Archive for January, 2004

pruning on the moon

I find myself cogitating on odd topics while I’m gardening. Maybe it’s the solitary nature of it. Or maybe it’s the weird situations I find myself in as I adventure through the gardening year. Sunday it was space suits. Kinda. I was at that moment wrestling with a dangerous alien creature that had embraced me with flesh-ripping tentacles and I thought about how useful a space suit with helmet would have been at that moment. Also, moon boots. And those big gloves. And maybe one of those tractor carts with telescoping arms and useful tools at the end. Ok, it was just a rose bush but the flesh-ripping part is real.
January is the pruning season. Five of my 20-odd rose bushes are climbers that have reached massive proportions-Francis Lester, Dortmund, Pax, Madam Alfred Carriere and Cecil Brunner. They all are fully armed and dangerous at close range. I never–repeat never–venture into them without plastic eye goggles, leather gloves that reach to my elbows, and as many layers of clothing as possible to prevent flesh punctures. Tools include a fiberglass telescoping tree trimmer (heavy, cumbersome, and the cut canes invariably land on your face), pruning shears, a coarse-toothed saw, and my trusty Felco clippers.
Dortmund, a cherry red bloomer with claw-like downward curving thorns, had crushed the metal arbor supposedly holding it up. I had to extricate the tubing piece by piece from the interior of the plant. Imagine a game of Twister with a porcupine. So much for cheap trellis ideas.

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the fertile monsoons

I never complain about the rain. Even when it is pouring into my basement because I forgot to call the gutter guy in October to have the downspouts unclogged of a year’s accumulation of wind-borne detritus. I don’t complain when a small sojourn into the backyard results in a 5 lb hunk of wet adobe stuck to my shoe soles. I don’t mind that the compost is soggy and the shed is damp. I finally learned to dump shredded redwood bark on the slippery slopes of dirt parths and clover lawn; no more complaints about sodden, deadly excursions to empty the compost bucket. The rain is lovely. The smell of wet dirt is lovely. After years of piling orange skins, old parsley, weeds, dead tomato plants in the compost, and mixing the crumbly compost loam into my beds of adobe there is a spongy spring to the soil now as it swells with winter rain. Still adobe–clumpy, grey-flecked, worm-holed–but finer, softer, more receptive of roots and friendly microbes.
The garden is bare. Roses are leafless, trees naked, the bulbs not yet in motion. Rain drops glint in the greyness, drip from the roof eaves. Welcome, rain.

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excessive vegetating

well it’s good to be back in the conversation here. I confess to slothful and excessive vegetating these last few months and so, unfortunately, did my garden–as judged by the City of Oakland Public Works Department. They drove by my abundant grove of (California native) vegetation and mongrel, mower-destroying lawn and sent a “cease and desist” order with a $300 fine attached. We (my garden, lawn and me) were charged with “excess vegetation.” We are now on a “offender” list; repeat offenders are automatically fined–without a notice.
I suppose we do stick out in my excessively unvegetated neighborhood. I think we have one of the two trees on the block. We don’t park our vehicles on the “lawn” (not an offense, apparently). I don’t use gasoline-powered equipment on my vegetation (a regular activity on the block), and I don’t have to water it (thus conserving our precious resource and reducing my contribution to polluting runoff to our waterways). Now, however, I must change my evil ways or risk offending further. Hmmpfff.
I think this is one of those occasions that warrants a call to my Locally Elected Representative–for a little chat about environmentally-friendly gardening….

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