Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Getting Underway!

     Given the hard Winter we experienced last year, with record- setting snowfalls and cold temperatures, we gardeners are hardly to be faulted for doubting that Spring would ever return. And yet, here it is, right on schedule, in all its pastel glory. After weeks – months even – when we never saw the ground beneath Winters snowy blanket, that blanket has now been lifted - stored in Natures closet - to expose evidence of life, just waiting for the right combination of temperature and sunlight for a chance to burst forth.  I have welcomed the sight with all of the enthusiasm of a NASA scientist whose search for extraterrestrial life has been rewarded. I am not alone in my anticipation of the emerging growing season, if attendance at this years’ 2014 Antique Garden Furniture Fair at The New York Botanical Garden is any indication. Eager gardeners turned out in droves to peruse the offerings of dealers from across the country in pursuit of just the right bench, cast stone planter, or sundial – the proper accent piece - to compliment ones personal growing environment. To encourage the return of growth in my own garden, I recently applied to the vegetable and flowerbeds, a layer of compost from one of our favorite plants-men, Jerry Fritz. Now, as the snowy Winter gives way to rainy Spring, I imagine the plants roots acting like vegetal IV tubes, absorbing Natures’ nutrients, drinking in the building blocks of taste, texture and what the French call “terroir.” for the new growth.
     Speaking of things French, it is more appropriate than ever that we refer to our garden as a “potager” {French for vegetable garden} as this year, many of the seeds we are growing have come from France, compliments of our good friend, Michele when she came to pay us a visit. From lettuce to cabbage, she brought us a variety of seeds that includes all the vegetables one might expect to find growing in a garden in The Dordogne, presented to us in a colorful market shopping bag. What seeds she didn’t bring us, we got compliments of Renee’s Garden, which in my opinion is one of the premiere sources in America for heirloom, open-pollinated, certified organic seed. As if that weren’t too much, our friends Anthony and Carlos also brought us seeds, from Italy and Brazil; Calendula for the flower beds and a host of natural remedies, and Cicoria, Radiccio di Treviso, a variety of bitter greens (only this one grows red), that has been favored by Italians for hundreds if not thousands of years. What bounty?! Together, these offerings give substance to our garden motto: “An American garden, reflecting a world of ideas.”

     But gardening isn’t only an activity for country life, as I was reminded recently. Coming home to the Upper West Side of Manhattan one recent evening, I was pleased to encounter a young mother and daughter, trowels in hand, planting Marigolds, Dusty Miller and Begonias in a neighborhood tree-well, long after the sun had gone down.  They graciously consented to let me photograph them, as testament to the enduring, universal, primal desire to be connected to the Earth.

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