Tuesday, May 4, 2010

See the Plants

I love to eat plants, but especially at this time of year I feel I get a different kind of nourishment from looking at them.  I am not only talking about a cursory look, but really taking a moment to SEE and feel the essence of the plant.  For me a history of the plant in question helps to round out my connection with it.

Featured here, in my front yard, is a patch of bright yellow Japanese Iris.  Seeing these bloom really lifts my spirits. About 3 years ago, a wonderful neighbor was thinning out her irises by splitting the rhisomes, and since I had admired them, she brought me a truckload, advising I choose a shady spot, and that I stay on top of them since they would multiply.  My neighbor was right.  I planted the irises in three little patches, and they are all so happy!  I don't yet feel the need to thin them out, but will be mindful of their behavior regarding my relative neglect.  If they need more tending, I expect they will show signs.

Another plant species with which I have a history is the corkscrew willow tree.  I have a small orchard of these trees in the front yard which I planted about eight years ago to soak up the swampy mess we used to have there.  These trees LOVE water!  Unbelievably, every one of these trees, and also another one in the front yard of our old home in Virginia, were cuttings from an original twig in a floral arrangement!  I am not kidding -- my mother's next door neighbor had a strange but beautiful, towering tree out back, and when I commented upon it she said it was a twig in a delivered floral arrangement that had outlived all the flowers in the vase and had grown prodigious roots. My mom's neighbor didn't have the heart to throw the sturdy twig away, so she stuck it in the ground. After telling me the story, she went out with clippers and took a branch off for me.  I planted it at my own home in Virginia, back when my sixteen-year-old was in preschool. Last year, when we drove by to take a look, the tree towered over the house, and was as thick as a telephone pole!  My mom was kind enough to bring me a few more of her neighbor's twigs for my Georgia yard, and so my southern Willow orchard was born. Feisty plants like my Irises and Willows are always a thrill for me, as their "Little Engine That Could" spirit is palpable.

On the other hand, I frustrate myself with my lack of green thumb in other areas.  My favorite flower is the peony, and I have one little peony bush which has never bloomed for me.  Last year the bush produced three plump buds.  I smiled with anticipation, and the next time I looked, the buds were being eaten by ants.  They never bloomed, drooping unopened.  This year I was thrilled to see that the bush has about twenty buds!  But the next day, once again, tiny ants were crawling all over.  Though I dislike killing, especially outside, I used my green, ecologically sound bug repellant on some of the buds.  Within hours those buds were dead!  Ugh!  When I bemoaned my horticultural cluelessness to a neighbor, she said, "Oh, no, the Peonies need the ants -- I don't know how or why, but they do need them."  So I won't be using undue force to referee between God's creatures any longer, but I do think I might move my squash and cucumbers out of the vegetable patch and into pots as they are already showing signs of being garden bullies.  I am learning as I go, so if there are any experts out there with any grains of wisdom for me, I would be most grateful if you would share them.

Speaking of grains, it's lunchtime -- today it is leftovers:  pearl barley infused with organic vegetable broth, with garlic and onion (shockingly delicious!)  I will top this with homemade veggie chili (my husband even liked it!) and some garden greens.  Have a wonderful day, and notice the plants!

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