This is my first attempt at posting for Six on Saturday, though I have recently become a voracious consumer of others’ postings, all generously hosted by The Propagator. I started writing it in July.
Winter was not particularly soggy this year, early spring even less so. Working to establish a new garden on a new-to-me site, I am attempting to strike a balance between dessicated and, ultimately, dead plants and wasted water. Recently, I recruited my water meter (previously applied only with houseplants) to gauge the moisture level of the soil around my newly planted perennials. This has given me the confidence to skip a day here and there if nothing is noticeably wilting.
And then, wonder of wonders, 2 days ago we received a thorough soaking. An all-day rainstorm of the kind sorely needed at this time of year to moderate the often devastating effects of the long, bone-dry summer to come. But now we’re on our way back to bone-dry again.
Anyway, here are my six:
1. Pruned the heck out of this fig this winter. Previously the entire tree was weeping forward into the sun. I read various guides to pruning, I hemmed and hawed, and finally J. and I took decisive action with a newly acquired reciprocal saw. So, following the order of priority for editing outlined in the pruning manuals: (1) of dead limbs there were surprisingly few, given that this tree appears to have been neglected for a long while; (2) of branches writhing along the ground in pursuit of a sliver of light there were several, and these were summarily excised; (3) crossing branches were absurdly numerous given the growth habit of the tree. Around this time, I threw the rest of the priority list out of the window and determined that everything weeping must go. And go it did. With what probably should have been frightening rapidity. Very few normatively positioned limbs remained, and in my accelerating mania I determined that these, too, must be cropped to heights harvestable by the other-than-giant residents of the cottage. And so they were. Fast-forward to spring, when the fig tree, formerly leafy and abundant, played dead for a disconcertingly long while. I actually thought about paring back some “dead” branches even further. But then, lo and behold, sprouts emanating from every remaining branch and many, many more from the base of the tree. Admittedly, the tree is a reflection of my incompetence and inexperience, but much more so, I like to think, of its own admirable resilience. That said, I am already thinking of the dark days after the sap ceases to flow, and the pruning of all those suckers that will need (and, I must admit, want) doing.
2. My parsley starts, planted 4-5 weeks ago, have been sadly munched by something-or-rather that seems to take all the foliage off each unfortunate stem that it visits. Mollosk? Not sure. Regardless, the remaining spectacle is a bit sad. Though in my fantastical moments, I imagine that the stripped-bare stems are planning to function like strawberry runners and give birth to new satellites of parsley. No, don’t tell me I’m wrong. I’m sure I’ll figure it out on my own in good time.
3. Is it strange that I find the flowers of culinary sage so much lovelier than those of the salvias that are grown for their blossoms? I think it has something to do with the unselfconsciousness. And the bold, spiky looking bracts that remain even after the delicate petals are spent. And then there are the leaves below, each one textured like a tongue.
4.When we first moved here, before I really got a good look at the house, I was out in the then fairly bare yard surveying the legacy of former owners and renters. Along with a number of nondescript shrubs planted hastily in front of the house, the parched, much-abused soil masked with a thin veneer of dyed-red wood chips, was this rose. But it did not look like this. It was sadly wilted by the late-summer heat and otherwise struck me as objectionably conventional and probably also high-maintenance. I was forecasting cankers and black spots. Barring those, I felt that my sophisticated, drought tolerant, pollinator friendly plant palette would be marred by even the healthiest of hybrid roses. But, because I can’t intentionally kill plants, I included the rose in my watering, it began to leaf again, and leaves were shortly followed by a profusion of the loveliest roses, in shades of apricot and buttery yellow, that you could possibly wish to see. I was informed by a neighbor that a former resident had stopped by some time ago and asked about the roses, which were planted by his mother. At the time, I thought I would gladly uproot this specimen and gift it to this nostalgic stranger. But I have grown accustomed to the rose, and I am no longer willing to part with it. I have come to appreciate its surprising hardiness, the variable hues of its blossoms, and its tendency to bloom at the most unlikely times (as I write in late November, the rose has 2 buds).
5. At some point in July, I noticed dragonflies of some kind clinging to the bamboo plant supports I had placed around the garden. When I approached to examine them more closely, they were unusually unreactive to my proximity. A day or two later, I saw these molted cases left behind.
6. Fennel. I have been warned that it grows “like a weed,” spreading its prolific seeds hither thither and yon, yet I can’t resist this lovely, feathery, plant redolent of licorice. I distribute it generously throughout my garden. I welcome its feral abundance. Plants hold memories for us, and I remember riding my bike to work along with bay side path that connects Berkeley with points north, the smell of the sea water mingling with the scent of anise pressed by heat and wind from the crop of fennel that grew, untended, there.