Adventures in a Small Yard

I may have emitted a guttural sound or two when I tripped and fell on the nubbin of last year’s evil lilac tentacle yesterday in the dog yard, landing on my shoulder and opening one of those road-rash things on my leg (it bled like an MF). And why? It was time to get out there and cut down the lilac suckers for once and for all this summer ( ha ha ha ). Picture Don Quixote.

Otherwise? The beans have reached an immensitude that’s troubling from the perspective (ha ha) of harvesting beans, but I’m very happy about it. This is little Wang Wei, one of the original seeds started inside. He was very slow to sprout. I pretty much gave up, but then??? He went outside in May, was covered from frost several times, never succumbed, was slow getting out of the gate when the weather warmed up — probably thinking, “What’s the point?” But now? I think he’s 12 feet tall… I will have to get out with a ladder and give him more room, I guess.

Although a few thousand years ago Wang Wei couldn’t have had me in mind, he wrote a poem I love.

A View of the Han River
Wang Wei

With its three Hsiang branches it reaches Ch’u border
And with nine streams touches the gateway of Ching:
This river runs beyond heaven and earth,
Where the color of mountains both is and is not.
The dwellings of men seem floating along
On ripples of the distant sky…
O Hsiang-yang, how your beautiful days
Make drunken my old mountain heart.

In other positive gardening news, the pumpkin sex in which I participated a few days ago has been successful and we have the beginnings of a beautiful Australian pumpkin.

Aussie Pumpkin News

My three year-old Aussie pumpkin seed that I planted as an experiment has thrived this summer and has sent out a girl and several boy blossoms. This morning I helped them accomplish the wild thing. Just in case, you know, the bees had slept in. Cross your fingers it’s successful because the growing season is so short and this is the ONE that might make it to adulthood. Any girls blooming later might not have time… 


Ode to a Quixotic Pumpkin

“Give it up, Faith. It’s inevitable. You got a late start.”

“I can’t ‘give it up’. Seriously?”

“OK, but you’re breaking my heart.” I wanted to explain that our elevation is 7500 feet/2200 meters. That the growing season is barely 8 weeks and by starting out in July? But why? Why daunt an undaunted pumpkin? Besides, who knows?

I know not everyone talks to the Australian pumpkin growing in their garden or to pumpkins of any other nationality for that matter. I loved her Quixotic determination not that she really had a choice. Given good soil, the right amount of water and sunshine and a decent seed to begin with, a plant is going to grow. It’s not exactly an act of will.

And every single day Faith grew. For a long while she was a little plant, most occupied with establishing a durable root system. Then she was four feet long, and then six and then eight and then the bachelors began to appear and the drama, “Will she put out girls?”

She did! “Hand fertilize!” said a friend in Australia, familiar with Australian pumpkins. So, each morning (September!) I was out to see if the girl’s had opened and when they were? I helped twice with successful pumpkin sex. Faith kept making hot girls and handsome bachelors up even as recently as a week ago, but my thought was that she should focus on the two pumpkins who were most likely to make it to adulthood. Kind of pumpkin birth control, but there’s a metaphor there.

So Faith’s two little daughters grew and grew. Then…

Last week, a mild frost hit the upper leaves. Undaunted, Faith sent up new leaves to take their place, but Jack Frost’s handwriting was on the wall, so to speak. Two nights ago, a real frost hit, and yet…

I might have covered her if my foot hadn’t been so incredibly painful at that juncture, but I was not about to walk in the uneven dog-hole riddled ground that is my yard, besides, Faith is more than 20 feet/6 meters long.

Still, the roots have not yet frozen and yesterday Faith sent up a couple of yearning bachelors. One of the large girls succumbed to frosts but the other, in a more sheltered spot, is persevering. I don’t think Faith will give up until the roots freeze — which will be Thursday when temps are slated to hit 17 F/-8 C.

Nature is the boss of the possible, but Faith is the boss of dreams. Faith says, “Do it anyway,” which is, if you think about it, the only possible choice.

My Aussie Pumpkin, Faith

People garden for a lot of reasons. I can’t answer for anyone else, but I mostly garden out of habit (and homegrown tomatoes). It seems like every year, though, something really amazing — miraculous, even — happens in my garden that I could never have planned or hoped for.

Last year it was my Scarlet Emperor beans that I grew from “expired” seeds. They grew to be well over 10 feet tall and gave me lots of beautiful beans that I planted this year. This year they didn’t have much of a chance because of the late spring, but they’re trying. They are about 18 inches and blooming well, but I don’t know if any beans will come from the beautiful flowers.

Scarlet Emperor Beans with Faith in the background

This year my garden has a different inspiring plant — Faith, my Aussie pumpkin. I had seeds from my neighbor, an Australian who brought seeds back with her from a family visit two years ago. Last summer she grew pumpkins and we ate some for Thanksgiving. I started them inside but they just rotted. I learned then than the pumpkins she’d grown hadn’t had time to fully mature so I figured the seeds hadn’t, either. Still, when the weather finally stopped going down to freezing, I stuck a couple into the ground. After a VERY LONG incubation period, one came up in the beginning of July.

“You’ll never make it,” I told her all the while hoping she would. She has grown into the most beautiful plant in my garden this year. About two weeks ago she started blooming — all male blossoms. I thought, “Well, that’s OK. I have an ornamental pumpkin.” But, yesterday, I saw she had two girls. This morning I found two more. I also observed that the bees have finally noticed the plant.

And THEN three amaryllis plants, desiccated bulbs in cramped pots, ALL of them have leafed and ONE of them is about to bloom.

Summaryllis with some of the pumpkin bachelors in the background

Maybe the REAL reason I garden every year is that I never know what’s going to happen. I end up LOVING my garden and being inspired by it.

“He even said that the Brother Gardener ought to reserve a place for a beautiful small garden where he would put all kinds of aromatic herbs and flowering plants so that in their season they might invite all men who looked at them to praise God for every creature says and proclaims, “God has created me for you, O Man.” St. Francis, from the herb garden of the Mission Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara California.