8.28.2009

Gardening Forensics

My soil and I have come along way together. In ways it's like an old friend, familiar and careless. I know that it is so sandy it seems to grow pebbles, that its black and acidic nature is due to the oak trees overhead, and that if I dig around the rhododendrons, I'll smell the old coffee grounds that anoint it daily.
Our tiny little spit of lawn is edged with river rock, at least it was-now the garden beds have been sucking stones into their soil like giant gumballs; I unearth them every now and again when I turn the beds over. I found the rocks in the nearby creek and hauled them all up in the rusty red wagon that now lies slowly being subsumed by the vinca behind the house. Most of the rocks turned out to be sandstone, and fell apart years ago, but a few of the original river rock remain. These tend to surface every now and again in the garden beds, like submarines or whales, spouting compost, partially decomposed mulch and old pieces of my 4 year old's sidewalk chalk.
I love how the soil in my garden tells the story of my life in it. If I ever had to move away from my garden, I might have to lift the topsoil and take it with me as my flower beds contain a strata of my last 13 years in this one place. If I dig down far enough I can find the remains of our broken Fiestaware dishes from our early days of marriage, we used the broken saucers and teacups as edgers, as I remember. B called the broken bits 'Fiascoware'. Gently decaying pieces of irrigation tubing, plant tags and twist ties add heft and bulk to the soil and remind me of old planting schemes gone awry. "Here's where I tried to plant those peonies two years ago! What was I thinking, putting them so far from the drip hose?" I mutter to myself as I poke around with a trowel, pulling out shards of plant tags. Old gladiolus husks, iris tubers and decayed roots are like the Ghosts of Plants Past, murmuring the stories of their lives to me as I bend my ear to the earth, stretching my fingers through the soil.
I feel so attached to this space, to the coming and going of seasons, the new growth and slow decay. I daydream about a larger space, with more sun and privacy, but honestly, I wouldn't know what to do with another garden; this is my home.

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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.