Rosa's Excerpts: My Antonia by Willa Cather

'When spring came, after that hard winter, one could not get enough of the nimble air. Every morning I wakened with a fresh consciousness that winter was over. There were none of the signs of spring for which I used to watch in Virginia, no budding woods or blooming gardens. There was only-spring itself; the throb of it, the light restlessness, the vital essence of it everywhere: in the sky, in the swift clouds, in the pale sunshine, and in the warm, high, wind-rising suddenly, sinking suddenly, impulsive and playful like a big puppy that pawed you and then lay down to be petted. If I had been tossed down blindfolded on that red prairie, I should have known that it was spring.'
-Willa Cather, 'My Antonia'

.......and for this lovely photo of the exquisitely named Saint John's Prairie, thanks goes out to the College of Saint Benedict, in St. Cloud, Minnesota. This is also the home of the Saint John's Bible, a handwritten, illuminated edition of the Bible, commissioned for the millennium and executed by calligrapher Donald Jackson. Also exquisite.....


March in the Garden

Last week the flowering trees down the street were at their most ethereal. You know, that point between budding and flowering when the pink-tinged twigs seem to shimmer, like waves of heat rising up from the hot concrete. Now it's in its typical flowering state, full-blown, nothing to hide. Everyone pulls over to take pictures, and sigh over the blossoms; next week the sugary pink petals will be blanketing the ground. These moments are beautiful as well, and I probably shouldn't quibble over any flowering that happens in the spring (except maybe for the acacias, which start out smelling like grape soda and end up clogging your nose with their syrupy stink.) But I prefer the early glimmers, the harbingers-the plants that remind me that winter is past and Easter is coming. Harbingers in our garden include the chinese forget-me-nots (cynoglossum amabile), flowering quince, (chaenomeles japonica) (which is not doing it's job, but I am forgiving-as long as they ante up next year), and the ephemeral spring bulbs: the muscari, daffodils, bluebells. I'm waiting for the checkered lily (fritillaria meleagris) to raise a purple checked head above its grassy foliage, this humble English wildflower is in my all star line-up of favorite flowers. Ready to devour the shade garden is the newly-emerged, lacy green foliage of my favorite native ground cover, dicentra formosa, the plant with way too many common names: Western Bleeding Heart, Dutchmen's Breeches, Lady in a Bath.
Abbey Garden
I'm going to transplant a lot of the dicentra into the Abbey Garden's part shade area, along with the more typical taller Bleeding Heart (dicentra spectabile). These will be interspersed with 5 or 6 shade-tolerant roses; I've found some with august histories like rosa rugosa alba, (1300's)r.r. rubra, (1700's) and rosa mundi (prior to 1591) , the oldest striped rose. It's a sport from rosa gallica officinalis, the Apothecary rose, and I've got one or two of them as well. Behind them all we're going to attempt to create trellising on the brick walls with wire; we want the plants (probably honeysuckle-lonicera periclymen-and jasmine) to frame negative space into the shape of the Abbey's signature aches. This monastic garden theme has been fun.
To Be Announced With Great Fanfare ; In the Style of Sufjan Stevens
And the Abbey Garden really is getting underway, with planting days scheduled this weekend. I'll try to post some photos later to let you see what we've been doing. I'm not only an abysmal photographer, but a truly wretched artist and it's been a challenge properly depicting the design to anyone not currently residing inside my head. So that's pretty much everyone. B is sold on Google Sketch Up, but I am not entirely convinced. You have to rely on plants that Google already has in its database, and things don't look like they do in real life.... I think I need to break down and take a wretched drafting class.
If you live locally (Santa Cruz/Bay Area) and want to come and get dirty with us, we will begin planting out the Abbey Garden this Sunday, March 29. We'd love to garden with you! Address: The Abbey at Vintage Faith Church, 350 Mission Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
And a final question: has anyone had any success with growing (and/or sourcing) cobaea scandens, the cup and saucer vine? I want to grow some on a little wire pyramid tuteur. It's been a little hard to track down and I wonder if I should try to grow it from seed. It's lovely, and I suppose I never could resist bad coffeehouse plant puns......(who can?)


Please Pray.....

Please, please pray for our friends in Scotland, Michael and Esther Franklin. Sunday morning they gave birth to Elizabeth Sophia, who was a stillbirth. The details are shaky, I don't know why or what happened. Please pray for God's mercy on them, and their family; for solace and comfort and whatever else it is that you pray in times like this. My heart breaks for them and I'm just sick about the whole thing.


Filing, continued

File Under Ludicrosity

And the Award for Legal Fatuousness goes to Dominican Hospital-when tonight I found myself signing paperwork stating that my unborn child had received his HIPA rights.



File Under Fingers In Pies:
Somehow I ended up collaborating with B and our friend Cheryl on the play that our church put on around Christmas time: 'NorthskyFlight 465'. We're entering it in a radio playwriting contest at the end of the month put on by a small mom and pop syndicate known as the BBC World Service. Perhaps you've heard of it? What we are thinking, I don't know. But it's been heaps of fun adapting it for radio, and collaborating with other people. I like to write prose mainly, so it's been interesting to work on a piece of writing that is dialogue-driven; where you must reveal who the character is by what they say. We've had to strip it down to what feels like very bare bones indeed, and are constantly going over lines to see what is clunky or over-explained. This is a new experience for me, as I usually err on the side of too many words, like my good friend Elvis Costello. (Really, we go way back.)
File Under: Pin Money
So a friend of ours offered me a little research job that I just couldn't turn down. She, a graphic artist, has a client who has written a children's book about a mouse living in a Depression Era house, who finds some seeds in the attic and plants them in order to help out the family he lives with. She wants me to research Depression Era recipes, sustenance farming and common seed varieties of the time period in order to add some historical accuracy and interest to the book. It sounds totally interesting, and like something I'd research just for fun anyway. Any ideas on where to start? The region is rural California.
File Under: Assorted Geekery
I'm not sure which type of geekery to file this under, but when I found this on You Tube, the top of my head tingled and I got unreasonably excited.
So my favorite garden tools are the fork and spade that I bought as an Apprentice at UCSC's Farm & Garden program. And it turns out that they are made by Bulldog Tools at Clarington Forge factory in Wigan, England. Founded in 1780, the factory is built on a site previously used by Cistercian monks.....who also made garden equipment! How's that for cool? So here is the clip, proving that you never know what will pop up on rosa-sinensis.........

(.......and for finding this, my thanks go out to B, my go-to-YouTube-guy.)


Rosa's Poetry Archives: Sylvia Plath


I'm a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf's big with its yeasty rising.
Money's new-minted in this fat purse.
I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I've eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there's no getting off.
Sylvia Plath


Chenopodium bonus-henricus: Good King Henry


"Oh, Honey, Could You......."

Man, I am like a big ole hen these days, nesting away. I want to turn the whole house upside down, paint this wall, recover that chair. Poor B comes home to a litany of things to lift and move here, no, over here. It 's comic. I can't seem to get around the side of the big dodge ball-type thing on the front of me, so Ive been enlisting the aid of my long-suffering family to help. Little G is low to the ground, so she comes along behind me and picks up everything I drop. B is my go-to guy for everything else, and it includes quite a lot. I don't quite need the jaws of life to extract me from the couch yet, but he's been there to strong-arm me into an upright position many times.
Tonight it was the dishes. Somehow the sink faucet handles have gotten farther and farther away, and I now have to stand on my tippy toes to get my belly above the edge of the sink in order to turn on the water. (A step stool is too high, and makes my back hurt. Yes, I've tried everything.)
I have just about 2 months to go, and I'm wondering how I'm going to get through this last bit of time, especially considering the planting season that is gearing up, coupled with the nesting instinct and spring cleaning. And it's just hopeless in the garden. I don't remember when I last lifted things with ease, or when the ground didn't seem so far away. I had B & G digging holes and watering plants this weekend, and I just decided that most of the plants in a major section of the garden need to be moved. Guess who I'll be calling.
The Abbey Garden Update
The Abbey Garden is a go, hurray hurray and thank You, Jesus. We've got the proper permits from the county, and the design pretty much nailed down, as well as a budget that doesn't depend on the discount plant section at the local nursery. (Although, being a thrift maven, and Scottish to boot, I shop there on principle.) Things should be moving by the end of the month. Our work days will include a lot of 'point-and-plant', and I hope I can impart clearly what needs doing, which can be hard, because it mean using lots of nouns, things I tend to lose quite easily. "Okay, now put that thing in the other thing, over there, next to the....you know, the...thing!" I hope I can restrain myself; otherwise it will be me in there, trying to heft things I shouldn't, and little H.O. will be coming 2 months early. "And his mother wrapped him in swaddling cloths and placed him in a planter box." No, no, bad idea. I'll stick to directing.


Rosa's Prose Archives:Hero Moon

I used to think the sun was drowning and the moon's fingers on the water were a celestial rescue mission. Every night, the same hero moon dove for its friend the sun; every morning the sun was found and hung out to dry in the clean white clouds.
That was before I knew about the tides and rotation of the earth; hemispheres and gravity. These are all good things and I'll believe this story too, but sometimes I like to think about the moon and how he rescued the sun.

I think I wrote this about 15 years ago for a collaborative zine of which I was editor, 'Drink'. (It was made of paper and published via all-night sessions at Kinkos. Ah....the paper zine: Anyone remember those?) Anyway, I thought of this piece tonight when G was talking about the beach we saw today, the sand all but eaten up by stormy crashing waves. "The beach is all over." she said, very matter-of-factly. B tried to explain about the moon being like a big magnet, controlling the influx of the tides. I don't think she got it.

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.