How Soon Can I Go Back???

Whole lotta everything going on in the past few weeks.  Past coupla months.  Okay, the whole dang year.  It's not been one of my better blogging years.  But I've been spending time with people who matter to me, and that is something I treasure.

Last week, though, last week was just for me and Mr. Z.  We took our annual vacation to a warm sunny beachy sandy place.  We don't buy each other gifts or cards or flowers for birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays. We save money for this vacation and relaxing time alone with each other, away from all the things we deal with in our daily lives.  This year the vacation seemed to stretch on and on; it felt much longer than the one week, and I felt thoroughly relaxed. Yay!  Eventually we had to come home, though, back to cell phones and stacks of mail and things that need doing for the people we care about and the kittehs we love even though they use litter boxes and the yard that looks like someone is trying to let it go back to the wild.

Last night I dreamed I went outside to get the paper and there was a tough old man with leathery sunburnt skin and strongly muscled arms and legs, busily working over one of my garden beds and in the process of turning it into a thing of beauty.  He'd already completed work on one - weeds gone, soil turned over and compost mixed in, some new perennials planted in pleasing arrangements, perfectly edged with natural stone - and was hard at work on the next.  I was bewildered.  Why was he here, where had he come from?  He said he had been sent to ensure that my garden would flourish until I had time to properly care for it again. Well, and then I woke up.

The beachy sandy place was lush with beautiful foliage. I went on a guided nature tour of the area to learn about the flora around me, and the gardens on site that produced many of the vegetables and herbs we found on our dinner plates. Someday, someday, I will be a real gardener.  Meanwhile, here are a few pics of things that enchanted me.

Dragonfly on palm frond


This is quite near the water, and I spent a lot of time here.

Sea grapes growing into beach hut


And here I was just enamored of the color and geometry.

Japanese fanpalm


During our yearly vacation, Mr. Z and I play gardener to each other's soul and spirit.  If we can't completely guarantee a year of flourishing between vacations, it seems we at least prevent complete wilting and withering.  We trade tips and make plans for proper care in the coming year.

For some things it takes a long time to see results but in others you get a bit of reward early on, if you are paying attention.  Last year I planted a tiny ninebark sometime around the end of June.  One year later it had turned into a fine young bushy plant and lo! -this dude showed up.

Ninebark leaves and mantis

I'm pretty sure that's a praying mantis. I can't remember the last time I saw one of those.  Even if my garden looks like crap to me, putting in those native plants is starting to make a bit of a difference.  Lots more bees this year, and other kinds of bugs.  Little things like that can keep you going for a long time.

So, dear Zuskateers: how does your garden grow?  None of us have that gardener of our dreams who will show up and take care of everything till we're able to get back to it ourselves.  How do you refresh?  What small thing in the past year gave you much delight?  Semesters are ending and we're gearing up for holiday madness so it might be good to reflect for a minute upon those things that bring us brief moments of joy, keep us sane, or keep us from going completely nuts.  At least until we can get back to the sandy beachy place once more.

11 responses so far

  • My Dad bought me an azalea for my birthday. Deer ate it within 3 days. I think I'm going to ask for a bow for Christmas.

    (Welcome back!)

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    The Armenian cucumbers were incredibly prolific -- best estimate is that we got something like 300 pounds from them, and found out too late how to make them yield a lot more.

    The okra was disappointing, so next year we're giving up on the heirlooms and going back to Clemson Spineless.

    The Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes were, as always, reliable in huge numbers. And nummy. We spent this weekend pickling up the remaining green ones. The paste tomatoes never ripened, but we've got plenty of green tomato salsa and a really insane green tomato, green chile, and cranberry chutney.

    Disappointed in the peppers. The serranos and chilacas got off to a slow start, so there wasn't a spring crop and the fall crop is late -- it's a race with the frost to see if they ripen so that I can smoke-dry them. Otherwise it's chutney and make the co-workers happy.

    Last year for eggplant, and so naturally there were pounds and pounds of the most gorgeous ones ever when we stripped them to give away.

    The queen's wreath is still getting established, but it's already almost covering the arbor at the south end. The combination of lavender-pink flowers, bees, and bright green leaves against an impossibly blue November sky is so beautiful we both just stood there for who knows how long staring at it all through the month.

    One of the mesquites has about had it. Wind broke off a key branch and it'll never be properly balanced again, so it's going to become firewood and compost over the next couple of months. There are plenty of others to fill in. The desert willows will be shading the morning windows come spring.

    We finally got the flagstone walks around the back yard so by the time the rains started we didn't need to get our feet wet. We'll be filling in the patio around the ironwood come January, and the buffalo grass is slowly strangling the bermuda. Cut back on the water next summer and let nature take its course.

    And, oh, my! Between the creosote, the Cleveland sage, and the rains -- it smells so heavenly it's hard to keep the windows closed (but if we open them the Savannah will claw his way right out and gone, so closed they stay.)

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    Oh, and as for the sandy beach: mine has snow and fir trees -- and I'm headed up next week.

  • scicurious says:

    Beautiful photos!!! Welcome back!

  • Asphericity says:

    I think your dream gardener was my grandfather. It sounds like just the kind of thing he would be doing in the afterlife.

  • Sxydocma1 says:

    I had to leave my lovely Long Island garden behind when we moved North to Boston - it was painful to leave all of my plants behind that I had cared for so long. And, I have missed digging in the dirt so much. There is nothing better than digging to relax.

    This summer, my four year old and I planted some tomatoes in planter boxes. Her delight in watching the plants grow indoors from seeds and then transfering the seedlings outside and then waiting and watching for the tomatoes to come was amazing. I am thankful to have taken the time to do that with her this summer.

    • D. C. Sessions says:

      I have missed digging in the dirt so much. There is nothing better than digging to relax.

      $HERSELF points me to research comparing digging dirt in sunshine to sunshine w/o digging to (IIRC) digging w/o sunshine for depression. Getting down in dirt seems to be a significant mood modulator.

      Considering all of the other interesting things we're finding about getting dirty (think babies and immune development) I'm not prepared to argue. More in the "interesting but somewhat moot for now" category.

  • Pascale says:

    We call our new home the Red Naked Acre. Previous owner planted little, and what is there has not flourished. We found a local landscaper to help us stage our dreams with hardy plants. For the holidays we just ordered the trees and shrubs that will screen our yard, including a long row of hollies. One of the beauties of the OKC zone is that we can do this in the winter!

    Also excited because we will have tomatoes set next spring before we could even plant them in Omaha. Planning an enclosed area with raised beds; too many deer go through the yard to leave the veggies unprotected.

    I did skip bulbs this fall. We have too many moles, voles, and gophers to make the effort worthwhile.

  • A. Marina Fournier says:

    I also left a lovingly enhanced yard/garden in 2004. When we arrived in the first weeek of January 1998, there was that awful white rock in the front yard, and only a Canary Island Date Palm (male) away from the house. There was a front brick planter separating the "porch" from the yard, an old pickle jar under the poorly-placed downspout, and on the northern side, overrun groundcover. I don't think the yard had been improved at all by the previous two owners--a very large lot was cut in thirds to make nearly 1/4 acre lots--and everything taller than 3' was older than the division. A very mature semi-dwarf Golden Delicious in the center of the "back 49", too many himalayan blackberry and cherry-plum volunteers, and two smaller fruit trees in which I had no interest. One of the first things my gardener did was to prune the heck out of that poor apple so that it was a healthier tree afterwards, as well as more shapely. There was also a liquidamber tree that listed to the left, and it was judiciously pruned for health, as well.

    To that blank canvas of a yard, I added real roses with scent and names, wisteria, heirloom dwarf fruit trees, primarily pomes and citrus, and a few ornamental trees. At the entrance to the Back 49, there was one ogee arch in metal, twined by wisteria and flanked by roses. One good hard windstorm yanked the arch out of the ground, vegetation and all. Ed selected river-borne windfall logs and constructed a much sturdier arch, on which we trained the wisterias. The ogee arch was replanted with cement overshoes, and climbing roses grew up along it.

    Most of the pomes were in the Back 49, espaliered against the fence. I also had some raised-beds put in for vegetables and alpine strawberries. Eventually, I was going to get the midst of the Back 49 rototilled and improved so that ti didn't hurt to walk barefoot there. Ah, well. Perhaps the new owners, who adored all the fruit & flowers, have done so.

    The northern side yard had all the invasive groundcover removed, and Zepherine Drouhin roses (pink climber, nearly thornless, tolerates shade, and smell nice!) put in, so that the neighbors on that side no longer had to run herd on the groundcover, and they had something pretty to look at. Lots of "gorilla hair" put down on top of weedcloth, with drip irrigation under that. The white rock was removed and put to use in someone else's French drain. We found another parking spot, and fertile earth under different areas of that rock. From the unfortunately-place downspout to the curb meandered a "dry creek" riverbed, except during the rainy season, where it was a conduit away from the foundation underneath the downspout. Rosebushes scattered around the palm and the creekbed, with lavenders at the edges, getting only what little runoff there was from the drips to the roses.

    I'm not sure if I had more than 200 bulbs go in the ground here last November, but a similar quantity, of different bulbs (left the daffs for other folk, because a good 50% of last year's bulbs were daffs)--more tulips and crocuses. Since I didn't plant the bulbs, I didn't recall where I'd said "put these here" to what location, so it was all a big surprise this spring. There were so many colors, and so many discrete patchs of spring bulb flowers that we had endless surprises to discover for 2-3 months.

    Still can't get a lilac to work here in this yard, or wintersweet to thrive, the critters get to my fig trees a day before they're ripe, and I'm waiting impatiently for the pomegranates, pie cherries, and peaches to bear, but next spring, is it ever going to be a lovely display of color!

    When we moved here, it was heavily planted with boring "generica", and some of the shrubs and trees around the pool should never have been put there, due to the detritus falling in the pool all of the year. The front "horseshoe" had been planted with privet and "landscape" roses (bleah), and there were two very tall truffula trees (yuccas) that were the first against the wall. Instead of privet, there are several varieties of rosemary and lavenders. Instead of landscape roses, there are real roses, with scent, and names, and forms, and histories...many of which had been planted at the other house. I took out a fair number of shrubs lining the front of the house, happily kept the mature but spindly Japanese Maples on the front porch, and added red rose varieties along the brick facing. There was some daphne odora--I liked it well enough to buy a couple more, so that the heavenly scent stretched farther. I did take the overgrown 12' tall camellia japnoicas down a bit--took out the distressed ones. Would you believe there is no single place in this yard for tomatoes? Why are all the tomatoes I like best indeterminate sprawlers?