Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Garden Gifts

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little blue. In part, it’s because summer is ending, and that warm September I heard we would get does not feel like it will materialize. I do love autumn; in fact, it’s my favorite season. I love the crisp mornings, the leaves turning. Especially beautiful are the trees whose leaves turn shades of yellow, so the sun shining through them as they fall gives the appearance of a gentle shower of gold. However, there is that moment, as the season turns, that I feel a little sadness at the death of summer.

Writing the post
about this year’s gardening failures was necessary but also a little disheartening. Wouldn’t you know, the year I decide to write a blog about my grand project, we have an unusually cool summer, even setting a record low high in July. That’s Mother Nature for you; always letting you know who’s boss, whenever you get a little cocky.

But she can also reward you with unexpected gifts that lift your spirits just when you need it. Two summers ago, I lost my job at about the same time that two health issues came to a crisis point; one I knew had been brewing for a long time, the other a surprise. I hadn’t yet started my food production project, but I did have a few favorite perennials I was nursing along. After my surgery, I was unable to work in my garden. I could only limp outside from time to time to survey the ongoing deterioration of it - the insect damage, the dying leaves, the weeds rapidly reclaiming the bed - before retreating in defeat.

The following June, on the anniversary of the day I lost my job, I was working out in the garden and pondering the significance of the day. I weeded around the bleeding heart that then hid the compost bin. It had grown large and was crowding everything around it. I pruned all around the plant, and found underneath the front, a delphinium I thought had died the previous summer. Two large stems were coiled on the ground. The heavy rain had splashed soil all over the leaves, but otherwise it looked in good shape. I drove a couple of stakes into the ground, tied it up, and mulched it. I felt kind of like Charlie Brown, rescuing that sad little Christmas tree.

A few minutes later, while weeding further along the bed, I found my liatris, about eight inches tall, healthy and perfectly formed. It was another plant I thought had been lost. The summer of my surgery, rabbits chomped much of it down, after which the bugs had their fill. Yet here it was the following spring, back healthy and sound; a native plant I’d always wanted to grow.

Since I’m given to seeing meaning and symbolism in just about everything, and gardens especially, I “took heart,” as they say in the old novels. On the surface, it might seem like everything had sickened and died, but the roots were strong and healthy, and the plant regenerated beautifully. It seemed like a good portent for my own life. Be patient. Growing conditions were poor last year, but this year you’ll come back strong and blossom.

Yesterday, as I was still feeling a bit disheartened about this summer’s unsuccessful plantings, I went to take another look at my, so far, virtually fruitless squash. I was amazed to find a perfectly formed scaloppini ready to harvest and another one growing! How I could have missed seeing the now full-grown one before, I do not know. I’ve checked and checked under those leaves for weeks, months even. Further, the lone, tiny spaghetti squash had grown to six inches! I realized I may yet get one full-size squash from that plant.

Another great gift, just when I needed it, among many I have received from various gardens over the years. Garden gifts are the best kind of gifts - unexpected, life-affirming, and joyous.

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