mantisphiles

Life one bite at a time…….

Djeet

There is a beautiful verbal exchange in Pride and Prejudice between Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth. She has just been taken to task for not being a piano proficient, and in turn she has taken Mr. Darcy to task for being antisocial. Both deficits, it seems can be solved by practice.  I do so love the language of Jane Austen, so delicate and yet so clear.  I am afraid I am more Mr. Darcy than Miss Elizabeth.

I have a few people in my acquaintance.  I have never endeavored to amass an enormous sphere of social contacts, having always lived a more insular life, even as a child.  I love deeply and freely but not loudly.  Living love loudly takes practice.  And I must admit a certain aversion to exercise.  I like to think those who know, know and if you don’t know you probably still know.  One way or the other.

Like those soundbites describing how true friends need say nothing, can be in each other’s presence for hours or absent for years and then one day the phone rings and it’s as if no time has passed.  My management style exactly.

Within my sphere, I have had the pleasure of acquaintance with some profoundly talented and bright people. Beautiful people, really.  I have been lucky.  And blessed.

When for the first time I ventured out as an adult by myself I was going to college, pursuing music.  Having been active in my high school’s vocal and theatre departments I thought I had some decent background for this pursuit.  I was not prepared, truly I was not.

One of the first into whose path I was tossed, became a teacher, a mentor, a friend.  He was the kind of guy everyone wanted to know, get a piece of.  Larger than life. His artistic pursuits were so numerous, so varied and so thickly interwoven one would have thought it would take an army of people to hold it all down.  His name has been dropped so often he could be mistaken as the Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey of my college set.

We became acquainted through a series of entry level courses he taught.  Deepening our relationship by singing together in the small chamber group which progressed to singing in his jazz vocal group.  I was thrilled when he asked me to sub the girl singer spot in his big band.  I knew then what the wise guys must feel when they became made men.  I was in.

There were eight guys in the band.  I was young and naive and most of them treated me like a little sister.  My teacher/mentor/friend, the band leader was notoriously on sleep deficit.  Surviving sometimes on a couple of hours of sleep a night for days on end, gigging, teaching, writing charts, traveling.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  One of my new found brothers advised me: keep him awake by talking about two subjects, baseball or sex.  I was screwed.  I would be hurtling through the night at high speed in a van packed to the gills with equipment, and no idea what to say to keep him awake. Nothing needed to keep ME awake.

I had the privilege to ride shotgun with him for four years.  It was definitely not four years of baseball lingo and sex chats.  I found someone to whom I could speak without having to worry about being understood.  In some ways I think he knew me better than I knew myself. His advice was always spot on and he never treated me like a kid. Our conversations ran the gamut.  Excluding sex and baseball.

In the final part of my college career I had two private studies with him.  One was an indulgence, since it was a private jazz piano session, and my piano playing certainly wasn’t up to snuff (perhaps if I had practiced?).  The other a music analysis course.  Given a piece of music each week, I had to deconstruct, analyze and then verbalize the results into a 5-10 page term paper, hand typed.  Each week.  Did I mention this was each week?  It was one of the funnest classes I had. It allowed me to indulge so many aspects of my personality and then play it to an appreciative audience.  What not to like?

That class became a catalyst for what was to become one of the most momentous events of my life.  During one gig commute, we talked about my nonexistent love life.  I still remember every word he said to me and then what he did practically in the next breath.  At the gig that night, he corralled one of my band mates.  This guy was brilliant, talented, funny and sensitive.  And preternaturally shy.  Mr. Brilliant was told he would walk a mile for a girl that could write a term paper like I did.  Sexy.

It worked.  Mr. Brilliant/talented/funny/sensitive asked me out and soon became my husband.  My friend/mentor/band leader had now become my Yente. I do not like to use the word debt, as there would be no way to repay it.  But it earned a permanent place in  my personal pantheon.

Some of the most profound compliments I ever received came from him, which I hold in my heart. Buried treasure. But unfortunately as life progressed and my management style set in, we didn’t keep up. I failed to practice.

So here I am, breaching the silence of those interstitial spaces in our relationship. Loving loudly.

I love you man.  Djeet?

Let them eat cupcakes!

Monday I am going to the doctor for the first time in well over a year, maybe even two. Yes, I can hear the coming admonition about doctor’s visits and women “of a certain age”. I know. It hasn’t been because I haven’t had some complaints. For three months or so I have fought a running skirmish with sinus issues that have been cyclically debilitating, a few muscle problems to work through. Nothing serious.

No my absence of medical advice has been primarily due to my current employment situation which is “self-employed” and the saga of the health care portal. I was a bit anxious to expose my healthcare to a system that might pull the rug out just as I was getting to the good stuff. For the record, while the healthcare marketplace website was a debacle of no small order, once I actually got it working it was pretty slick. (To my Obama hating public: I don’t want to hear about it!)

This will be a new doctor for me. I want someone who will look at me and my life holistically. I am going to ask her about her relationships with pharmaceutical companies and other suppliers so I know I will not be subjected to medicines and procedures based upon some quota that sends her to Cozumel for a week.

I am hoping this isn’t going to be like some medical relationships past, one which tried to blame an impending gall bladder explosion on the fact that I just had too much weight pressing on my internal organs. Seriously, that is what is causing your reflux, indigestion, and heartburn, Mrs. Smith. You can pay at the window, next please.

I am a short, round woman. I have commando gardened for long enough that while I look like a cupcake, the cover can be deceiving. This past summer I unloaded and deployed over 250 bags of 3 cubic feet of mulch around my acre of heaven, some totally saturated with water. And that was just part of my gardening season. Am I a little slower with less stamina than in the past. Indeed. There has been too much water under my bridge in the last couple of years for me to retain my past commando crown, but I pull my share.

Four years ago I decided to work with a personal trainer. I was working out at home in addition to my commando time and just wanted to make sure I was not doing anything wrong, causing more problems than I was solving. Before I could even begin, I had to have a sign off by my physician. Check. Then they had to do a physical assessment. Check. I was tested for strength, balance and flexibility. They were astonished at how strong I was, how flexible, how good my balance. Honestly, I had to keep from laughing. I guess it suspends belief that a short round woman can actually be in decent shape.

A couple of months ago I attended a drop in yoga class. I arrive in my baggy ancient sweatshirt and sweats into the spandex and midriff bearing crowd. Oh boy. The young instructor sidles over to me and starts the conversation, “You’re new?” Yes. “What do you hope to gain from coming tonight?” Well, I’ve been doing some yoga at home and want to make sure I am doing it right. “Okay. Well, don’t feel like you have to keep up. If at any time you need sit it out, please feel free. Work at your speed.” Sure, says I with a cheshire grin.

The workout was intense, more so than at home. I have a bum knee from a 15 year old hiking/climbing accident that doesn’t allow certain positions, or at least not easily, so I gingerly worked through those. For the most part, I kept up throughout the whole hour and half. Not bad for a first timer I thought. After class, the instructor sidles up to me and says, “You’re really strong and flexible.” Yeah, I know, I look like a cupcake.

Over New Year’s I accomplished a life goal. I’ve always wanted to see a Mayan ruin. I am totally an archeology geek. If I had one reason to bring back my cable service it would be so I could watch archeology shows on History and Nat Geo. On the Riviera Maya is a lesser known Mayan temple called Ek Balam. Not as touristy, still accessible, indescribably wonderful. And I was able to make the climb. I didn’t climb over a short wall at the top not wanting to subject my knee to potentially more trauma than what I was going to need going down. The height is giddy-inducing. I have a love-hate relationship with heights that sometimes makes me experience a free fall feeling when on the top-side. So I took a few iPhone shots and started down. Yeah, I know. Cupcake.

So Monday is the doctor. I am hopeful that I won’t be compared to a bunch of sanitized statistics managed and massaged by the insurance industry. I don’t desire to live into longevity. Long life doesn’t necessarily mean a good one. I have friends in their 80s and some past 90, and the crowd is evenly divided on how well they view their lives. I want to live well, make my own choices, rattle a few cages. Go down without living in a forest of tubes and monitors and medications. I have already beaten the abysmally poor infant mortality statistics of the modern American health system. I want to have some honesty and dignity in my health care relationship.

Geez, I hope this doctor ain’t a cupcake.

Marjorie

Isn’t Marjorie a beautiful name? To me evocative of English accents, cocktails and dinner parties.

I am lucky to have a Marjorie in my life.  Some folks call her Marjie or some such.  But to me it short sells a beautiful word, aptly applied to a beautiful person.

How did I come to have a Marjorie you might ask?  When I found the sanctuary of Grace UMC, I was alone.  Every Sunday for months, I would enter the calm stillness and hope to find peace, true grace and a way ahead.  Every Sunday, two lovely ladies sat near where I sat.  Sometimes, I would sit right behind them.  Soon, we struck up a friendship.  It didn’t take long to find out my new friends Joyce and Marjorie had existed in my state of onesiness for a long time.  They knew where I was, and made an effort to make sure I got where I needed to go.

Soon, we were seeking each other out before service.  It was delightful meeting those ladies.  Joyce sent me cards.  Long after the madding crowd had left my little drama, a card now and again would pop through the mail.  Made me feel there was someone out there thinking.

I recognized a fiesty streak in Marjorie.  Don’t ask me how.   I was blown away when she stood up in the pulpit and described not only that she had been attending Grace for over 80 years, but she had begun the journey as a little girl,  alone.  First walking, and then riding a trolley.  Beyond fiesty.  Determined.  Very, very determined.

When we began serving on the finance committee together, I loved seeing her work the room.  She was a force.    I became chair of the committee and soon Marjorie and I were riding together, sharing space, sharing tales.  I started realizing how shallow the end of the pool I inhabited.  She was quite simply, Something.

I thought I was so cool, so pushing the envelope when I picked her up for her birthday lunch in my hot little convertible.   That day we were ladies who lunched.  Taking our time, swapping stories.  It wasn’t until afterwards, when I had forgotten to take the convertible up to 90 in honor of her upcoming date, that I realized I needed to run a lot faster than that to keep up.  She told me that she and her husband had owned a GTO back in the day.  Not only did they own it, they drove it Mexico.  When he needed a nap, she took over the driving.  Wide open spaces, foreign country, muscle car, Marjorie at the wheel.  Then her husband woke up and discovered she was doing 90.

And she is the 90 I would aspire to be.  Curious, energetic, thoughtful, smart.  She volunteers, she leads, she continually keeps moving and it seems takes no prisoners, except me. Sweet, gentle, fiery.

Happy birthday, Marjorie.

The Good, the Bad and oh, whatever…….

IMG_5488

Today is a day I have been dreading.  Not like the April 15, I gotta send money kinda dread.  But in the “this is gonna be some serious hard work” kinda way.

It’s been at least five years since I’ve been at the compost bins.

Can I digress here and say I don’t always get the English?  Don’t they say comPAHST?  So if that’s the case isn’t it The Pahstman Always Ring Twice?

Anyway, I have been procrastinating.  I know there is deep rich stuff in them there bins.  But the shoveling and filtering is dirty heavy business.  But in the end comes gold.  Black gold.  Ohio tea.  Like in the picture above.  One bin of sieved, compost filled an entire large Vermont cart.  This is the stuff of gardener’s green dreams.

For me, this is the beginning of a new project.  Part of the procrastination.  There is scope creep in this here project.  First some background.  Although I live in a suburban area, we are mightily plagued with an expanding deer population.  I have tried on several occasions to vegetable garden here.  I have the room and some ideally sunny areas.  But those spots are also easily marauded by our four legged friends, not to mention the raccoons, possums, skunks and anything else running loose.  I have been most successful with pots near the shed.  Not ideal in terms of sun space, but close to rainbarrels and the building seems to act as a deterrent to marauders.

So here is the next generation project……

IMG_5481

Raised beds ala stock tanks.  I have done a little reading.  Very little as I am a woman of action!

Unfortunately, the feeding of the procrastination is moving the wood pile in this area, figuring out the best spot for sun and then filling said stock tanks with compost.  The Vermont cart full filled one stock tank about halfway.  I have to rehome the wood pile, figure out the walking path and then get the rest of the compost sieved.  I’m exhausted just writing this.  And I have yet to plant a thing.

I am hoping with these deep tanks, root vegetables, garlic, onions will have a chance.  I am not greedy.  I am limiting my potential harvest to tomatoes, peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic, potatoes and green beans.  If there is  enough room, can asparagus be too far behind.?  But first I have to prove this little experiment will work.  I am worried there is too much shade.

And the bad?  You might have interpolated that the bad in the title was the hard work.  Unfortunately, not so.  Don’t forget I am a professional commando gardener.  Used to these bursts of high energy farm labor.  The bad is actually human intervention.  Someone put a broken bottle into my compost bin.  And one enterprising piece found its way into the palm of my hand.  I swear I felt it hit me all the way to my shoulder.  It’s for these occurrences I keep the peroxide handy.  Hard to type a post with just one hand……

And the news from the rest of the estate?  Ah, there is news indeed.  In addition to mantis this year, has been a blessing of butterflies, many which I have no idea who they are, many of which are swallowtails.

I was blessed to see that a Giant Swallowtail was flitting through the farm.  Think really large black/brown chocolatey wings with yellow racing stripes looking much like unwound film.  More dark than light. Enchanting.  Flew through too quickly for  me to get the camera, or so I thought.

A few days ago, there was something decidedly nasty, decidedly sinister on my lemon tree.  Yes folks, the same lemon tree the deer pulled off it’s resting place and broke many of it’s branches.  Patched up it survived.  Who knew deer liked lemon?

But the thing on my lemon tree?  At first, I thought it a particularly artistic means of bird self expression.  Yes, bird poop.  But it was fascinatingly weird, I couldn’t take my eyes from it.  When it moved I realized what I took for the terminal glop of poo, really looked like a baby alligator, or a dragon.  Holy smokes!  this is either animated bird poop ala Stephen Spielberg or it it’s ALIVE!

And thus I get to see the caterpillar form of the giant swallowtail, hanging it in my lemon tree……..

IMG_5486

As a point of comparison, this is what a yellow swallowtail caterpillar looks like, just so you don’t think I have this bizarre sense of drama (okay I do have a bizarre since of drama but not with caterpillars)…..

IMG_5499

Big difference, no?

Then there are the mantis.  In my previous post, it might be recalled that in the nine mantis counted, one was a two and half incher.  Clearly out of his league amongst all the heavy weights around him.  Yes, it was a him.  The next day, I found his headless, dessicated body not far from where I first spotted him.  Seems he found his femme fatale.  Interestingly enough, his replacement was an even smaller mantis, under two inches.  Good luck little guy.  May you creep under the radar.

Lagniappe

IMG_5482

I sedum come and I sedum go…….

Mantis on my Mind

Today the southwest Ohio heat storm broke a bit. Able to walk through the yard without becoming wringing wet (at any time of the day) for the first time in days, it was a cool but humid morning. Offered time to get a few tasks done before the uptick in both heat and humidity.

First task is to take the devil dogs for their morning jog. It was a good run. Since bringing a fully charged water pistol to the task, I am seeing a little less attitude when meeting other canines in the ‘hood. Today was a good dog day from another aspect as Joy did her first mock pull. She has been wearing a pull harness on our daily walks for over a week, with the ultimate goal of pulling a dog cart. She has gotten so used to it if I am not quick enough to suit up for our walk, she is nudging the harness and giving me meaningful looks. “Hurry up Mom”. So today, I built a mock pull jig that could be clipped to her harness. Fancy words for a piece of pine with eye screws. We walked the block and she did GREAT!

Time now to address yard and garden issues.  I don’t water much.  New plantings and transplants, yes, but when the beds are starting to dry up and crack, time to water.  Time to set sprinklers and timers, and hope for a cooling down.  Just get the shrubs and perennials through to dormancy.

On my first walk through the western terrace, I started to see them.  MANTIS!  Without much effort on my part, I counted 8 good sized mantids in about a 6 foot square area.  Ranging in size from 2.5 inches to easily 4.  Two  four inchers hanging almost nose to nose within 6 inches of each other.  I waited to see the action, but with usual mantis timing, hardly a twitch. And I must say these two were certainly not interested in me.  Sex or lunch? Don’t know but when I checked back about 30 minutes later, both had gone missing.  Hmmmmm.  The others, still in roughly the same attitudes as I had last seen them, some dressed in the radiant emerald green of a fresh molt and others the standard camouflage of golden amber and green.

My next coup of the day was to break out the mantis cam kit I bought on the internet.  Since I am still trying to diagnose why my good camera has thrown up its hands (thus no standard pictures, sorry!), this was a good opportunity to try the new technology.  (www.mantisonmymind.com)

Included in the kit is a mantis vise, which allows you to gently restrain the animal in question, while the micro chip and the cam are affixed.  It’s just snug enough that a small range in body sizes can be accommodated.  You may have a bit of a struggle at first, but once you have handled the first one or two you kinda get the hang of it.

Once in the vise, you must work quickly.  You do not want to stress out the mantid especially as it will take some time for the glue to dry after affixing the chip and the cam.  The glue is a special concoction developed by NASA for use with aliens, so is very gentle and nontoxic.

Glue the cam first.  It’s a bit heavier than the chip so will need a little extra curing time.  I placed mine right behind the neck joint so a literal mantis eye view can be obtained.  Then I placed the chip right behind it.  I sped up the gluing process by gently squeezing the tube of glue to create a bubble at the applicator point and allowing it to set just a bit before placing on the device and placing on the mantid. I was able to glue up and release four mantids in about a half an hour.

The theory is that in going through the next molt cycle, both devices will be sloughed off, but are completely biodegradable.

I found the mantis cam software was easily installed on my mac mini and getting the various devices identified and cued up took very little time at all.  These were very thoughtful software developers to say the least.  And what wonderful pictures started rolling in, in addition to being able to track movements through my garden beds via the chips.  AMAZING!!!!!!

Oh, how wonderful if I could just…….. Okay,  everything was true down to the mantis cam kit. No mantids (real or imagined or any other creatures) were harmed in the ripping of this yarn.  Just a little flight of fancy on my part.

Peace!

PS – Since posting have gotten the camera back on line ……. (Yes Virginia, these are ALL DIFFERENT!)

IMG_5474 IMG_5473 IMG_5471 IMG_5467 IMG_5465 IMG_5462 IMG_5461 IMG_5458 IMG_5455

Full Circle

When I first began this post, it was because my queendom was so blessed with so many mantis queens.  They had thrived despite neglect and carried on the order.  They really didn’t need me, they just needed vegetation and bugs to eat.

This has been a summer of rebuilding.  A summer of oddities.  A summer of awakening. There were garden spaces to be reclaimed and others to be decommissioned.  It’s definitely been months of seriously hard work.  In the past ten days alone, I have loaded, unloaded and placed over 1,500 pounds of reclaimed concrete pavers.    The weather as so many of us have noted has not been midwestern typical, but I will take the California dreaming any day.  It’s been marvelous.

So tonight, as I sat on the deck post dinner it was hard not to notice that my beautiful farm cats, Munchkin and Fletcher were in a bit of a dither.  At first, I chalked it up to kitty hi jinks.  Munchkin had reappeared after a couple week hiatus.  Florida?  Costa Rica?  She never tells.  But Fletcher wouldn’t let it go, so now my curiosity is up:  is there a baby bird in the vegetation, someone wounded?

Below my deck is a nice stand of grasses.  They have thrived despite being in too much shade and have added a punctuation point to the path to the deck.  I love them.  And so apparently does the mantis.  As I approached the clump of grass in question, the one to which Fletcher was taking exception, I noticed it was quivering.  I was expecting a baby bird, many of which I had rescued and put beyond farm cat reach in the past.

I was surprised.  A four inch mantis queen had captured a full grown katydid.  Katydid not yet dead did not in any way deter the queen from beginning her meal.   It was astonishing.  I attempted with two different cameras to capture the moment.  Neither one, the good camera erroring out and the iPhone 5 focusing on too much green, could capture it. And just as I was admitting defeat, I realized the queen was focused on me.

Her beautiful diamond shaped head and sparkling eyes were looking at me as if to say, “You looking at me?”  It was a Taxi Driver moment.  And I just put the cameras away and slinked back onto the deck.

Life is good.  Long live the Queen.

 

I Am What I Am

I am a gardening snob. While I can arguably be accused of being many other kinds of snob, this is one I easily ‘fess to.

I am a gardening snob.

What crime, you might ask, to which I am confessing?  It could be native vs. all other plants; or local nurseries vs. mail order, or David Austen Roses vs Knock Out roses.  There are a plethora of permutations.

My crime, my prejudice, is the very definition of gardener, in my book.  Unless your hands are wrist deep in dirt, you are not a gardener.  You may be a designer, or a conscientious homeowner, but gardener, no.  My neighborhood is full of point and click gardens (landscapes as I refer to them).  Folks wanting maximum curb appeal with the least amount of bother.  Cover up that horrible utility box or erase my neighbor’s presence, but it has to be NO maintenance.   Once I write the check I no longer want to think about it.

Gardeners think about it all the time.  And I ain’t talkin sex, I am talking plants.    Is that the right spot for X, should I move Y?  Maybe it’s time to pull the plug on Z as it’s been five years and no improvement.  Experiment W has hit the jackpot, time to invest in more.  We absorb our plants through our pores.  Dream about next year, plant for the next decade.

One of my neighbors made a huge investment in landscaping.  Purchased yards and yards of topsoil, invested in thousands of dollars of mature plantings.  Then rarely spent time in the space that was created.  I couldn’t see the point. I guess it was the horticultural version of I belong to the country club.  My landscape is more expensive than yours.

Most of the gardeners I know, besides gardening to a compulsion most of us barely understand, are gardening to create a place of peace and beauty and sanctuary,  A place to spend time, recharge, seek comfort.

And this, I am most comfortable being snobbish about.

Tara

I practice commando gardening. No, it does not mean I garden naked, although now that I think of it, what paradigm adjustments my neighbors would have to make?  Thinking of course, Kathy Bates and Jack Nicholson in a hot tub. Okay, I digress……

For me, commando gardening are the 5, 6, 7 hour sessions where I stop for nothing.  By the end of which I look very much like Rambo coming out of the vegetation, covered in mud to my eyeballs.  AND several meaningful tasks having been completed, I need food and water and rest.  And maybe a redux of Lonesome Dove.

When I first started on this journey of creating my personal arboretum, I read somewhere the test of a true gardener was when the plants spent more time in a wheelbarrow than in the ground.  So, many of my plants have been moved several times, trying gracefully to beg off of the next road trip.  I am trying to find the best spot where they will thrive.  They on the other hand, just want to stay connected to the ground.  So in comes the commando; time to move troops!

This year I am decommissioning a garden space. Having decided to stay in my home of a decade plus, I am redeploying those perennials remaining in a high maintenance area I can no longer maintain alone.  I have been moving and giving away as many living entities as I can.  For me folks, each plant represents a life, one that deserves respect and hope and from there the chance to move on.  If not in my home, then somewhere it will be respected and loved.  I feel them and I talk to them.  They reward me.  Sometimes despite my negligence.

This has been an amazing spring, despite the decommissioning, there are plants blooming which have not bloomed before; roses that have been in the  ground for over a decade have multiple buds/blooms.  I think Mother Nature has put an umbrella over my little arboretum, helping, supporting, teasing me.  Now that I have accepted this little acre as mine.  Mine.  Only for a lifetime, a steward.

I feel connected to this place.  A place that has existed so much in my mind as I plan, develop, nurture, move plants.  I am reminded of Scarlett O’Hara.  Despite the loss of love, the loss of loved ones, felt such a deep connection to her bit of earth she knew she always had a place.

So here it is, the connection between Rambo and Scarlett O’Hara.  My Zen.

 

 

The Plant Lady

I really love houseplants. I mean I REALLY love houseplants. One thing remaining consistent in the last couple of years of constant change has been houseplants. Even though the garden jones seems to have died, I am still rescuing houseplants.  Even dumpster diving to rescue plants, like this sanseviera rescued from work.  Multiple pots thrown out because they were horribly pot bound and overgrown.  I went into the dumpster, repotted them into two matching pots for the deck, they rewarded me later that year by blooming their little rootstocks off!

IMG_4762

There is not a room in my house without plants in it. My sunroom, about 12 x 24 bears the heaviest load, but when I decided it was time to clear my dining room of furniture, it became the auxiliary greenhouse. About this time of year the Green Goddess starts the itch somewhere between my shoulder blades, I have to find something green, new, fabulous to add to the collection. Otherwise, the itch just get worse.  You may call it a monkey on my back, but I prefer Green Goddess, reminding me spring is soon here.

I do a nursery crawl until something grabs and doesn’t let go. I know the places to feed my jones for plants, cool pots.  And YES, it does feel a bit like a monkey on my back, directing me to back alleys and darkened doorways until there is relief.  I did the drill a couple of weeks ago.  Rescuing a couple of $1 miniature roses, finding some cool dark brown basket weave terra cotta pots at  Bern’s and hitting gold at the next, Knollwood in Beavercreek.  They’re always good for way cool houseplants and very cool pots. An outlying place in Yellow Springs is my fall back position, since it’s a bit far even for a pre-spring fix, but by far they always have the coolest plants.  The KING of all these places, at least centric to my current position is Baker’s Acres.  They don’t open until spring, so local I remain. But already the juices are flowing for my annual (pun intended) visit to Baker’s Acres.

At Knollwood’s are a variety of cool gondola shaped glazed pots in some really beautiful colors and sizes (see the first picture below).  The real coup were succulents.  A very sharp variegated bush-like plant and a vining succulent with a blush of plum in its rounded leaves (unfortunately no tags) .  Had to have. Rounding out the group was a nice stand of sanseviera “laurentii”.  Ghostly white-blue spears about two feet tall. OH, yes, load them up.

IMG_4759                                           IMG_1015                                        IMG_4767

Whew, I feel so much better now!

Like many gardeners, I love the unusual, the variegated, black, chartreuse, red, plum wild foliage on plants both inside and out.  Like this black taffeta begonia and the red chinese evergreen……

IMG_4765        IMG_4769 IMG_0991

In addition to the begonia blooming above, amaryllis, cyclamen, angel trumpets, sanseviera, echeveria, hibiscus are all blooming.  Getting ready to cut loose are orchids.

Yes, I said orchids.

IMG_4609

Never cared for them much.  Much too high maintenance for my lazy-girl program.  Not until the onslaught of the easy care types that started flooding Kroger’s, Trader Joes, and other similar retail outlets.  Even I could justify spending $10 on an orchid, even if I knew the fussy thing would probably not be around in a year.  But then I had to have one of every flower type.  I was hooked.  A row of them sprung up on my kitchen windowsill, where they could be exposed to constant southern light, partially protected by an ancient silver maple and another wall of the house.  They would also benefit from the humidity and warmth from the kitchen sink.  They even got to vacation on the deck, only losing one.

And then a year or so ago, I was visiting my dear friend Diane in Dallas.  Dear until she hog tied me and forced me to go with her to an orchid greenhouse near her home.  I just did it to humor her; I had no interest.  I had my $10 orchids, I was satisfied.  Until……

IMG_0399                              IMG_0403                                    IMG_0401

Are you kidding me?  I had to FLY back.  I could not possibly leave this place without something.  And there were too many varieties to count.  Mind blowing acres of orchids.  Yes, I said acres.  Maybe only 1.5 acres, but I felt as though I had found the secret meet up place for orchids, all milling about in wild glorious abandon.  At this point, I hate Diane!  What have you done to me, I am the orchid-hater!!

So, I narrow it down to three.  Yes, Virginia, you can take plants as carry ons.

IMG_0408                  IMG_0400

So three beauties came home with me, causing quite a stir in the airport and on the plane.  I’m fairly certain I heard whispers of “who’s the crazy plant lady” as I walked through to board with the biggest loon-crazy grin on my face EVER!  I love Diane!

I really had no delusions though about their longevity.  Orchids of most varieties are notoriously finicky and I wasn’t kidding about my lazy girl tendencies, so I knew where the two coincided death was sure to follow.  So they vacationed on the deck with the others and migrated in during the fall round up.  To date they are thriving.  When checked this morning, one of them is covered with buds, thumbing its nose at my benevolent neglect.  I plan to post pictures back to this blog when the blessed event occurs.

Of my grocery store children, several of them were repotted, two of them now offering up their fragile looking bloom stems for a spring explosion.  A note to the wise, many of the grocery store orchids are stuck into some pretty sorry peat moss, so repotting sooner rather than later is beneficial.  And the rescue of which I am most proud?  An orchid languishing in the office of my former company’s owner spirited out by her assistant.  It was of the grocery store variety, just in much nicer pot.  It had been overwatered and neglected, its leaves turning thin and crepey, not a good sign in my new found orchid knowledge.  I repotted this invalid with another of its healthier cousins in the fabulous container it was given to me in.  I placed it on my kitchen bar so I could keep an eye on the duo in their new digs. With spring just around the corner with all its promise, the poor little invalid has turned its own corner and will soon be joining its extended family for the annual pilgrimage on the deck, healthy and vibrant.

I need a greenhouse.  I mean REALLY.

 

Hello, Laeliocattelya Fire Dance ‘Blanch’

IMG_4784

Back to the Future

In many ways, I feel as though I am being expelled from Eden.  Since 1999, we ripped and dug and managed and dreamed a blank slate into a personal paradise.  Every plant, every shrub, every piece of hardscape selected, positioned, nurtured to create a sanctuary for us, for birds, all comers.  We created an Arboretum.

2008 was the beginning.  Most of the hardscape was in, but plants were immature.  Bones were fleshing out , making their presence known.  Suddenly, it was no longer a series of disparate plants and beds.  For the first time, there was the appearance of a plan.  There was a sense of place, of organization, of thought process.  9 years in the  making.

Tropical potUSB 013

Long bed spring 2008arbor 003Terraced bed summer 2008 West bed with alliums summer 2008 Monarda summer 2008 Summer 2008 Helianthus and friends summer 2008Peony America spring 2008USB 011South end long bed 2008close up south end 2008Peonies spring 2008

It took 10 years for the garden to explode, just as the beginning of the end made itself known.  Unbelievable health, color, insects, birds. A decade of sweat, wishes, dreams and yes a lot of coin, coming to the party.

IMG_4074 IMG_4072 IMG_4071 IMG_4054 IMG_4015 IMG_4011 IMG_0051 IMG_0049 IMG_0040 IMG_0038 IMG_0035 IMG_0034 IMG_4066IMG_0031 IMG_0029 IMG_0024 IMG_0010 USB 013

2010 proved to be the second best spring yet.  Taking a note from the high points and low points of 2009, I moved stock around, tucking here and there, editing, expanding.  Roses that never bloomed before cut loose in 2010.  So beautiful.

100_0148 100_0150 IMG_4292 IMG_4291 IMG_4273 IMG_4205 IMG_4215 IMG_4220 IMG_4223 IMG_4228 IMG_4181 IMG_4180 100_0151 100_0140 100_0139 100_0137 100_0127

Then came the fall from grace, followed by indifference and then drought.

When I began this blog in 2011, my intention was to write primarily on the natural world around me, or unnatural if that is how one defines gardening.  My gardening experiences, my passion for plants, for beauty, for letting go, letting nature.  My passion for an organic lifestyle.  So much has gotten in the way, and on the journey something was lost.  All those gardening passions missing in action.  Although I have been admonished for writing about too much sadness, it has been cathartic, healthy.  It has helped me excise those wounds too deep for the public to see, purge the poison.  But now I am ready.  Ready to get back to the future.

As I prepare to leave this languishing Eden, I look forward to finding the place on earth I can call mine.  A place where I can look back to the hard work and choices of a decade or so and cherry pick for my plans for the future.  Apply the results and lessons learned in 2009 and 2010 and create my personal Eden.  My place of rest and respite, peace and contentment.  I am older now and no longer the warhorse I used to be, filling entire days with farm work without rest.  I will have to be kinder and gentler on myself, not be too impatient for results.

I want this back, in my future.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 155 other followers