Saturday, October 24, 2009


The back yard is nice; but the inside is full of mold, damp chills, spiders and futility. Our home, that is. So it's time to go, to weasel out of this rotten lease and find a bit of air we can breathe without the aid of a high-tech oscillating quadruple filtration system; to talk to a landlord without the need for legal counsel; to sleep without fear of a mycotoxic silt bringing unkown disease in the still night; to drop these ugly thoughts about the evil lassitude we all suffer and inflict upon our fellow human beings.
And, hopefully, to take a lesson or two with me.

A lot of our belongings are ruined... one by one discovered lousy with mold, to be tossed into triage piles of things we never thought we'd have to clean, to throw away or to keep as priceless but with the caveat that spores spare not the sentimental.
So, too, in moving plants to a new rental with no backyard. This pile for plants I cannot part with: Hamamelis, you get to stay; little Sango-Kaku Japanese Maple I've had since a twig, you get to stay; Fuchsia, Hydrangea, Stewartia, too beautiful to leave behind, you're in; contorted Chamaecyparis obtusa, you're in but I'm sorry you're going to have to stay in that small pot for another year.
This pile for giveaways - plants I cannot throw away but lack the space or sunlight for: all my delicious berries, you'll be in good hands with my parents; Sambucus nigra 'guincho purple', I hardly knew ye, but my coworker will take good care of you (if she doesn't you tell me and I'll come rescue you); sentimental lilies, we'll be together again someday, I promise!
And this pile for those who didn't make the cut... let's pour out a watering can on the curb for the fallen, we got dead plants walkin' here: miscellaneous conifers I lost interest in, you deserved better than me; Coreopsis, your summer sunshine will shine no more; Portuguese Laurel, I promised so much and delivered so little, you were going to be my beautiful broadleaf evergreen tree, together we would show the world that laurel could be so much more than just a hedge - but nevermore; big unknown Japanese Maple that always fell over because you grew too fast for the pot I gave you, sorry, but this is what you get.
It feels strange to be playing God with all these plants I took into my care; but then, as gardeners, isn't that what we do?

Often, it can be difficult to make the decisions necessary to live more simply. It is so easy to accumulate and justify and tuck away and hold on that our lives become a clutter of half-remembered excuses and the objects they excuse. We become fiends for the vague sentimentality of things that connect us to our halcyon past, for the little glow of anything familiar. So when life shoves you aside and insists upon itself being lived more simply, i.e. by ruining your stuff and disallowing plants you've held for too long, I figure we may as well embrace the opportunity and be grateful, if we can.

All right, I'm outta here...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Old Faithful (Hori Hori R.I.P. #3)

Honestly, I'm surprised I lasted this long. I've heard it happens to all gardeners eventually, you just never expect it when it's your turn. How appropriate, though, that it happened on my first day with my brand new replacement Hori Hori Knife. For those readers not following along, I "lost" my trusty Hori Hori a couple months ago and have been eulogizing its loss by enumerating its many fun uses. Today I discovered a fun new use: Geyser-Creating-Device!
The story pretty much writes itself, but is best imagined in jerky, black and white silent-movie slapstickery. Two gardeners idly chatting, enjoying a leisurely Monday of planting seasonal beds for autumn. One gardener pulls out a Hori Hori knife to plant some bulbs (a la R.I.P #2). His face gradually shows signs of frustration, as the ground seems to be much harder and rockier than he would like. Bulb by bulb, he begins jabbing the ground harder and harder. Boy, this must be some soil! He wipes sweat off his face and laughs; fortunately there are only a few more bulbs left to plant. Ha ha! Jab jab jab and then the screen erupts in white! Oh goodness, he's hit a PVC irrigation pipe and stabbed right through it with that fool knife of his! A 12 foot geyser is shooting out of the ground and he's flat on his ass with a priceless look on his dripping wet face; the other gardener is running around clearly yelling and (if you can read lips) clearing swearing up a storm!

The rest of the afternoon is not nearly so well-scripted and tends to drag on into increasingly muddy and shameful trips to the local hardware store as successive attempts to repair the problem before the clients get home are met with more catastrophic damage of the irrigation system, more livid cursing than ever, and more pitying looks from the hardware store employees.
So dear diary today I learned that a Hori Hori knife piloted by impatience and frustration can become a terrible force of nature, spawning elemental water spouts from seemingly dry ground; I also learned how not to repair broken PVC pipe (turns out there's more than one way!) and, just in the nick of time before the end of the day, how to correctly repair broken PVC pipe. And now, for the rest of the season, every bulb I plant will be just a little bit too shallow because frankly I'm terrified to dig anymore.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Hori Hori R.I.P. #2

How could I forget planting bulbs!
After planting a few hundred yesterday, I don't think I'll ever forget again! I'm planting bulbs in my dreams and vacant gazes; my hands are on auto-pilot, inappropriately stabbing any nearby surface during casual living-room conversations, clawing for that magical depth of 6" because I'm subconsciously sure that the couch would look lovely in the spring with a dozen tulips poking out of its cushions. Bulbs go anywhere! Bulbs go everywhere! I'm Johnny Appleseed's less popular and more often medicated brother Tommy Tulipbulb!

I guess if you have to go nuts planting too many bulbs, you may as well have a hori hori knife along for the ride. I know there are any number of tools sold for the sole purpose of planting bulbs (including some spectacularly ineffective drill bits that are supposed to carve out a nice tidy hole - do not ask my boss about these unless your sweet tooth is craving a lengthy tirade against the retail nursery industry and the "idiots" who work therein) but the hori hori exists to make such specialized tools unnecessary. I do not want 260 tools in my kit, one for every task I'm faced with; I want 1 tool (OK, 2 if you count my Leatherman) which stays always on my belt. The hori-hori negates the need to "dig a hole" for every single bulb you have to plant. Instead, you just stab-stab-stab a narrow column in the soil, drop in a bulb, cover up and repeat... several hundred times!