Posted tagged ‘PNW gardening’

Forgotten Pleasures

March 13, 2019

It’s been so cold, so dark, for so long that I’d almost forgotten there was anything else. The kitties have been staying indoors, usually snuggled into my flannel sheets. I have resorted to putting on my warm and freshly-washed fuzzy clothes right in the laundry room, so as not to lose a bit of warmth.

Outside it looked like this. For about a solid month. I hung out in the kitchen, making big pots of pork chile verde, short ribs, and chili.

We had a miraculously sunny day, and I started dreaming of salad and looking at seed catalogs.

But then the snow got even deeper, and just stayed that way, interminably. My back yard was continuously buried in snow for at least two months. Until today.

Minou re-discovered the joy of sitting in the sun and watching the snow melt.

Toby scrambled up the delicate branches of the contorted filbert tree and onto the roof, checking for icicles and scouting out the best place for a sun bath.

Wearing flip-flops for the first time since I got back from Hawaii, I wandered around the snow-free edge of the garden and saw that the heliotrope, and various bulbs,

were struggling their way up through the frozen ground.

Amazingly, this sage, which was entirely covered with snow for two months, is still green. I have no idea how plants photosynthesize under snow.

The temperature this afternoon was 44°, but it felt like the tropics after weeks spent in the 20s. The kitties and I sat and basked in the sun, and I swear they looked as surprised and grateful as I felt. We had all forgotten the incomparable pleasure of resting in the sunshine after a long cold spell.

Soon the birds will be able to bathe again. The cats will shed their thick winter coats and will lounge on the warm patio, panting slightly. And I? I will be getting ready to move back to the island. Onward into spring and summer, and westward ho.

The Sweetness Of May

May 1, 2016


A lovely French custom is to offer people sprigs of lily of the valley on this day, the 1st of May. It’s a custom that is said to go all the way back to the Renaissance, falling in and out of favor over the centuries, but always signifying good luck and good fortune.

Normally France has at least as many bureaucratic restrictions as any other country on earth, but on this day anyone may sell muguets on the street, not needing a permit, which I think contributes greatly to the public good and general happiness quotient. I remember that my first year in France I bought a handful and handed them out to the butcher, the baker, and pretty much everyone who made my life there more pleasant. It was only later that I learned that you usually only give them to friends, but by that time, those people had become my friends, so I chalked it up to the power of the sweet little flower.

This year, my new garden is full of them, and the corner where they grow smells intoxicatingly sweet. I bring them into the house, admiring their creamy white and oh-so-delicate bells, and think of France, about how I’d love to wander my old neighborhood, handing out little sprigs of happiness.

But this year it will have to be virtual, des muguets virtuels, and I offer some to you. From a cool, fragrant little corner of my life, a symbol of friendship and good luck, please accept them with my hopes that you have a lovely May Day, with just a soupçon of la vie française.

Spring Has Sprung

April 16, 2016


I know that some of you are still suffering through the last dreary days of the year, so I thought I’d cheer you up with the things that really cheer me up – my garden, and Minou. Both are in fine fettle these days. Here’s a little peek at my garden.


The entire foreground  used to be lawn, but I had it taken out last fall and replaced with drought-tolerant plantings. It’s just starting to come to life. The gorgeous dogwood tree was already there



and I love its extravagant showiness. At first I thought it was a rare treasure, but now I see that the whole neighborhood is full of them, the exact same variety – there must have been a big sale on them about 20 years ago.


Tulips have such a short life, but such a radiant one.


I planted a cool little tree, a Forest Pansy, which is a kind of redbud. This is its first season to flower.


Every day I inspect the garden for new flowers, and Minou almost always accompanies me on my rounds.


At the end of the day this is a sweet spot to sit with a glass of wine, reading the paper, or grilling something for supper, maybe doing a little homework. You can think of me there in just a couple of hours, wine in hand and something on the grill, although definitely minus the homework today. The forecast for today and tomorrow is “sunny and delightful” and I’m taking full advantage of that gift.

Spring Too Soon?

March 6, 2016


Can spring ever come too soon? I’ve been so busy worrying about it being way too warm for the grapevines under my care that I’ve semi-forgotten to pay attention to the lusciousness of my own garden. There are still several weeks of possible frost ahead, and I know that a bud break in the grapes before frost is ruled out for the year could be disastrous. In my own garden, I’m not as sure.

This is my first year with this garden, and my first time gardening in this climate zone, so almost everything here was planted by someone else, someone who knew what was normal here, and many years ago at that. Now, with a warming climate, all bets are off. These hellebores are happily blooming when they should, in early March, and so I’m not fretting over them.


Perhaps these filbert catkins, so ethereally lovely, can cope. This tree looks to have been planted about when the house was built, in 1955, so who knows how many early and late springs it’s seen. It’s ancient, though, and I feel protective toward it.


But this indomitable tulip is surely confused. Last fall I buried its home in rock, not knowing there were bulbs underneath. And now it, and several more like it, have banged their heads through the stones, getting to the surface and the warmth they’d normally have found next month.


And not only is the forsythia at the height of its golden gorgeousness, so too are the roses leafing out. They say that you should prune roses when the forsythia blooms, which is definitely now, but then, what if it freezes?


I’m not worried about these guys, because I don’t know what they are or what their habits should be. I’m just happy to see their true blue every time I pull into the driveway, where they’ve come out just as the snowdrops have faded.


Nor am I worried about my scruffy, scrappy lawn, which is full of violets. My Plants professor thinks of them as weeds that should be banished from the grass, but I love them. They look like little bright Easter eggs, peeking through the unruly grass. Last night’s high wind brought down a small branch of the weeping birch, but I’m not worried about the tree either. It’s another one that’s probably stood as long as the house has, and knows how to take care of itself.

But in truth it’s hard to know when to worry and when to just admire what the world has to offer. The consequences of a freeze here in my sweet little spot wouldn’t be dire, unlike the vineyard, where crop yields could suffer mightily if the climate doesn’t cooperate. And that’s another lesson that’s not in my official curriculum – life as a farmer is uncertain, fraught with perils and powers that you can’t control. All you can do is keep your eye on the sky and hope for the best, while doing what little you can to help nature along. Wait, am I talking about farming, or life?

Hold This Thought

May 21, 2010

Always remember that life is very fragile.

Accept that sometimes you have to stand alone.

Face the day with optimism.

Find courage when darkness falls.

Look for beauty everywhere, all the time.

Shine with all you’ve got.

Six survival techniques voiced in the imperative.