The first fall in this house (four years ago, I think), I bought an assortment of species tulip bulbs. I wanted to know what they were like, and I planted them all. They started to naturalize last spring. That's when I started looking at them more closely. Half of the tulips I decided I didn't like at all, and I promised to tear them out when I had time. The tulip syvestris I liked. I dug up the bulbs and divided them and replanted them.
The tulips I hated last year (like the clusiana tinka tulips), I don't hate anymore. I'm happy they're still here. And I still like the tulip syvestris.
Tulips have a strange history. I heard once about the tulip bubble in the Netherlands; I don't remember the details, just that in the 1600's, some people traded their whole fortunes for a single good tulip bulb. It's an interesting world. But I think we all understand why it was tulips and not daisies.
We grew a lot of squashes last year. A friend had one left, cut open and edible, but not much good anymore. Yesterday, it was brought to a garden bed and broken up with a shovel.
This morning, I wanted to work in the vegetable garden, but decided to sit in it, instead. And so I've gotten to watch the chickadees hop down on the old kale stalks and carry pumpkin seeds up to the oak tree. A sparrow takes the strings of grass I pulled from the garden to my neighbor's gutter, where I presume it's building a nest.
The peas are in, the sun is out. The garlic is coming up strong. Just a couple weeks ago it was snowing and now the hazels are blooming.
Someone once told me that there are two types of pleasure, and one isn't better than the other. There is the pleasure of what is immediately at hand. There is the sun on your face, the coffee in the cup, the clean and quiet house. There's also the pleasure of what isn't here but will be. That shouldn't be forgotten.
I bought some asparagus crowns. And just thinking "I have asparagus crowns coming" makes me feel very happy. With it thawed ground. Something new to watch grow. And making something better- something outdoors and close at hand.
The asparagus I bought is Millennium. I have always liked asparagus but thought I didn't have the space to plant enough to be worthwhile. But it maybe it doesn't take much to be worthwhile. Maybe I don't need a big bed along a fence, but just a handful of plants tucked here or there, in sunny corners. One morning, I read in Suzuki, "Moment after moment we are creating something...moment after moment. This is the joy of our life."
Every winter, I think a long time about beans. I think about beans more than I think about any of the other garden vegetables. Dry beans, not green. And what ever comes of them? Not much. Even this picture is blurry.
Last winter, I poured over catalogs before I finally decided on these beans. I don't remember their name (I never recorded it and accidentally deleted half my emails). Rabbits got into the garden and chewed the plants down several times before they finally got going. It rained before I harvested them, and half the beans were moldy and half were immature. Shelled, the harvest was maybe a cup.
I ignored that cup until this weekend, when I soaked them overnight and simmered them in salted water. I meant to make a minestrone (a friend had recently made some for me and reminded me how much I love that soup), but when I tasted the bean to see if they were done, I wound up eating every one of them, straight from the pot with a spoon and my fingers.
I'm pouring over seed catalogs again and spending the most time thinking about beans. I'll probably never get enough. But one October, my daughters sat for an afternoon shelling dry beans (greasy grits) in the back yard. And another year, I grew enough Oland Swedish brown beans to make a few lunches of bean salad, and I ate them in the grass in the sun with someone I loved.
The garden is covered by snow and slush, and I've been out exploring. There are beautiful things I've never noticed before, like the bluish bloom on young boxelders in winter. The linden trees by Confluence Pond had different colored branches. The new wood and buds on one were the most beautiful red. Another's were much shorter and brown.
Out walking, I met a woman who carried a little bag filled with ornaments. Every day, she gave one to passersby to hang on trees along the road. I think that must be a very happy way to spend a life, or at least to decorate for Christmas.
Today, my pockets are full of redbud pods and I got three packets of strawberry seeds in the mail. The juniper fruit by the pond looked so beautiful, I took home a handful and put them in boiling water. I thought the tea would taste magical, but it tasted almost like nothing at all. So I ate the fruits themselves, and they were good and fresh and sweet.
I did very little to put my garden to bed this year. No kale was covered in oak leaves. No walkways mulched. No tomatoes patches cleared and covered in compost. After weeks of freeze and thaw, I finally went out to check on the fall turnips (they were gilfeathers). I thought they'd be too small to amount to anything, but they weren't. They were all there, and boiled, their greens were sweet and good.
I don't think people who garden need very much. Over the weekend, I put a couple sweet potatoes in water to grow slips. There are dreams of sweet potatoes all next winter. Sweet potatoes and roasted apples and turnip greens.
While I ate my roasted apple and turnip greens, I watched the juncos outside the window. They were eating seeds from the vervain I transplanted there. I hadn't put much thought into that vervain, but it gave me so much pleasure that day. Maybe in a couple years, my garden will get the care I want to give it. But even now, even as it is, it's all still good. It's all still here.
"The fruition of beauty is no chance of hit or miss...it is as inevitable as life...it is exact and plum as gravitation." Walt Whitman wrote that, and I don't know what that means, really. Today someone told me that if you want to build something that lasts, make it beautiful, and I think that's true. I really do.
A couple good things happened in the garden today: ripe futsu were pulled from the squash patch and I saw the caterpillar asleep on a cabbage leaf. I dug a little under the accidental potato plant in the pepper patch and found it more productive than its neighbors. There's something to be said for fall planting, when you can do it; the fingerlings were big, and boiled beautifully.
The okra gets too big before I harvest it. This happens every year. I harvest only a fraction of what the plants produce, but I keep coming back to it. Okra is beautiful and strange and satisfying to watch and satisfying in the stomach. Even just little.
Things that have grown well so far this year: the sonca squashes, the garlic, the potatoes. The August-planted snow peas, the volunteer kale. Next year, bush beans for shelling. Next year, popcorn, again.
During winter, I started flower seeds with such care. Then summer came, and I neglected them. Still, never watered, never tended, the shooting stars persisted, and today I finally planted them around the young-ish white oak. Antonio Machado said that to do something well is more important than doing it, and maybe that's true, but I'm not sure.
Today I sat in the vegetable garden and read about Japanese gardening. I read what Matsuo Basho said, Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo. And in doing so, you must leave your subjective preoccupation with yourself. Otherwise you impose yourself on the object and do not learn.
I don't have much to say about night gardens. I'm rarely out at night. And when I am, I don't look at flowers much (though down the street a ways is a porch with climbing roses that are lit from behind in a mysterious and wonderful way). What I know, though, is that white is magical at night. I grew a drift of nicotiana for the scent, but I love to look at it, too. Especially when dusk comes and I don't see the unfinished tasks outside. Just white flowers and the dark.