Sued51's Blog

{April 4, 2010}   Learning From Our Elders

My husband and I routinely walked around our old neighborhood and talked to our neighbors.  One of them was an over-eighty Armenian seamstress named Elmis, who loved to work in her yard. Elmis taught me a lot about gardening.  She took us around her yard and told us the names of all the plants.  She told us which ones could be trimmed when, and which could be transplanted easily.

Elmis had portulaga at the end of her driveway.  My husband loved the colorful flowers; he said they reminded him of Trix cereal.  She dug some up and gave them to us.  She also told us that even though they were annuals, she never bought more seeds. She just clipped off the heads in the fall and buried them in peat, and they would come up again the next year.  I tried it in my yard and it worked.

Elmis’ yard was a pleasure to look at, always immaculate. We would always make a point of stopping to talk to her if she was outside.  Sometimes we would see the tiny light of the sewing machine through the front window and know that she was working inside.  We learned a lot about Elmis in the quick outside chats— she immigrated to the US with her husband, who died young; her daughter lived down the street; and her black and white cat was named Mickey, after Mickey Mouse—but I never knew her last name.

We don’t live there anymore, but I think of Elmis often when I walk in my new yard.  I doubt she is still alive, but maybe somehow she knows I am thinking about her. She had much to teach; I hope there were others that learned from her as well.

{March 19, 2010}   But This is New England…

It is so tempting.  Being able to go outside in a t-shirt and feel the warm sun on my back makes me think it is time to plant my peas and flowers.  It is like a craving for a donut—I know I will be sorry.  It is not even the official date of spring on the calendar.  And yet…oh, the sun feels SOOOO GOOD. 

But I do remember the April Fool’s day storm over 10 years ago that dumped over a foot of snow, and I know it has snowed in May in my lifetime.  Even though the weather people show a seven-day forecast with no freezing temperatures at night…I can’t trust it.  It is not even Easter yet.  How many very cold sunrise services do I remember shivering through in my spring Easter clothes?

I have to keep in mind where I live right now; it’s not Knoxville, it’s New England.  Our growing season does not start in March, no matter how much I would like it to.  Despite global warming, you can’t be lulled into beginning a garden on these lovely days, just enjoy them.

My back is aching; have you ever used “The Claw”?  It is a special garden tool that you rotate in the ground to pull up plants with deep roots and break up the soil when you don’t have a rototiller.  It’s very hard work.

A few years ago when I made my raised-bed vegetable garden I naively planted some mint.  After being away from home for 1 ½ years, the mint took over the entire garden.  I attacked it today with “The Claw”.  What roots!  It had even wound itself around my bean tower, so I had to pull that out of the ground.

After churning up all the soil, I raked it and sifted through it with my gloved hands trying to find stray roots.  Before I dare plant anything else there I will have to do some more raking and sifting.  Oh, insidious plant!  Oh, my aching back!  All for a mojito…

My Favorite Catalog

My favorite catalog came yesterday—Burpee Gardening!  I can just stare at the pictures for hours; the pictures of the vegetables, fruits, and flowers are my idea of paradise.  This year the cover is graced by a cream yellow and magenta petunia called “Fancy Dress”, and it is fancy indeed. “Come into our garden!” reads the front, and I eagerly enter.

Hmmm…what are the highlights this year? The front of the book contains a “Big Pink Tomato” (that truly looks “pink” in the picture) and a “Cherries Jubilee Tomato” (the photo shows a hanging branch — wonderful depth of field –of countless red and orangey cherry tomatoes).  The names of the plants are imaginative—who can resist a lettuce called “Braveheart”, or a fruit called “Seascape Strawberries”.   And I love to read the descriptions; peppers called “Flavorburst Hybrid” are described as “Giant blocky bells [that] begin granny apple green and finish in a lovely shade of goldenrod.”  The accompanying picture is as described: peppers all combinations of green and gold.

If you’ve never looked at a burpee catalog; here’s the link; you’ll see the “Fancy Dress” on the web site.

Go to the bottom of the page and click on Request a Catalogue.   Send for one.  I’m telling you…when it is snowing outside or when you are waiting in vain for a glimpse of your crocuses breaking ground, this catalog will help you dream of spring!

et cetera
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