Monday, October 26, 2009

October Catch Up!

October 24, 2009

Today, the weather became grayer as the day wore on. The weatherman has alerted us to the last of 70 degree temperatures, at least until Spring when the northern hemisphere will once again tilt towards the sun. Yesterday, these climatic changes lead me into the garden where I clipped a vase full of the last flowers of the season: Dahlias and Roses, American Calicarpa (purple) and Buddleia. Sitting on the dining room table, these blossoms continue to radiate the warmth of summer, holding the coolness of autumn at bay for a few extra hours. So, “Where have I been?” you ask, and rightly so. I apologize for not having made an entry since late summer. I do have what I believe are credible explanations for my absence, if you care. In August, I confess to having been slightly exhausted from our gardening efforts leading up to the Bucks Beautiful competition judging. When that was over, it was such a relief not to HAVE to pass hours each day, on ones hands and knees tearing at the pernicious roots of weeds, let alone documenting it.
Then, at the end of August, we experienced a terrible personal loss, to which we are still adjusting. In fact, it was in the early hours of September 1 – 6:30 AM – that our dear friend and fellow gardener, Deborah Gregory,  succumbed to an aggressive cancer. Even as I write these words I have a hard time accepting the reality and finality of their meaning. Deborah had such a vibrant personality, as any of her many friends would tell you! This was reflected in the plants she nurtured around her. She loved lush growth and even “lusher” efflorescence. Think towering Eupatorium, enormous Hostas or a monster Night Blooming Sirius, climbing out of its’ pot! Oh, how I remember her excitement upon arriving from Florida, as she did her first garden tour of the season, taking note of all that survived the winter.
As “Snow Birds,” - young “Snow Birds” at that – who divided their time between Bucks County and Florida, Deb and her devoted husband, Fred, often traveled with their favorite plants. This bestowed a sense of “hominess” immediately upon their arrival. These potted plantings complimented the in-ground plantings that she fretted over in each location. This past April, on her migration north, she even brought along two Oleanders, one white and one red, that I requested (for a little touch of Italy), since they are more easily (and more affordably) found in Florida’s sub-tropical greenhouses.  I had to confront her loss again recently, as the falling temperatures necessitated that these Oleanders and all of my and Debs’ tender potted plants be brought inside, or be lost to frost. To this end, Deb’s garden has been seamlessly integrated into my own. Fred has been relieved of a responsibility at a time when he is already overwhelmed, and caring for her plants is one way to honor Deb’s memory.
So it was, that I set up the basement “Limonaia” for the winter. In came the lemon tree, and the bananas, the pomegranate, and the palm. My “Vern’s Brown Turkey” fig, a potted mint (to keep it from becoming invasive) and the strawberry pots. Three varieties of pepper plants – Fish, Poblano and Peruvian Purple – were dug from their garden beds and potted up for wintering over inside. These plants have been joined by Deborah’s ferns, her Night Blooming Sirius and several specimens whose botanical identity are as yet unknown to me. I will remember her whenever I see them.
     There have been other distractions, as well. In Manhattan, in late August, there was what meteorologists call a “microburst”
storm over my neighborhood on the Upper West Side, leaving serious damage to our parks in its wake. In Riverside Park, upwards of seventy large trees were lost, and in Central Park, nearly two hundred mature trees came down, lending a denuded appearance to parts of these neighborhoods. The danger of falling branches actually caused the temporary closing of the 103rd St entrance to Riverside Park, much to Jaspers’ chagrin. For days after the storm, the sound of wood chippers devouring fallen limbs reverberated off the stately facades of Riverside Drive and Central Park West. The mountains of mulch they made still dot the local landscape. One can only hope that the lost trees will be replanted as soon as possible.
     But, not all of the experiences since my last entry have been so heart-wrenching. On October 10th, sponsored the first ever “Bee Fest,” held at Temple University’s Ambler Campus. Experienced beekeeper, Mark Antunes, who is the current president of the Montgomery County Beekeepers, acted as host and MC. He introduced presentations by a roster of speakers, including “Bee-whisperer,” Jim Bobb, president of the Pennsylvania State beekeepers Association. Jim addressed the topic of native plants and flowers available to our bees throughout the calendar year. Mike McGrath, of the NPR program “You Bet Your Garden,” spoke about natural and organic techniques for maintaining a healthy environment for the bees and their vital importance as pollinators of our food supply. A bee researcher, Maryann Tomasko Frazier, addressed the toxic effect of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides on honey bees and other pollinators. Bottom line, avoid them as much as possible!
Vendors were on hand offering everything from unfiltered, natural honey - bottled or in the comb - to specialists offering heirloom bulbs and seeds, known to appeal to bees. There was a small library’s worth of beekeeping books for sale, and some fashionable T shirts designed by members of the I believe there may be a few still available, for those who act fast. Christmas is coming!
No one who has seen this blog will be surprised to hear that I have been photographing the garden. It may however, come as a surprise to learn that I have been using my 8 X 10 Deardorff camera, and black and white film to do it. Eliminating color, one focuses on the textural relationships, organization and structure of the garden. One exchanges the “literalness” of color for the more abstract qualities of black and white imagery. This is an ongoing project, which, in time, I may mount to the internet. One of the big joys of this project has been to look at actual paper prints, rather than pixels on a screen. Nontheless, here is a digitized image from that group that I hope the viewer will enjoy.
As if these activities weren’t enough to keep me occupied, I have also given a great deal of attention to designing a garden feature for an historic property in New Jersey. While this is likely to remain an unrealized project, it is so appealing an idea to me that I have worked on writing about it as though it might actually come to fruition. The hope is that this idea may serve to inspire the imaginations of the committee that is charged with determining the property’s future. More about this, to come.
All of this, and still I found time to read parts of a charming book, French Dirt, by Richard Goodman. (Algonquin Press of Chapel Hill, 2002). In it, Mr. Goodman recalls his experiences over the course of a year, living and gardening in the South of France. I think it will appeal to gardeners and travelers, alike.
So then, that about brings things up to date, for now. Of course, there is more, there always is when one is discussing gardening, but that will do for now. Keep gardening!

1 comment:

  1. How lovely to have this as my Wednesday lunch's dessert. Thank, Everett. See you in the woods. XOXO Sheilagh