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True Dirt
a gardener talks

obituary for a garden
We notice when a garden is born. Enthusiasm and anticipation beget the patch of fresh dug earth with string-rows of vegetable starts, or a grandly schemed installation of lawn and flower borders. Gardens are constantly being created in the gardener's mind and in the garden dirt. But do we know or notice when a garden dies? Gardens are not so immortal as we might think. Yes, some live beyond the lives of their creators. Colleagues and fans take up the...

goodbye to all thatch
I finally did it. My weed whacker and ten-dollar spools of nylon twine are history. So are the rampant armies of exotic weeds--bristly ox tongue, burr clover, Bermuda grass, cutleaf geranium, and who-knows-what--that send in understudies to replace them as fast as I can remove them. The cascades of Eugenia berries from the neighbor's untended giants will no longer mound in unmown winter grass tufts to sprout a million little Eugenias each spring; goodbye to hours of knee-aching grubbing...

Betty and Arlene
I was being stalked by a chicken. I kept seeing her (a hen, I think) out the front window but she disappeared when I ran to get my camera. Nobody believed me. Then I see her again as I'm getting out of my car in the driveway. I try to follow her but she runs a fast clip down the sidewalk and vanishes. Then there are two chickens. And this time I get my camera in time. I'm calling them...

for the birds
My friend Brenda, a dedicated birder, found a yellow warbler on the sidewalk in front of her office in downtown Oakland the other day. Hoping the bird was just stunned, she picked it up. But it was dead, likely the victim of a high-rise office window. Oakland, California is no different than any other city with multi-story buildings with large windows and often 24-hour lighting. An article by Gail Swainson in the Toronto Star tells a familiar story: Every year,...

urbane vs urban gardens
A little wilderness goes a long way in gardens, I think. You don't need a hundred acres, or even one, to find yourself lost in the bliss of a towering bean patch, or a fulmination of dinner-plate dahlias. Wandering squash vines among fountains of hollyhocks, or a lone laden apple tree on a windswept hill--there are varieties of sensation to be found in a slightly wild, or eccentric garden. Imagine 125 such gardens in one spot! And each one...

lost in s p a c.........
that's what happens when the internets go away. Actually, only if your Model T broke down on the highway and you had to walk through the desert to find a mechanic. Dirt is back after a slightly longer pause than usual and yet, it being late on a hot and smazy July evening, I may just head out back to sit by the whiskey barrel water fall with a gin & lemon, scratch my mosquito bites and wait for the...

rights of spring
It exists in Slow Time, that place where there are no deadlines, no telephones vibrate, and there is no season of new television comedy. It is spring. Coming at its own pace. Once in twelve, or thirteen, moons or so. Nothing is definite. No weather, no memory, no seed reliably germinate. Rain, sun, wind, planetary spinning. Spiders appear, and the migrant birds. Today I saw a swallowtail swerve and cling to flowerless stem. Hopeful, perhaps. That is the metaphor. Hope....

the hybernating gardener
ok. I missed January. and most of December. I didn't even look in the backyard until I had to wrap the potted dwarf lemon in plastic last week to keep it from freezing. I have spent most of my time under the down quilt with my ibook not even looking at nursery catalogs. I began to think I would abandon gardening altogether. I went for a little hike with a friend - the first all winter - out in the...

the season's greeting
In the dark days of the garden I avoid the tasks that would take me into the shadow land of the back yard where the day's light penetrates only a sliver's worth across the fence and the borders are brittle with last season's petrified leaf. There is no transforming snow to bury the sad scene in mounds of glistening white, and so far not even the soggy mulch of rain soaked debris. There are no birds and no sound...

of what does the garden dream?: Hadspen Parabola redux
Back in September I entered a garden design to the Hadspen Parabola competition, and eventually was notified that my idea had made it to the second round of judging. Here, at last, are the finalists - as best as I could represent them from the pdf files and assorted documents now posted at the site. The entries varied from a typewritten page describing a redwood tree to an open source "wiki" that allowed anyone to design the garden. I was...

reversal of season
A glimmering on the hilltop beyond the freeway is all that the morning can muster in the way of sunshine, and a ruby glow has begun to seep from the tangle of tree canopies, wisteria and grape vines. The neighbor's fig tree is shedding great flaps of yellow leaves upon the exhausted annuals below, and drips of rain cling to the ragged edges of the oak leaves outside my window. A bruised blue sky is puffed with storm clouds. A...

a personal parabola
Well. As many long time readers of this blog are aware, there are often long pauses between thoughts at this space. This summer I was unusually preoccupied. With the inevitable months-long preparations for a wedding which finally took place on July 29. Which is sort of an excuse for not gardening or writing about it. BUT, something happened one morning a few days before the wedding, beginning with my reading an article by Alice Rawsthorn about a rather famous English...

ants save the planet
Reading Theodore Roosevelt's "The Winning of the West", one comes across this argument for the moral necessity of the American settlers' conquest of the territory long occupied by their human brethren: All men of sane and wholesome thought must dismiss with impatient contempt the plea that these continents should be reserved for the use of scattered savage tribes, whose life was but a few degrees less meaningless, squalid, and ferocious than that of the wild beasts with whom they...

midsummer's moment
Away, away, from men and towns, To the wild wood and the downs-- To the silent wilderness Where the soul need not repress Its music lest it should not find An echo in another's mind, While the touch of Nature's art Harmonises heart to heart. I leave this notice on my door For each accustomed visitor:-- "I am gone into the fields To take what this sweet hour yields. Reflection, you may come to-morrow, Sit by the fireside with...

smelling like a rose
The rose obsession continues...until the last petal drops in my soon-to-be-a-memory spring garden. A friend invited me to join her on an expedition this last Saturday to El Cerrito where the annual "Celebration of Old Roses" event is held in the community center. I have heard about this event for years from fellow gardeners and rose enthusiasts and both me and Sally were expecting something rather grand. In reality, it looks like a neighborhood BBQ held at the community...

 


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