Sooner or later, the exuberance of spring has to fade, and the business of producing seed and fruit begins in earnest. The crazy ways spring makes us feel, having to do many things at the same time and feeling like we make no headway, have disappeared for another year, and we can settle in to our summer routines.
So I go about my daily chores, filling bird baths, spending 45 minutes on bamboo eradication, (GRRRR!!!) pushing tomato plants back inside cages, all the while taking stock of what chores need doing: straw on black currants and rhubarb, make a bed for last five purple sweet potato plants, plant more zinnia seed, sow pole bean seed where tall telephone peas ripen seed and the list, of course, goes on.
And then, at least for the next few days, I do what I want to do, and not what I HAVE to do. Let the play begin. Of course to the casual observer, it still looks like work. I don’t lay in the hammock and contemplate my navel, or read one of the books in my stack of summer reading, I do garden-related things, but chores I’ve neglected because they seemed so trivial and unimportant, but they nagged at me, nevertheless. With the pressure of spring released, I glide into the new season.
The pokeweed in the perennial garden looks beautiful, its architecture magnificent, but I know what lies in store if I don’t dig out the roots. Three good-sized plants grow now; I could have a forest of them. It takes ten minutes to dig out the deep tap roots, used to treat cancerous tumors. Pokeweed leaves, early in spring, provide greens that taste like asparagus. The berries produce a beautiful dye. These facts gather in my mind as I dig; the folklore of every plant dear to me. I warn folks that every part of this plant has poisonous qualities; that you have to change the water twice when you cook the greens. The fact this plant contains an anti-viral mitogen makes me respect it even more. I don’t know how the research has gone in HIV and cancer treatments, but would provide an interesting topic for anyone so inclined.
I move to the first quarter acre that, slowly, I am giving back to native plants. In the far section, near Kuan-yin and the downed red oak, staghorn sumac tries to move in. The mother plants produce beautiful red fruits; and if you’ve seen adult male deer’s antlers, you know exactly what the fruit looks like. What a fine lemonade drink the berries make. Boiled in water, strained, a bit of simple syrup added, and who needs lemons?! I like the mother plants along the fence row and in the wild area, but I don’t want them moving into the “meadow” as they belong to the cashew family and cause a slight dermatitis when you brush up against them.
The runners pull out easily when they first come up, effortlessly really. But since the tornado, I haven’t ventured into that area, and now have twenty suckers coming up through the tall grasses. I use my pruners and cut them as close to the ground as possible. They’ll sucker again, but this time I won’t wait so long. While doing this, I pile some of the redbud branches into a neater pile, out of the way of the mower. This little effort makes me feel more in control of my world and more able to deal with the results of the tornado. I sit down, in the grasses, and watch all the fluttering about me. Because I burn these areas in winter, I don’t have to worry about ticks, a blessing indeed. Just to sit and watch all the life flitting about me. Ahhh…
Before lunch I go out to the park and weed around one of Missouri’s native clematis, versicolor. I’ve worked around this delicate clematis, opening up so the area so its beauty comes through. Have you seen a sweeter flower? The first of the plumbago has begun to bloom there too. That little scene inspires me, the simple beauty; an awareness of how many years I’ve waited to watch this vignette unfold. Don’t we live for these moments and then stand back and sigh with pleasure.
The last chore before I walk into the house for lunch and a nap, I cut a dead end off the vitex, or summer lilac. Every time I walk by, many times every day, it bugs me, sitting there dead and ugly, right in my line of vision. But I don’t take the time to use the ratchet pruners because I have too many important things to do….Whatever, it took 5 seconds. Now a list of small tasks that irritated me, have disappeared and I feel lighter and happier. Sometimes, it doesn’t take much.
The gardens fill with lovely scenes. The eyes know how to frame these pictures. We walk our gardens so often, we manipulate the vista, tweak it here and there, creating a world, our world, that gives us beauty and inspiration. I give you a couple of mine.