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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

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Perhaps ten years ago now I was shopping for zinnia seeds to plant in front of my mom’s house in Irvington. On a whim, I grabbed a packet of large brown seeds, only five or six to a packet. From the photo on the front these flowers looked much like the blue morning glories I would be growing, except they were white. So it was with these modest expectations that I planted all the seeds and awaited the results. As the summer wore on, I confess, those special brown seeds slipped my mind. I had plenty of vines, and eventually there were beautiful sky blue flowers gracing the railings of my mom’s front porch every morning. I couldn’t have been more delighted with the results. One day I stepped out onto that porch near sunset, and was nearly knocked over by the sight of the largest and most exquisitely gorgeous silky moon-white and fragrant flower I had ever laid eyes on. It was nearly as large as my face, and I immediately took some selfies with it. It was huge, and it was beautiful, and I had forgotten I planted the thing and so it was beyond any and all expectations that I had formed and then forgotten over the course of the growing season. It was a bonus miracle.

I tried growing moonflowers during some of the following summers in other gardens, and met with no success. This past summer however, once again living back in Irvington and just a few blocks from my mom’s front porch of days past, I tried moonflowers one more time. Again, I thought I had failed. Again, one unsuspecting evening, I strolled out onto my deck and was struck by the radiance of a delicate beauty veritably glowing from within the flourishing tangle of morning glory vines. Another miracle, at last! I was blessed with a few more moonflowers over the next several days, and I savored them all. Perhaps there is something in the air here in Irvington that makes this type of magic thrive. Once you see and smell one of these gorgeous entities for yourself you will understand what I mean. And when you do you will start planting moonflower seeds too.

In the meantime I will let Jetta Carleton do the describing, in this excerpt from her novel, The Moonflower Vine. Perhaps someday I will get to see a show such as this:

“The watch resumed. Soon, now, a stem would tremble, a faint shudder run through the vine, sensed more than seen. A leaf twitched. No, you imagined it. But yes, it moved! A light spasm shook the long pod. Slowly at first, then faster and faster, the green bud unfurled, the thin white edges of the bloom appearing and the spiral ascending, round and round and widening till at last the white horn of the moonflower, visible for the first time in the world, twisted open, pristine and perfect, holding deep in its throat a tiny jewel of sweat.

…The vine stormed to life, and the blooms exploded— five, twelve, a torrent of them, tumbling their extravagant beauty into the evening air.

…The big spendthrift blooms extended themselves, stretched tight as the silk on parasols. In the dusk they would glimmer weakly, limp and yellowed as old gloves after a ball. But not now. Now the starred blossoms burned white against the dark vine and filled the air with the sweet, faintly bitter scent of their first and last breath.”

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It is said that  a man’s eyes are the windows into his soul. Might it not also be said that a person’s windows are the eyes of his or her soul?

I have always been fascinated by windows: what can be seen through them from the outside, the view from indoors — but also the windows themselves: the dressings, the objects placed thereon, the construction, the utility, the apparent warmth and security afforded by a nearly invisible plane of glass. The idea of the window could (and does) afford many a subject for artistic and philosophical expression. I am only the latest to consider it.

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I recently had the wonderful opportunity to visit Claude Monet’s home In Giverny, France. Having studied a great deal of art history during high school and college, I was well acquainted with Monet’s works, and had passed through the inevitable “Impressionist” phase that any art student must experience at some point in their educational development. Several weeks ago, at the mention of Monet, I might have shrugged my shoulders and acknowledged that he was an accomplished and prolific painter, and insisted that my mind had moved on to more complex contemporary movements.

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To visit a person’s home, however, is to come to a radically new understanding of that person. A home is often an extension of the soul that lives therein, and as I toured the rooms and grounds of Claude’s abode, I found myself coming to a much greater appreciation of his life’s work. To see the waterlilies nestled among the reflections of blue sky, framed by the branches of weeping willow on all sides— it was stepping into the pages of Gardner’s Art through the Ages and letting it come alive.

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Monet’s house in itself is a work of art. Each room painted in bright colors, and each of the many windows affording a breathtaking view onto the surroundings that inspired this man’s joyful paintings. After glimpsing through so many panes of glass framed by delicate lace curtains, peering out onto a sunlit landscape, from an almost equally sunny interior space, I can understand the inner space of an artist who wanted to bring the peace and happiness of Giverny—and of his own soul—into the world for all to see.

But enough of my ineffectual words. Let’s let the windows speak for themselves.

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beeberries

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flower sky

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Baby Summer Squash

One of my favorite things about gardening is that you get to watch your food as it grows. First the unrecognizable cotyledons emerge from the soil, giving way to tiny but perfectly formed first leaves. The leaves grow and from the stem emerges more and more leaves, as if by magic. Out of nowhere, flowers appear. With many vegetables and fruit plants, this is where the real enchantment begins. We all know how babies are made, and even with food the process it is essentially the same. The only difference is, you actually get to see the new life form from the very beginning. The most observant will marvel at the miniature version of their anticipated food swelling almost imperceptibly behind the spent flower after fertilization. It’s difficult not to get excited at this point, even though you know that any number of factors may cause the demise of your infantile veggies.

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Baby Bean

At this point there is not much you can do except water your plants and keep close watch, to make sure they are not getting any unwanted attention from the more unsavory garden inhabitants. If you are lucky, your tender young fruits and veggies will continue the soak up the sun and rain and divide their cells in just the right way to become the final, grown-up version of themselves. And that’s when you think back and can hardly believe that they use to be just an inch long and so darned cute.

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Baby Zucchini

But even as they grow, it’s impossible to tell just how they will turn out in the end, which is another wonderful thing about gardening. Instead of the picture perfect produce stacked in pyramids at your local grocery store, the food that emerges from your garden is uniquely shaped by the land and the air and the sun from which it was made. They have a wholesomeness and, almost, a personality gained from the way they were raised and the conditions which were provided to them. (Which makes you wonder how the grocery stores manage to get all their vegetables to look exactly the same.) Real food isn’t perfect; real food is crooked, and knobby, and sometimes not quite the color you were expecting. Real food can’t be stacked perfectly, and isn’t bred for the purpose of surviving cross-country shipments. Real food comes out of the earth, covered in dirt and munched on by bugs. And it tastes damn good.

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Weird Tasty Carrot Mutants

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It’s a simple life I live, but one full of happy moments. Here are just a few that made their way onto my camera this week:

1. Sharing the Cozy Chair.

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2. Rainy days at home.

DSCN25433. My merry minstrel.

DSCN27474. Optimistic tomatoes.

DSCN27505. Surprise white bleeding hearts.

DSCN27536. The best scones ever. (Archer Farms!)

DSCN27627. My garden’s first flower.

DSCN27648. Pointy ears.

DSCN27659. A beautiful view on a gorgeous 70-degree day.

DSCN276810. Mulberry season.DSCN277011. Anything Charley Harper.DSCN277312. Foster kids.DSCN2777

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