Friday, June 3, 2011

The Gardener's Shadow

   In planning my herbs, veggies, & flowers early this spring, I found a proverb that struck me:
  "The best fertilizer is the gardener's shadow." 
  

 
   Do you recall any summer days gone past that were soured with the discovery of a veggie bed overtaken by weeds or some beetle-eaten roses?  Or has your garden ever been neglected to the point of complete dehydration?  Yes for me, on all three counts. 


These are snow pea vines surrounded by grass and weeds.

   But these are totally avoidable disasters.  I would venture to say that most horticultural maladies can be solved with little more than regular, unbridled attention from a person who loves all things green.  Maybe that person is you.

   Growing up, we were fortunate to live nearby and therefore spend a lot of time with our maternal grandparents, both of whom were avid gardeners.  I think back on their bent posture, their wardrobe, their loving habits, and their breathtaking results, and I know in my heart that they enjoyed every aspect of the art.  Sure wish I had some photos of their old cottage gardens to share.
   Grandma & Grandpa Stubbs were not overtly religious to my memory, but based on their meditative devotion to their multiple rooms of paradise, I feel like they were in touch with something gratifyingly spiritual.
   Here are spinach and strawberries in my garden, not theirs.  Theirs would not be riddled with grass like this.

   Who can coax seeds into flower beds
or a dinner salad and not sense divinity? 


Our first batch of red potatoes grown two years ago.  DELISH.


Spicy, crunchy radishes.  So much fun to pluck out of the ground.
And check out those colors!

   They both worked full time office hours (or more) at the family lamp manufacturing business Village Art Lamps and retreated I would guess five or six days a week to the outdoors, all year long. 
   We enjoyed fresh vegetables.  We played in mammoth, fluffy hedges of lemon mint (that concealed the humming air condenser in summertime).  We ate grapes right off the vine near the Elephant Tree
 
   It wasn't really a dead elephant like the grown-ups told us, I remember noticing one day at the ripe old age of maybe six.  But danged if it didn't look like one!  This was a turning point.  The beginning of my personal enlightenment.

   They sweated and groaned and took lots of iced tea breaks.  Grandma used this very nifty artificial sweetener in a slender glass bottle with a push button dispenser on top.  I loved that thing.  And I loved that she gave me unlimited access to its contents.  (Maybe this explains my adult obsession with diet cola?)
   They rested and looked out at their progress.  They played with us.  They chatted with our parents.  Then they started working again.  Grandpa to this day calls it "putzing around" in the garden, belying the very present element of hard labor, especially for an eighty three year old man.

Blossom #1 on our peach tree, year #2.

   My point is that they always worked in their garden; they stayed there, they didn't visit twice a week expecting auto pilot to have magically kicked in.  And they enjoyed not just the results but also the process.  They seemed to thrive as much on the food and flowers as they did on the toil itself. 

   As a self centered little girl I was just happy they talked to me so much while I played there under that fragrant Mimosa tree.  Looking back at that scene now, I realize how I learned from them to be patient with little ones.  To not take my "work" too seriously to enjoy the distractions, causing me to miss at least half of the blessing of being a gardener. 

   If you are growing anything right now, keep it up.  Stay in that outdoor room as much as possible, looking, touching, smelling, pruning, watering, tucking in, protecting, feeding, harvesting, just generally putzing around. 
   The more attention you lavish on your Eden, the more lovely it is bound to be.  And the more you enjoy doing so, the greater your cumulative reward. 
   Oh, and if you have your own gardening Grandparents, give them some hugs asap.

 “He who loves a garden
  still his Eden keeps,
  Perennial pleasures plants,
  and wholesome harvest reaps.”
                      
~Amos Bronson Alcott

pinnable

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