Gardening Catalogs

I received a flower catalog in the mail today, and it struck me what a great marketing ploy that is. When people are sick of winter, the snow, the dreary landscape, the gray skies, the unending cold, seeing the bright colors of a potential spring garden would bring out the checkbooks and charge cards of even the most casual gardeners.

If it weren’t for my tight budget (because of the horrendous increase in my homeowner’s insurance), I’d probably be ordering from the catalog right now. I might still have sneaked in an order for a handful of bulbs — who needs to eat, right? — but I want to wait and see what, if anything, comes up on its own this year. Some of the wildflowers I planted last year were perennials, which might bloom again. Some of the wildflowers reseeded themselves, so they, too might bloom. There are also the flowers that I transplanted, like the New England asters, and the fall plants I got last year to add color to my fading garden. And I have a bunch of seeds to fill in areas where nothing blooms, such as the four ounces of zinnia seeds I bought last fall, the seed packets a relative sent me, the wildflower seeds leftover from the previous fall, the larkspur seeds I harvested.

I listed all those possible blooms so that I don’t feel bad about not ordering any of the luscious flowers in the catalog. I also remind myself of all the bulbs I bought that never bloomed — in fact, I’ve never seen such a resplendent display of flowers except in the catalogs. They either cheat and force plants in a greenhouse so that despite different growing schedules, the plants all grow at the same time, or else they . . .

Well, I don’t know what else they do. All I know is that I don’t get the glorious growth that is pictured in the catalogs.

I will be interested in seeing what happens in the spring after all the snow cover we’ve had this winter, so unusual for this dry part of the state. Perhaps this will be the year my own garden is catalog worthy. If not, well, I’ll do what I always do — celebrate the flowers that do come up, and console myself over those that don’t with thoughts of next season’s gardening catalogs.


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.

Gorgeous Autumn Day

I’ll bet you can’t guess what I did today! Aww, you guessed it. Where else would I be on such on gorgeous autumn day but out working in my yard? Of course, if you guessed blogging or being on the internet, that would have been a sure bet, too, because here I am. Or if you guessed reading, that too would have been a win because that’s how I will spend the rest of the day.

Hmm. Sounds as if I live too narrow a life. I might have to do something about that eventually to keep from the dreaded stagnation (dreaded by me, that is), but for now, there’s a lot of work to do, not just the usual maintenance, such as watering and mowing the grass and digging weeds, but also getting ready for late fall planting (lilies and wildflowers) and preparing for winter.

It seems as if summer was never-ending, but then, in just a snap of the fingers, it was over. I know it was a long, hot four months, but in retrospect, the whole summer was truncated. Except for the work I did, though, there wasn’t much to distinguish the days from one another. There seemed to be few summer flowers, and those that did come up, like the lilies and day lilies were swamped in wildflowers or weeds. Now, though, there is plenty of color! Zinnias. Amaranth. Chrysanthemums. New England Asters. Marigolds.

In another snap of the fingers, winter will be here, but I’m not going to think of that — I’ll just enjoy the lovely fall weather as long as it lasts. (Warm days, cool nights — what’s not to like?)

I wasn’t sure whether I should use the term “autumn” or “fall” for this post. I recently came across one of those USA-bashing comments intimating that the sophisticated British use the term autumn but the uncouth and simple Americans use “fall” (named because of the falling leaves). I certainly didn’t want to bring ridicule down on my head for using the wrong word, so I looked up the origin of both terms. It turns out that “fall” is not something you can lay at our American feet. Both words originated in Britain. Autumn was first used in the 1300s. Fall was first used in the 1500s. But the correct term for this season is (or at least it was before 1300) “harvest.”

Still, whatever the name for this season — fall or autumn or harvest — it certainly has been a pleasant and colorful (and exhausting) one for me.


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.

Mostly Flowers

This is a quickie post, mostly photos of my flowers that are blooming today because I’ve run out of time for anything more time consuming.

The weather was cool and still with bright blue skies, so I stayed outside working much longer than I should have. I cleaned weeds from around the edge of a garden so I was able to do much of it sitting, which helped protect my knees.

Besides spending too much time outside, I just got a text asking me to go in to work earlier, so here I am, in a hurry, so I’m showing off my photography skills instead of my writing skills.

I’m sure you’re just as glad to see photos instead of another essay about grass, though I won’t let you completely off the hook. As I was cleaning out the gardens on either side of my front ramp, I noticed a tangle of four-foot-long Bermuda grass stolons (above ground stems) beneath the ramp on the original sidewalk. I thought maybe the grass was growing out of the cracks, but it turned out that the grass on one side of the ramp was inching toward the other side and vice versa. Apparently, even grass itself thinks things are greener on the other side.

I’m still astonished by the growth of my New England asters this year. If anyone local wants any when it comes time to divide them, be sure to let me know.

Well, I’ve run out of time, so it’s off to work I go.


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.

When Four O’Clocks aren’t Four O’Clocks

This morning I was outside before the sun came up — I needed to water before it got too hot to be outside — and I noticed that my wild four o’clock plant had buds.

I came inside and set my alarm for four o’clock so that I wouldn’t miss the blossomed flower. When the alarm went off, I braved the heat (105˚ F), but alas, no flower.

Aha! Daylight savings time! Maybe the four o’clock plant is now a five o’clock plant! It’s five o’clock as I write this, so I peeked out the window, and still no blooms.

According to a couple of articles I stopped to read, the plant won’t flower in the heat, so it waits for the temperature to cool off a bit, which means it could be a seven o’clock or even an eight o’clock plant. Or it might not flower at all. In fact, although I got the plant almost three years ago, this is the first year it even came up, so I’m grateful for that, anyway.

Luckily, the heat will break tonight, and next week will be considerably cooler, with some highs in the eighties and some around ninety. Most days even come with a possibility of rain.

I am so looking forward to a bit of cool. The searing sun is not at all pleasant. The only things I know that appreciate the heat are tomatoes. And zinnias.

It’s funny to think that not that long ago I was thinking the cold would never end, and lately I’ve been thinking the heat will never end. (Just because the seasons have always changed doesn’t mean that they always will.) Luckily, if the weather forecasters have any credence (which up to now, I haven’t seen much of that), it will cool down for a few days anyway.

Then, perhaps, my four o-clocks will bloom.


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

100 Plants Planted

Well, I did it — planted the 100 dayliles I’d ordered. It turns out I needed that many. I really thought I only needed twenty-five for each side of my walkway, and I would have made them work if that’s all I’d ordered, but since one hundred pretty much cost the same as fifty when I took such things as shipping into consideration, I’m especially glad I ordered twice as many. And especially glad that the planting is now done. It took me several days to prepare the soil, so today’s planting took only about three hours. Three hard hours.

They sure doesn’t look pretty, but that’s the way the plants came — yellow and scraggly. With any luck and a bit of water, they ought to green up and maybe even establish themselves before winter comes.

A prettier surprise was the blossom on this mangus echinacea. The tag I’d planted with along with the echinacea had blown away, so I had no idea what the plant was until it bloomed and I was able to look it up. So now I know.

And my zinnias are doing great.

Anyone who plants a garden is planting hopes and dreams and perhaps poems, and this is even more true when it comes to an amateur gardener. Without any extensive knowledge about how to care for plants, one can only hope and dream that one day blossoms will appear.

So, in a couple of years, when the newly-planted daylilies take hold, I hope I will have copious blooms to show you!


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

Happy Halfway Day

Today is halfway day, and as I am typing, right this very moment (12:00 pm), we’re exactly half way through the year. I wouldn’t even have known it except that I received a rather nice halfway present from a relative who enjoys celebrating offbeat holidays. It’s hard to think that in 183 days we will be celebrating the New Year. It seems as if we just came off winter, and summer, too, now that I think about it, since we had a very cold late winter and a very hot early summer. For the past few days, we’ve had a respite from the heat, so for all I know, it could be fall.

It’s a good thing I try to take the days as they come otherwise my mind would be in a whirl trying to keep track of the unseasonal seasons. But I am enjoying the respite from our usual excessive heat at this time of year.

What I am not enjoying are the fireworks. People around here start shooting them off at the end of June and continue for a week beyond July 4th. I’ve never understood the point of loud noises, but then, there a lot of things I don’t understand, so I’ll add “fireworks” to that every-growing list.

Offsetting somewhat the annoyance of the nerve-shattering bangs are the newly blooming zinnias. I considered planting a garden full of zinnias, but didn’t get the seeds in time, so I only have a partial garden of zinnias. I’ll have to rectify that next year. If I were really dedicated, I’d start some zinnias inside in the spring and then plant the seedlings along with the seeds so I’d have a longer growing season, but that would take more planning than I plan to do. I’m still very much of a spontaneous gardener, doing what I can when I think of it. But someday, perhaps I’ll get into the habit of starting seeds indoors. But then, the seedling would have to be planted, and it’s oh, so much easier just throwing seeds out there and then hoeing a bit of dirt over them.

Luckily, I don’t have to think of that until next year, which is much closer than I imagined.

Anyway, here are some flowers for you. Happy Halfway Day!


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

The Shadow of Family Trees

I live in a small town where people tend to stay when they’re grown, or if they leave, they come back to retire. I thought there would be a problem, since the residents of many such towns tend to stick together and not welcome newcomers, but not here. Everyone (well, almost everyone — there’s always that one person who aggravates) has been kind and welcoming. Now that I’m sorting out the family trees just a bit, this welcome amazes me even more. It seems as if almost everyone is related within one or two degrees of separation.

For example, I met the grandson of the woman I am working for (with?) and today, talking to another friend, she mentioned her grandson of the same name. Turns out, it’s not a coincidence of names — the same boy is the grandson of both women. In another case, one friend’s grandfather is another friend’s uncle. I can’t even wrap my mind around that!

I may never get all these relationships straight, but it doesn’t matter. The shadow of their family trees doesn’t fall on me like it does with those who grew up here. I can take people are they are, rather than what limb they came from.

Another thing I discovered (that has nothing to do with family trees, though it does have to do with plants) is that at one time, 92% of all zinnia seeds came from this area. It must have been beautiful, driving down a highway lined with jewel-toned fields, all the colors mixed together in a riot of joy. It certainly explains why zinnias seem to like me — it’s not me so much as that they feel at home.

It would be nice to think that the zinnias I found growing in my yard were descendants of the original flowers, but I doubt it. Although I was surprised to find the zinnias, it’s only because I forgot that I planted them. Well, in a way, I planted them. I had some old seeds that I threw out into the yard instead of tossing the unopened packet in the trash. Most of the seeds did nothing, but the zinnias decided to grow. So nice of them!

I’ve never really had any special feeling for zinnias, but after this summer, seeing the cheerful blooms and knowing they belong in the area, might even belong to the same family tree as those original zinnia fields, I’m considering planting a yardful of them next year.

One of my new friends (one of the grandmothers) told me about a seed store in a town up the road a piece. They might even have seeds grown around here, which would be nice.

What is also nice is being able to plan for next year, knowing that unless something traumatic happens, I’ll still be here in this small town. And probably still trying to sort out the shadows of all those family trees.


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


The women I work with and for invited me on a drive this afternoon. We went out in the country and saw where the one woman grew up, where their relatives once lived, where various other people I don’t know once lived, as well as a lesson on the water dynamics of the area. Some of the big farmers and ranchers saved their water rights, but people with smaller acreages and adult children who didn’t want to farm, sold their rights to be able to stay in their houses.

I understand this was a tough decision for people, but not being a rancher/farmer, all I can do is shake my head and wonder if they’d ever seen a western movie. It seems that a huge number of westerns revolve around water rights, generally, with the evil banker trying to corner the valuable water market, and so the idea that anyone would sell their water rights seems self-defeating. Money now, of course, but not later when/if it comes time to sell the property. Still, not my dilemma.

My dilemma is a different one, though still in the financial realm. A relative had some very bad luck, and my first inclination was to send her a check to help her out. Then I got to thinking about it, and realized that I accepted a job to help my own financial situation, and if I sent her anything, in essence, then, I would be working for her benefit, not mine, that all the money for the work I will be doing for the next several months would be going in her pocket.

Oddly, the tarot card I picked today — The King of Pentacles — reminded me to stay in control of my energies and resources in pursuit of a larger goal (such as a solution to my own precarious financial situation). Although this is also a card of generosity, I am tending toward the less generous outcome, more because of the job than anything. Still, I feel bad for her, so who knows.

Since these dilemmas are not pleasant to contemplate (if they were pleasant, they wouldn’t be dilemmas, I’m sure), I’m adding photos my zinnias. They might not have anything to do with anything I’m writing about today — they pose no dilemmas — but they do make me smile, and I can use a few smiles right about now.


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