Monthly Archives: October 2010

A Native Bouquet

In August, I spent a weekend at a resort in the Poconos of Pennsylvania which hosts loads of family reunions and destination weddings. As our own family reunion drew to a close on a rainy Sunday, we huddled in the game room and spied on a lovely bride and groom saying their I do’s on the covered terrace. Okay, to be honest, the women and girls spied on the wedding, the boys were playing Wii. (Am I gender stereotyping?? Only reporting what I witnessed).

On our way to the car, we passed by the florist who was relocating the bridal bouquets from wedding to reception. There she stood in the rain with a card board box full of  nosegays made up of goldenrod and queen anne’s lace.  “How perfect,” I thought! “How weedy,” my husband thought. I know he thought that because his response to my effusing over the fabulous use of seasonal and native plants in a formal setting was, ” Don’t you find those flowers on the side of the road??”

Well, yes you do.

To be fair, I think my husband harbors an irrational aversion towards goldenrod. When I brought some in for a nice fall centerpiece, he asked me, “Aren’t you just putting allergens in a vase?” No appreciation of native beauty.

I first knew Queen Anne’s Lace at summer camp in Virginia where they grew like crazy in hot August next to the drainage ditches where the tractors couldn’t mow.  Goldenrod entered my lexicon when given me by a master gardener in my neighborhood. It now fills a lonely corner of my back garden, but I also now notice it lining Pennsylvania country roads in September, again, where mowing is impossible. But who cares that goldenrod grow on the roadside? It’s lovely!

So let me officially applaud that bold bride who got married in the rain carrying two of our most beautiful native plants.  Sometimes nature does know best.

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Perfection, c’est impossible.

One thing I love about gardening is that you, the gardener, cannot be held fully responsible for the finished product. Sure, you can prep and plant and prune to your heart’s delight, but ultimately, it is the plant, the weather, the soil, the angle of the sun that determines the final outcome. I conclude that it is impossible to be a perfectionist in the garden.

Which works just fine for me, because perfectionism and I just don’t jive. Take my latest home improvement project.  I decided to paint my son’s bedroom. This was no ordinary paint job. An industrious previous owner of my home decided, I’m guessing sometime in the ’50s, to convert said bedroom into wood paneled den, complete with a wall of custom built book shelves, a built-in desk, and  tv / record player cabinets., all in natural pine.  I removed half of the built-ins, but was left with two walls of knotty pine, one wall of shelving and one wall full of holes where the tv cabinet used to be. Oh, and water damage on the ceiling. So I sanded. I caulked. I mudded. I spackled.  I learned how to patch large holes in drywall.  (Check it out. Brilliant. ) And then, after a violent rain uncovered a serious masonry problem in our chimney, I mudded and sanded some more.

Ugh.

Finally it was time to paint. I realized, as I was rushing through this step, that I was rushing through this step. All that prep work was essential, but would be for naught if I rushed the final steps.  I always start out with the greatest of intentions, but fade when the project drags on longer than my energy burst.  And then it hit me:  this is why I love to garden.  I start out all jazzed up.  I add compost, I dig all the rocks out of the soil, and then toss in  a bulb or some seeds.  But then magic happens. All that prep is just right for the living organism that will turn itself into art.  Heck, I didn’t even plant the grape tomatoes that have graced my table for the last few months. They volunteered in my neglected but very well prepared raised vegetable bed.

When you come to visit, you will stay in the nice looking but decidedly imperfect green bedroom with white trim. You will eat, however, fabulous grape tomatoes. It really is great to share the responsibility. Try this Pico de Gallo recipe from Emiril Lagase. It will make your perfect tomatoes even better.

Ingredients

  • 1  1/2 cups seeded, diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon diced jalapenos
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, plus extra for garnish
  • Salt and pepper

In a bowl combine all ingredients.

Yum.

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