yard is a perpetual work in progress, I’m sure that piece (and a place for it) will come in time. And if not, well, what I have is plenty. Not too many. Not too few.

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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.

I Saw Something Nasty

I saw something nasty today, and it wasn’t in the woodshed as in Cold Comfort Farm. Not that I have a woodshed for something nasty to happen, unless my garage could be considered a woodshed since I do have some wood in there. Just boards, though. No firewood. Still, as far as I know, nothing nasty has yet happened in there.

No, the nasty thing was on my lawn, and it horrified me. Bindweed! Not just one, but several of them. Of all the weeds to find, that is the worst. Others you can dig up or pull up or even ignore in the hopes that they will disappear in the mowing, but bindweed? That thing grows like a . . . well, like a weed. And you can’t get rid of it. The more you pull it up, the more it spreads, though apparently, eventually all that pulling will dissipate the weed’s energy and it will become more controllable.

I have a bad patch of bindweed in the back corner of my yard, but I have been mulching that area with the grass clippings because mulch can help control the weed. I can’t do that on my lawn, of course, because a thick mulch might kill the lawn, and if not, would certainly be unsightly.

I’m not really sure where the bindweed came from. The grass is so thick that I doubt any seeds could take hold, so perhaps the bindweed was in the soil beneath the sod and pushed its way through like a couple of tulips did. Whatever its origin, the weed is there now. I’ll just have to patrol that area of the lawn daily and hope I can keep on top of it.

That wasn’t the only nasty thing I found. This area is swarming with feral cats, due in part to the loss of funding for the spay and release program and in part to the neighbor across the street who feeds the cats. The cats used to use my front easement (between the sidewalk and the street) for their litter box, but now that I’ve covered it with rock, apparently, they’ve moved to my lawn. It’s surprising because I wouldn’t think grass would something they’d gravitate toward since they can’t bury their waste as they tend to do.

Luckily, nasties weren’t the only things I saw today. There was plenty of beauty — the grass, of course. The plants that are doing well, especially those that will bloom this summer. The larkspur that’s going to seed. (That might not be pretty, but it sure makes me feel good to think of all the larkspur that will grow from those seeds next year.) And the wildflowers.

Although the wildflower areas are small rather than a field, they are every bit as beautiful as I’d hoped, with not a nasty thing in sight!

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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.

Focus on My Garden

With so much going on in the world — wars, unrest, shootings, wind-driven horrors — is it any wonder that I focus on my garden? Out there in my yard, all is serene.

Well, except when the wind is blowing, and even then, all is serene because I am inside looking out. (Apparently, the winds really have been bad this year — dustbowl bad. It’s not just my perception.)

Oh, so weird! MSWord wants me to change the word “bad” in the above paragraph to “bid” or “bidden.” What the heck?!

Maybe I’ll just stick with pictures today. As far as I know, there is no spellcheck-type program for images, though I’m sure, with all the “big brothering” online, it will be coming soon.

All these pictures were taken in my yard this morning. From the stately oriental iris to the humbler wildflower patches, there were plenty of photo opportunities! And plenty of beauty for me to focus on.

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Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.