Jul 30, 2021
4 mins read
...whether your favorite version is Gershwin or Sublime, calling it an easy summer "ain't necessarily so." But life is still good, as the season whizzes by, finding us on the verge of August, and most days flirting with triple digit temps. Don't ask me where the time has gone...we suspect it whiled away its spare moments at the beach which is always so tantalizingly close, while we are working from town to town. Every now and again, we catch up with it at places like this, and suddenly it stands still - and so do we.
If living near the ocean teaches you flexibility, living in the garden keeps you grounded. I might have a wee addiction to the lure of growing things, and we have camped in one spot dangerously long enough to enable my habit.
This morning was my designated day in the garden, starting early with repotting, washing, trimming, and feeding. It thrives on very little, expect for some thoughtful attention and a frequent afternoon shower (in fact I often think I need my plants more than they need me!) but some quality time with my plant babies, and my soul is feeling fine.
The herb box has been keeping the kitchen supplied since April, thanks to grocery leftovers taken root. I love the smell of the basil when I water it.
Cuttings from friends always hold good memories! Baby Fig from Arkansas is now all grown up in a big pot of its own; ZZ plant, steadfastly accompanying me from place to place, is now proudly 5 years old; and the crowning glory of the Ginger Lily is the newest Florida addition.
For the dog days of summer, I’ll take it! 🪴🐝🦎🌴
The resident reptiles and amphibians have a standing laissez faire with our household, since they love the cool, moist shelter of the freshly watered leaves. Not a day goes by that I don't see the blobby tracks of tree frogs in the condensation on the window above the plants, or the wisp of tails once the first spray from the hose hits the leaves, as the tiny ones no more than an inch long tentatively watch from their shady hideouts to make sure I haven't taken up an appetite for baby lizards.
The visits from the dragonflies I especially love.
Another little indulgence of mine: tucked under the broad leaves, swaddled in fresh Spanish moss on a knot of driftwood from Carabelle, is a Cattleya orchid that started from a baby 2" tall. No pot, no soil, just enviably au natural, the way I saw them growing on the palm trees once in Orlando. I have a feeling she will be my wild child!
When the plants flourish, it isn't the pride of success that I feel - only gratitude that I could be a small part of their thriving, and watch the wonder of their incredibly motivated life cycle. For all their complexity, the creatures of the plant world are wired to live and grow, and they do this with effortless simplicity, in the blissful absence of the existential hangups that plague other creatures.
In a garden, plants are the teachers - they mostly tell you what they want, and how things have to be - and other things, if you listen. There is some truth to the saying "bloom where you're planted" as a testimony to the dogged persistence of the growing instinct. But most plants are pretty clear when they're in the wrong spot, and tell us loudly with crunchy brown leaf edges, or ragged pale limbs, or an absolute refusal to bloom. Lift them nearly dead to the roots into a new area, with new ground around their feet, and watch them resurrect with an "I told you so" flourish. Yes, they would absolutely up and move if they could. Many just have to settle for the wait - sending out spores or pollen or rhizomes so that their offspring a few generations down the line have a chance at a better place. Unless some hapless person comes along and expedites the process.
Tending the plants keeps you rooted in the moment as you pay attention to the mildness or the intensity of the sunlight in a certain spot, or the smell and texture of the soil; would my roots feel at home in this? Is it warm and crumbly like fresh chocolate cake, or clumpy and dry, or thin, like an unamended coastal sand? Are you thirsty? There is a wonderful joy in giving them a gentle bath, rinsing the tiny stomata and making the leaves glow again as they reach outwards. And it's an especially beautiful thing to wash the delicate roots of a small plant in your fingers, as if you were holding a tiny mind in the palm of your hand, and sharing in its own wondrous refreshment.
And so I don't claim to be a gardener, I just relish the chance to pay them a little attention and see what happens. It's fortunate that most plants are fairly benevolent when it comes to the overall lack of chemical and botanical knowledge possessed by most people who attempt to cultivate them. I often wonder all the stories we could hear from different families of plants, if the memories stored in these intricate roots could speak. Or, maybe they would tell us, "Just GROW."
Stay grounded, my friends 💚