Archive for March, 2003

Green Thumbs

Give me a glass of wine, and I might natter on about how discovering the pleasure of gardening has been all about the act of creation for the sake of beauty and nothing else. No prosaic utility — no food to eat, nothing to sell — just pleasure for pleasure.
Give me two glasses of wine and I might turn to the real story — pride and jealousy. When I scan my neighborhood gardens (usually from my car! what does that say?) my most common feeling is one of proud superiority. How many cistus purpurea and euryops does San Francisco really need? I wouldn’t be caught dead planting those. They aren’t unattractive — just common.
But worse is jealousy. The magnificent arching bougainvillea (mine is scorched and sagging). Perfect standard roses covered with blooms. The sweet-smelling block of 15th Ave lined with prunus trees. Gorgeous expanses of common enough plants, just done so well.
And then there’s Briggs’ compost.
Sigh.

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Gardeners of Babylon

“Have we ever visited each other’s gardens? No, never. maybe each of us fears that we would be turned to a pillar of salt should we look upon the other’s work. When we run into each other in town, we smile politely, then look away.”
Those are the words of a well-known Bay Area plantswoman and purveyor of native plant seeds speaking of her neighbor gardener. I know gardeners have their differences–about lawns, pesticides, ceramic gnomes, pruning techniques, and the relative merits of petunias. And I don’t mean the differences between a gardener and the next door neighbor who hacks down a tree because the leaves make a mess, or the retired couple that thinks a half-acre of sparkley white rocks edged with scalloped brick is a garden. I mean real gardeners who simply have different garden esthetics and methodologies.
But not to want to visit a fellow gardener, not ramble on about the weather wreaking havoc on the tulips, or black spot ruining the roses, admire an outstanding specimen iris or complain about one’s dirt? Why, that’s half the reason for gardening; having someone to talk to who is just as obsessed as you are with the arcana of catalogs and quality secateurs, compost and campanulas.
I say if you can’t stand the sight of your neighbor’s dahlias–you’re no gardener. You’re probably an ecologist.

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A recent innovation

“You can run an earth system without plants and without animals. But you can’t do that without microbes. In fact, throughout much of earth’s history, that’s the way it was. It was photosynthetic bacteria and decomposing bacteria, and the earth functioned. Plants and animals are really quite recent innovations.” –an ecologist.
Speaking of photosynthetic and decomposing bacteria I think my compost is almost ready. I am raging jealous of Rich’s Project 5. I will have to visit him soon and gush.
Brains: a slightly less recent innovation.

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project 5 spring planting

You might recall that I’m working on a new perennial bed on the southwest corner of my property. It’s basically a southern-exposed, 30×10 swath that is getting a shot at a Gertrude Jekyll-like color and design scheme. I planted about half of it last fall.
Now the rest of the plants have arrived, from arabis alpina to cloth-of-gold. A large box from Bluestone Perennials showed up yesterday. I unpacked it and watered all the smushed little plants. Tomorrow the go in the ground — just in time for spring growth.
So, time to stock up on the advil for a day of stooping!

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