It’s early Spring in south-eastern Ontario and oh, wait, what?
This just in: the flowerbed is trying to kill me.
Based on how I feel about The Nature, you might have already guessed that I am not really a gardener type. In fact, I’m rather a grey thumb. That is, when plants get anywhere near me, they turn a sickly sort of grey and hang around, torturing me for a while with their droopy leaves and browned-up flowers and unrequited dreams of a life spent being watered, before finally expiring and leaving me with a plastic container thing-y that I don’t know what to do with.
I can’t just throw it away. Those plastic plant containers take about a zillion trillion years to compost down. Not like my poor, dead plant, which was composting (drama, drama) in the plastic container thing-y, long before it officially died.
Usually, I give the plastic container thing-y to Practical Man and he puts another plant in it.
Yep, he’ll plant a seed from the apple he was eating at lunch. Or, the stem of the celery we have in the fridge.
Not to give back to me, oh no.
He’s not stupid, that one.
He does, however, have a very green thumb. He can grow sticks, that man. Not to mention, bits of kale from the grocery store that I cut off before chopping up some to put in the oven.
Anyway, my point is that I don’t grow stuff. So, I’m not quite sure why there is a flower bed out to get me.
But, there is. Right along the front sidewalk (which no one ever uses because we live in the country and in the country you always enter people’s houses through the open garage door), it lies in wait. It and its companion on the sunny side of the house.
I have to confess that there are no windows overlooking the second flowerbed on the sunny side of the house so that one gets largely ignored because I can pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s not as if I wander around the perimeter of the house and see it all the time.
That side of the house is out in The Nature people. Don’t you read my blog?
So, I can see where the flowerbed on the sunny side of the house would feel put upon and maybe even downright hostile towards me.
But, with four windows facing directly out on it, the front bed gets a fair bit of attention.
It spends most of the day in the sun so it’s a little micro-climate of its own (that sounds like I’m all official and garden-y, doesn’t it?) that doesn’t require much intervention to keep things alive. That is to say, Practical Man no doubt revives it while I’m at work, but, full of perennials, a couple of bushes, and no annuals, I can pretend it’s just magically growing on its own. We mulched it last year with that store-bought stuff that looks seriously artificial and probably leaches chemicals into our water table, but I desperately wanted to make the flowerbed feel loved so that maybe, maybe, it would play nice.
I have viewed others’ gardens, replete with chemical mulchiness and they look lovely. Tidy. Weed-less. Just like I thought ours would look.
So, I don’t quite understand how when the blanket of snow came off and the softly-rounded heads of daffodils, pasque flowers and grape hyacinth started poking out of the ground, mere days ago, this source of Springtime pleasure and much celebration turned so very very quickly to Yes Indeedy, This Flowerbed Is Trying to Kill Me.
More on that in a moment.
In other gardening news, we pulled out two giant clumps of bushes in the lawn last summer and Practical Man has put down repeated layerings of grass seed, only to have the spots – a year later, still look like male-pattern baldness in our lawn. Now, the baldness doesn’t really matter because seeing it would require me to go out in The Nature, to fume over that which some suburbanites would find an atrocity, but I really don’t understand why grass won’t grow very well, even for a green-thumbed Practical Man, when you want it to.
Except if it’s in the flowerbed.
The flowerbed, which has only been “awake” (that’s probably not an official, garden-y term) for a little over two weeks, is full. Full, I tell you, of evil, extremely healthy and prolific G-R-A-S-S. Several, virulent country types, no less.
All that green stuff? GRASS!
All that straw-looking stuff? More GRASS!
And not the male pattern baldness kind either. This is full-head-of-hair-and-lots-coming-out-the-ears grass. Clever, clever grass that sneaks its way up the middle of a single iris stalk, barely out of the ground. If I didn’t hate it so much, I would admire its sneaky tenacity. To remove the grass root means digging up the entire bulb and painstakingly teasing away the grass. Painstaking is not in my vocabulary (unless it’s painstakingly licking every last drop of chocolate off the tinfoil it arrived in) and I can’t deal with more plant murders on my record, so I’m not doing that.
This weekend, while Practical Man installed the mower deck on the tractor in preparation for acres of lawn mowing over our male pattern baldness areas, I decapitated grass shoots in approximately 3% of a square foot in our front flowerbed and tried not to get all fainty (from the bending over and standing up) or spinny (from the turning my head recklessly looking for sneaky grass shoots) or fall down, weeping hysterically, every time my eyes accidentally swayed to the right or left of my “section”.
It was like doing hard time. Like I was on a chain gang, except with grass and fainting and spinning.
Okay fine, there may have been some Feels Like Jagger music to help me cling to my sunny disposition. A girl can only take so much murderous intent from a flowerbed before she has to find her flowerbed anthem–What Doesn’t Kill You (Makes You Stronger)–and sing along with Ms. Kelly C.
It was at some point during this torture with a peppy soundtrack, that I remembered something.
Something wise and scientific and mostly, probably, almost certainly true. I recalled what my former colleague and (this is an official and garden-y designation) Master Gardener friend used to say:
“Perennial gardens are meant to be looked at from a distance.”
That means: keep far, far away from the flowerbed that is trying to kill me.
If you do, I might just get out alive.
I had a run-in with The Nature today.
It tried to fool me with its sunshine and lovely temperatures.
And then, it attacked my ankles.
It’s my own fault, really, for not putting on the bug juice that Practical Man pointedly left out for me. Perhaps it was The Nature’s way of evening the score. After all, I was yanking and digging grass and weeds out of our flowerbed with some zeal. That’s probably tantamount to a leg wax for The Nature. And, it was much too warm today for me to sport my trademark out-in-The-Nature rubber boots. Mocked by many, my rubber boots have prevented plenty of unjustified assaults by The Nature and I L-O-V-E, LOVE them. But today, I recklessly left them inside and trotted out into the great vampire bug, all-you-can-eat-buffet, brazenly naked around the ankles.
I hate it when things are my own fault, don’t you?
The flowerbed and I have called a cease-fire so I have time to smear myself with liberal doses of anti-itch goo (which is apparently flammable, it says on the label!) everywhere I can find evidence of The Nature’s wrath. Note to self: Do not use anti-itch goo while camping and then try to warm ankles by the fire.
Flaming ankles would be much worse than itchy ankles, even I can admit. You may laugh but, I can’t be too careful. I come from a long line of accident-prone people (including one person who cut herself, to the point of bleeding, on an onion bun.)
Flaming ankles are totally in the realm of possibility.
On the plus side, before I foolishly headed out into The Nature, we spent the morning wandering yard sales in Westport, a quaint waterside village nearby. The whole town was having a festive time trading their own junk for their neighbour’s junk, because at a mere 10 or 25 cents for many items, “how could you lose?” You apparently couldn’t because it was a phrase I heard repeatedly, as we wandered.
I found this and immediately had a crush:
Everyone should have a pink punch bowl with nine matching cups, don’t you think?
And, at a mere $10, how could you lose?
Actually, $10 is less a crush and more a commitment for me. So I hemmed and hahhed for all of three seconds and then someone walked by and said to her friend, “how could you lose?” and I took it as a sign.
You can’t mess with that kind of magic.
I’m not into pedigree, especially when it comes to old stuff. I just like what I like. But, I am curious about this. It doesn’t have any maker markings that I can find. It seems to have a sort of strawberry pattern to it and it’s heavier than depression glass, although similar in hue. A search online yielded nothing that resembled it, so now I’m even more curious. I doubt it’s valuable, I just wonder what vintage it comes from.
Here is what it looks like up close:
The pattern is slightly raised and bumpy.
Not unlike my poor, poor ankles.
But, at least they’re not on fire yet.
I have heard it told that in every relationship, someone is the gardener and someone is the flower.
Apparently, in our house, I am the…can you guess?
But wait! I think you’re wrong.
So, try again please…I beg you to re-consider.
Which do you think I am?
The gardener? or…
…REALLY? That’s your guess?
If you guessed the flower, you are not alone.
I don’t like being the flower, even though a woman being the flower does harken back to something rather vintage. All that “the fairer sex” stuff. My Grandma Verna actually told me recently that when my Grandpa Howard had an accident at work in the ’50s, one of the doctors wrote in his report, “the patient’s wife is a seemingly intelligent woman.”
Seemingly intelligent. Because you know, intelligence is often suspect when it comes to the fairer sex.
Anyway, being the flower is new for me. I’ve never been the flower before. In past relationships, I was always the gardener; the very determined gardener, trying to get a (large and I was sure, misunderstood) weed to magically transform into the beautiful sunflower I just knew it was inside. I am a people-pleasing, care-taking, co-dependant, gardener sort of gal.
Still, I conducted a little survey among our friends. An innocuous little survey about gardeners and flowers. Traitors that they are, they all agreed that when it comes to Practical Man and me, I am definitely the flower.
Positively, definitely, no doubt about it, they said.
Harumph. Who needs friends anyway?
Well, fine then, if I must be the flower, I like to think I’m a daisy. They’re my favourites. They look so cheerful and they’re very natural (that is, not high maintenance at all) and of course, vintage, if you look at any wedding bouquet photo from 1972.
However, even I can admit that sometimes, just occasionally, I am less like a daisy and more like the 40+ kinds of roses Practical Man used to grow in our yard when we lived in suburbia. Or, the rose in one of my favourite books, “Le Petit Prince“. That is, just a teensy-tiny bit high maintenance.
Just, the odd time. For example:
1) I am afraid of cows, like in a shrieky sort of way (not an especially handy quality to have when you live in the country).
2) I can’t drink alcohol or I’ll faint.
3) I can’t get too hot or I’ll faint.
4) I can’t stay up past 9:00 pm two days in a row or I’ll faint.
5) I can’t shriek or I’ll faint (see cow problem above).
6) I can’t go on an airplane or I’ll faint (and cause an international incident where I’m almost banned from flying even though I’m thousands of miles and an ocean away from home in a German airport all by myself with somehow, unfairly, NO Ritter Sport chocolate bars on my person, but that’s another story).
You may be sensing a theme. There’s more but the long and the short of it: I’m like one of those fainting goats. Well, not so much recently because I take medication that actually works, thank goodness. But, that medication came about because of astute observations made by Practical Man which in turn, helped doctors finally figure out, after 17 years of swooning, what was wrong with me. Once again, proving that I am (darn it!) the flower.
7) You already know how I am with The Nature.
8) But you probably don’t know that I have a thing about chewing. Can’t stand to hear it. Even three rooms over. If I’m ever captured and tortured for state secrets, all they have to do is chew raw carrots in my vicinity and I’ll spill the beans (and possibly some of their blood) immediately.
9) Also, I must eat my potato chips in a certain order (broken ones first, then ones that are misshapen, then ones with bubbles until I finish with one perfect chip). I don’t know why. But, I realized a few years ago that my mother does the same thing so I’m pretty sure there’s a potato-chip-ordering gene that scientists haven’t quite discovered yet. There should be a study and then me and my mom will be vindicated (I can hear you mocking us even now) because the potato-chip-ordering gene could help solve important world problems, I’m sure of it.
10) I can’t tilt my head more than 20 degrees in any direction without getting spinny. I know, I know. You already heard that I was fainty. But, see, this is spinny, not fainty. Spinny and fainty are totally different sensations but I’m pretty sure that they both add up to the same thing.
That is: that I am the flower.
Luckily, like my Grandma Verna, I’m also seemingly intelligent.
I always think of home veggie gardening as a vintage activity.
Maybe it’s because I am known to wear a giant-brimmed hat and women always used to wear hats, back in the day.
Or, maybe gardening feels vintage because of the rubber boots. They make me invincible to The Nature from the knees down. And, you can jump in puddles with impulsive tra-la-la.
Maybe it feels vintage because gardening is all about growing your own food and eating local. That whole recent trend? Vintage, actually!
Or, perhaps veggie gardening feels vintage because Apple hasn’t yet invented some kind of iMiracle to help with
- the weeding,
- the more weeding,
- the even more weeding (even though you thought you got them all yesterday)
- the never-ending weeding.
I would sleep outside the Apple store if they came out with an iWeeder. Instead, I feel that I am channeling my ancestors as we behold the resilience and fortitude that are weeds.
But now, boys and girls, it is officially scape season. There’s just no escaping it. The scapes, I mean.
A scape is the edible curly-cue that grows out of the centre of hard-necked garlic varieties. They’re like a cowlick in an otherwise beautiful garlic coiffure (I feel a kinship). In our part of the world, we harvest garlic scapes in June, a month or two before the actual garlic bulbs in the ground are ready. Scapes are very mild and taste like garlicky asparagus.
Confession: When I was 16 and billeted for a week into a German family in West Berlin, they served gigantic, tree-trunk spears of white asparagus for dinner (with pickled eel). I ate it because I was a polite Canadian girl (and I didn’t yet know how to say “Oh, I’m terribly sorry, I’m allergic to this whole dinner” in German so I was linguistically prevented from telling a colossal, cross-cultural fib). After that dinner, I never thought I would say that I loved something that tasted like asparagus.
If you hate asparagus, you must try it tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, then grilled. Parmesan shaved over the top once they’re cooked to nutty, caramelized perfection (about 10 minutes) only makes it even more irresistible. Soooo Yum! Use the same recipe for the scapes (or saute on the stovetop with some white wine, hot pepper flakes and the rest of the above). As for the pickled eel, well, you’ll have to make decisions for yourself. I prefer my eels…ugh…no I’m afraid, I don’t prefer eels.
But, garlic scapes are great. That is, of course, unless you’re one of those modern-day-abundant, immortal creatures who roams the night and is in love with some girl called Bella. Then, forget about the grilling and you might also want to avoid our property even if it’s safely after dark in the light of a beautiful moonscape (I’m on kind of a scape roll) and you look all sparkly.
We are not vampire people. We are not sparkly, but rather, possibly smelly, because we loooove the garlic. We watch and wait until suddenly, almost overnight, it happens: scapes! Right now, our garden landscape (sorry, I’ll try to stop soon) is resplendent with the curly little gems.
Practical Man planted three kinds of hard-necked garlic last fall:
- Music (isn’t that a lovely name for a garlic?)
- German Red (makes me think of Snoopy as the Red Baron. Also, slightly of eel.)
- Georgia Fire (loved the name and spicy connotations).
Garlic grows really well in our terrible soil. It’s as if we have a glittering city of skyscapers in our garden (okay, that one was reaching). This year, we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of 80 bulbs. Looking at the patch, over the garden fence, it’s a veritable seascape (I can’t help myself) of garlic, as far as the eye can see.
So, gardening: yes, it’s vintage. Sure, it’s weedy. There can be great hats and boots. And, somewhere in all the weeding, you get goodies, fresh from the earth.
Or, at least garlic, which, in our house, is a major food group. If you haven’t had scapes, look for them at your local farm stands, farm gates and markets.
And, I’m sorry for all the bad puns.
I’m looking around for a scapegoat, but I can’t find one.