Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Review: The Gardener

Review of The Gardener by Sara Stewart, illustrated by David Small (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1997). A Caldecott Honor book.

It's 1935, and Lydia Grace Finch is on the train, traveling from her grandparent's farmhouse in the country, to her Uncle Jim in the big city. The Great Depression has put Lydia's father out of work, but Uncle Jim can use some help in his bakery, and Lydia is just right for the job.

In a series of letters, first to her Uncle Jim, then to her family back home, Lydia narrates a story of her own inner strength that gives her the courage to travel alone, to a new home in a strange new place, yet never succumb to fear and doubt.

For Lydia is a gardener, and with her she carries a gardener's hope and packets of seeds. She tells her Uncle Jim that she knows a lot about gardening and nothing about baking, but she's anxious to learn about baking, and is there any place to plant seeds?

Uncle Jim never smiles, but he's no ogre, either, and Lydia fits right in. She's excited to find that there are window boxes on the bakery building and the rooms upstairs where they live, though the window boxes are empty.

Throughout the winter, Lydia works in the bakery learning the trade -- and works quietly on a secret that she's building with cracked teacups, bent cakepans, and dirt from a vacant lot down the street. Up the fire escape she discovers a secret place where she can carry out her plans, with the help of one of her uncle's assistants.

The comes spring, and Lydia's suprise blossoms -- literally -- in window boxes, half-barrels, and, best of all, in Lydia's surprise for her uncle.

The Gardener is a beautiful picture book for children, but you don't need kids in the house to enjoy its lovely illustrations and timeless message. Send a copy to any displaced gardener you know who is stuck in the city without a speck of dirt to dig, or keep a copy for yourself to cheer the gray winter months.

Live Leopards -- as Garden Decor?!?!

There has to be one in every community, doesn't there? You know, the person who thinks "neighborly" is for weenies and can't understand why the neighbors are upset with the rifle range or stock car track or whatever bit of macho memorabilia that's appeared in his back yard.

In a neighborhood south of London, it's a fellow -- claiming all the while to be an avid conservationist -- who wants to keep live leopards in 12 foot cages in his back yard. The neighbors are upset, but the magistrates have allowed it after a vet declared the cages "adequate" to house the cats.

Doesn't look like anyone asked the leopards if a 12 foot cage is truly "adequate." Read the story on the BBC website: Man Can Keep Leopards in Garden.

Monday, May 29, 2006

In Memoriam

My father, Don J. Lytle (1931-1999), U.S. Air Force, Korea
My uncle, Richard Hiday (1914-1945), U.S. Army, World War II
My grandfather, James W. Lytle (1892-1951), U.S. Army, World War I
My friend, Robert Solonika (1962-1982), U.S. Army

Thanks, guys.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Renovation Under the Hobbit Tree

With the Hobbit Tree all trimmed up (as told in The Hobbit Tree Got a Haircut), and with some likely plants gathered together, it was time to renovate the bed underneath it. I'd been wanting to fix it up for quite some time, but it didnt' seem worthwhile to fix it up all nice and pretty just to get it trampled when the tree trimmers came through. Those folks get paid by the job, and it's in their best interests to get the job done as quickly as possible, which leaves them no time to be delicately tiptoeing around someone else's tulips. If you want work crews to be careful of your plants, you've got to say things like, "And there's an extra $50 in it for you if you can get the job done without crushing my plants." And even then there's no guarantee that they'll know the difference between your prize dianthus and a dandelion.

At any rate, with the crews gone and any damage already done, renovation could begin. I'll do like the old Charles Atlas ads in the comic books -- not with muscular guys in Speedos, but with "before" and "after" pictures. So here's "before":

The grape hyacinths have died back, the wild bleeding hearts are fading, and the hostas, now exposed to sunlight more than before, are getting sunburnt. Some clumps of yellow Sysirinchium are still doing all right, though it's so hard to tell it apart from a particularly nasty grass that's been invading the bead that weeding requires painful delicacy.

Here's "before" from another angle.

Still lots of twigs and debris from the trimming, and with all the dying grape hyacinths, this patch really needs some help. Plants that I had high hopes for have faded over the years, leaving a haphazard arrangement of the survivors. While it's not absolutely dreadful, it could still be much better.

Now here's "during":

Yuck. Looks like a mine field. But things often have to get worse before they get better, and a flower bed is no exception. I've raked up most of the debris, some of which is piled up on the right, and rough-dug the bed, loosening the soil so that the earthworms can have free reign. The dwarf boxwood is fine where it is, but I'm wondering at this point about the pulmonarias, and a large clump of violets. The hostas are in the process of getting moved. Some have already been relocated nearer the base of the tree to help cover the bare stems of the rose. After this I spread three bags of steer manure and rough-dug that it.

And here's "after":
After raking everything smooth, I planted some new plants. The hostas are now all clustered near the tree, as are several young blue columbines, transplanted from another flower bed. The "Red Hobbit" columbine is near these. In front of the columbines I've put some scarlet coral bells. There's a deer tongue fern near the box. I planted some tiny aubrietas and creeping penstemons near the front, both of which are low and will spread. After planting everything, I watered in all the transplants, and spread four sacks of hemlock bark to protect the soil and keep in the moisture. In the picture there's still some debris to clear up and the sidewalk needs swept. But it's looking a whole lot better, and will be fabulous when the plants grow up, fill in, and start blooming like crazy.

Not a bad day's work if I do say so myself.

Friday, May 26, 2006

My Garden, Memorial Day Weekend

Here are some views around the garden at the end of May, taken between rain showers:

A hanging basket that I put together in a self-watering pot, featuring salmon-pink and lavender impatiens.

I decided to actually use the concrete pad this year. No sense in wasting one of the few sunny spots I have. I bought some giant pots cheaply at Big Lots and filled them with homegrown seedlings: tomatoes, peppers, melons, squash, cucumber, and petunias.

A blossom of the Lincoln Constance rose, blooming high in the crabapple tree.

Under the pine tree in front, perennial lupines and blue columbine are busy blooming. Some of those columbine are going to be moved under the crabapple.

Orange "Thai Silk" and pale lavender California Poppies, with their petals furled against the rain. Though they're annuals, they self-seed readily.

Another view of the front of the house with yellow "Moonshine" yarrow, some barely visible native orange columbine, the sage in bloom, and a cluster of Red Hot Pokers. The hummingbirds have been happy here.

Compare the asparagus and peas now to what they looked like back in April (Happy Earth Day! My Garden, My Kitties)! The asparagus is done, but the peas are just coming on.

The big ceanothus bush in the backyard is a haven for honeybees, bumblebees, and hoverflies. They've been having a field day, swarming all over, and they come away coated in pollen.

The lettuce patch, showing that the vegetable garden can be as pretty as the flower garden.

A Nelly Moser clematis, just coming into bloom in the backyard.

A sort of Georgia O'Keefe look at an oriental poppy. My grandmother grew these in her garden, and these are the descendants of the seeds I got from her.

The flowering head of Centranthus ruber, or Jupiter's beard, a lovely xerophytic plant growing at the bottom of the driveway in back.

Our first two strawberries from the new planting of Seascape berries that I got from Nichols. These are everbearing, so there should be more to come.

A Belle of Woking clematis, in silvery mauve and pale green, looking like an exotic water lily.

Flaming Stick o' Death, or, How To Get Your Teenager To Help With the Weeding

A few weeks back I ordered a Northern Tools 20,000 BTU Outdoor Torch from Amazon.com with the intention of using it mostly as a weed flamer. My teenage son's reaction was, "Mom! Are you kidding? You bought... a flame-thrower! That is SO cool!"

Nice to know that once in a while, I'm a cool mom.

The boy has been itching for its arrival, and finally it came. Since my son is in Scouts (and has earned his Eagle, no less), we naturally had a tank or two of propane in the house, and in moments he was happily scorching weeds on the concrete pad and down the sidewalk. "Can I borrow this for the next campout to start a campfire?" he asked. "It's the world's largest match!"

Naturally, a weed flamer can't be used on mulched areas, wooden decks, or any other flammable surfaces. Even on asphalt one should be cautious, since the tar can burn. In fact, we were taking our chances using it on the concrete pad where there's a lot of dying moss. But as a chemical-free solution for weeds growing through the concrete or in gravel areas, a weed flamer can't be beat.

Especially if it leads to a teenager asking if he can do the weeding. The Tom Sawyer method, pumped up a few degrees.

That Christmas Feeling!

I love getting packages in the mail. This one brought a new shipment of xeric plants from High Country Gardens. Some of these are going in the bed by the concrete, which tends to bake in the afternoon, though I have a soaker hose under the mulch to help things along. Some are going under the crabapple as part of the renovation of that bed.

I also made a stop at Nichols Garden Nursery for some herbs and a few more border plants. Nichols has one of the best selections of herb seeds and plants you can find anywhere.

Okay, I'm set. The rain can stop now... anytime... please...

Contents of this package:
And from Nichols, I have:

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Concrete Poetry

A year or so ago I found this nifty kit at Borders. It's made by the people, the folks who make those magnets with words that you stick on your refrigerator or filing cabinet.

works along the same lines, except instead of small magnets, you make word bricks from concrete to set out in the garden. The kit comes with rectangular molds, letter stamps, a sack of concrete mix, a bottle of terra cotta colorant, a small trowel, and complete instructions.

Well, with something like that in the hands of an avid writer and gardener, the possibilities are endless: everything from chunky plant labels to lines of poetry winding around the garden or lining the paths.

Soon after getting the kit, I used the sack of concrete mix that came with it to make a simple "welcome" stone for the front porch. It came out nicely enough, even if the letters were a bit wobbly. Perhaps that just adds to the charm, right?

Then the kit sat idle for a long time. I'd need more concrete, more coloring material (if I didn't want Basic Gray), and most of all, more time to make more stones. And I also needed a clear idea of what I wanted.

Well, after seeing the Hobbit Tree get its haircut and the damage wrought by the feet of the tree cutters (not that they could really help it, and there wasn't anything terribly valuable under the tree anyway), I thought that the bed could use a few stepping stones. Well, hey, why not drag out the kit and make some? So I stopped by the craft store, picked up a couple of sacks of concrete mix (which I really, really need to price at the hardware store, where I'm sure it's much cheaper), some coloring material, some round molds, a set of flower and butterfly stamps, and some floral "marbles" for decoration (hint: a net bag of marbles from the floral aisle costs as much as a package from the concrete and mosaic section, but holds three times as much). I mixed up the concrete and made the first two of five stones that will eventually say "grow where you are planted":

Obviously, looking at the surface of those stones, my concrete work needs a bit of help. I'll lay some damp cloths over them and get out the wire brush to take off the pale mucky look, now that the concrete is set. Otherwise, I'm two-fifths of the way through the stepping stone project.

Now I've got other projects in mind. There's a worn place in the side lawn that could use stepping stones sunk down to soil depth. I want to make a set of small, round stones that say "step by step by step" or some such thing. I'm also thinking of putting out short lines of poetry in the flower borders, such as "The earth laughs in flowers" (Emerson).

Like I didn't have enough to do this summer already. Sheesh.

Here's how I made these stones:
  • Dump a 7 lb bag of concrete mix into a bucket. Add a packet of colorant (I used Mahogany on these stones) and stir in. Careful of the dust. It helps to sit outdoors where the breeze will blow the dust away from you, or wear a mask. Add 2 cups of water and stir. If it needs more water (and it did), add a tablespoon at a time until you've got the consistency of brownie batter.
  • Dump the concrete into the mold and spread it out with a concrete trowel until it's smooth. Add any texture you want with the trowel. Once the concrete is poured, you have about an hour to work.
  • Press in marbles, mosaic tile, mosaic glass, polished stones, shells, or other decorations if you want.
  • Lay out the letter stamps and line up the ones you need. I like to start in the middle of the word so that I can center it correctly. Press all of the letters into the concrete at once. Slowly lift them out one at at time. Doing it that way instead of one letter at a time helps prevent distortion of the letters by each successive stamp.
  • Craft stores have lots of other concrete stamps you can use, or create your own using found materials.
  • Let the stone remain in the mold undisturbed for 48 hours. I set mine up on upturned buckets to keep critter feet out of them. If it's dry or warm, you can lay damp towels over the stones so that the surface doesn't dry too quickly.
  • After removing from the mold, the stones need to cure for two weeks before using as stepping stones.

The Hobbit Tree Got a Haircut

In my Earth Day post, I included a picture of the rat's nest of a crabapple we have in the front of the house. We call it the "Hobbit Tree" because years of bad pruning before we moved in had contorted the branches into something that looks like it's out of .

Well, the tree trimmers finally came, and the Hobbit Tree sports a whole new look. The dead wood is gone, the droopy branches are gone, and the remaining canopy, though a bit sparse, looks a whole lot healthier. What few blossoms it had were knocked off in the process, so we won't get a lovely flush of pinky-white this year, but the Lincoln Constance rose that's scrambing up the side still hasn't finished. It generally blooms after the crabapple, extending the bloom time.

Now that the canopy has been lifted, I see that a hosta underneath is in imminent danger of getting sunburned. This weekend I'll start renovations on the bed underneath the crabapple, digging it up to loosen the soil after the heavy trampling it got from the tree trimmers (couldn't be avoided -- and I think careless newspaper carriers have been adding to the compaction over the years), adding cow stuff to improve it, moving the hostas, and adding some new plants. I ordered some new plants from , and stopped at to gather some goodies for this bed and for the bed by the concrete. Good times ahead, you betcha.

Here's the "before" picture:

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Gardens of Downtown Chicago

The last place you'd expect to find gardens, perhaps, is smack in the middle of a big, gritty city. A meeting in Chicago where we flew last weekend provided a few eye-popping surprises. A stroll down the of Michigan Avenue, from the building near the where we stayed, to in front of the , was brightened not only by the dizzying array of stores, everything from to the (calculated to send any red-blooded American male fleeing in terror) to , but by a fabulous floral extravaganza. The tulips, it seems, are an annual display. Here is a sampling:

White tulips set off the creamy Joliet limestone of the old gothic Waterworks tower, one of the few structures to survive the Chicago fire of 1871.

On a corner near Borders Books, a basket of pansies, azaleas, and ivy.

Purple tulips in a huge sidewalk planter -- like a little slice of Holland.

Even the median strips blossomed: mixed tulips in a giant street planter. Municipal gardeners hired by the city must take their lives into their hands to plant and weed this thing. Those taxis don't slow down for anything.

What was I saying about Holland? Blue windmills that would look totally tacky in my garden look chic here in a sidewalk planter, with pink tulips and yellow pansies.

How much to ship this modest little arrangement home, hmm? Yellow and purple tulips, with purple phlox and blue pansies.

Off in the corner of , which used to be a train yard, is this naturalistic garden where they've planted native prairie flowers and grasses. It's still new and a bit raw-looking, especially the part with all the steel arms protecting the new trees. Has Chicago had a rash of tree-rustling? Or are they just keeping feet off of the young root systems?

More of the naturalistic garden, a green thumb-on-nose to the gritty gray skyscrapers all around.

Snuggled next to the stem of this Camas (Camassia) is a precious pink shooting star (Dodecatheon).

The oh-so-Chicago-style ampitheater stage, looking up through a tulip planting surrounded by clipped box.

Back at the hotel, the view out of our window was less than inspiring: nothing but the grimy, sooty exterior of the back of some extremely expensive condominiums. But as I looked up, I saw that someone hungry for the sight of a green living thing (someone who had to stare at the grimy, sooty back of our hotel every time they look out of their windows of their overpriced condominium) is making a stab at their own little city garden out on the fire escape.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Review: Down the Garden Path

Review of: Down the Garden Path by Beverley Nichols (facsimile by Timber Press, 2004)
"I bought my cottage by sending a wireless to Timbuctoo from the Mauretania, at midnight, with a fierce storm lashing the decks.

It sounds rather vulgar, but it is true."
Thus opens the first of Nichols' Allways trilogy books, Down the Garden Path, which tells the story of Nichols' attempts and triumphs in his first garden. As with all of Nichols' books on his gardens (including the Merry Hall trilogy and the Sudbrook Cottage tales beginning with Garden Open Today), the text bubbles along in a merry froth of gardener's enthusiasm bordering on mania, from superstitiously-laden rambles (where one cannot go straight at an interesting spot of color in the winter garden but rather stick to a prescribed path, lest one miss other interesting sights), to nearly fainting dead away at the sight of a particularly gorgeous flower. But given the writing style of the day (and Nichols' style does bring to mind every now and then), and his passion for life in general and gardening in particular, his excesses are forgiveable, while his rabid enthisasm lends vitality and character to the story rather than detracting from it.

This is the first of his gardening books, and Nichols was still a young writer at the time; hence the style is a trifle more affected and less developed than his later books, such as Garden Open Today. Yet the charm that infuses all of his garden books is in full evidence here.

In this story, Nichols purchases a cottage and acreage he dubs Allways, and proceeds to develop the badly-neglected garden, from planting a wood (and on his father's gruff advice, starting his own willows from cuttings rather than spending any more on buying trees) to placing a statue of Antinous. His desire for a pond and the resulting mound of dirt -- he'd quite forgotten that when one digs a pond, the dirt must go somewhere -- leads to an attempt at a rock garden, and with a great expense laid out on rocks, ends up with a disastrous lump that reminds him "of those puddings made of spongecake and custard which are studded with almonds." A deep sense of the aesthetic in decorating and flower arranging leads Nichols to own a good three cupboards' worth of vases and containers, and he even goes so far as to have part of a wall knocked out and niches installed so that he can put up frames over the niches with cream velvet stretched over them and insert flowers through the velvet and into vases behind, hence creating living paintings. Readers may not wish to go quite that far, but it's hard not to take pleasure in the ingenuity.

But the most charming aspect of the book is the people who pop up in Nichols' garden, many of them composites of friends and neighbors rather than actual individuals. There is gentle and angelic Ms. Hazlitt, his former nurse and teacher, who is one of the few women Nichols wholely respects. There is the overly-obvious Undine Wilkins, who drapes herself artistically over various benches and tree trunks, working hard to create an irresistible picture, all the while self-deprecatingly calling herself "such a toon moose" -- her unfortunate and highly-affected pronunciation of "town mouse" that leaves modern readers with a vision of in a floaty voile gown. There is the irritatingly efficient Mrs. M. and her definite garden opinions -- who is caught in the act of cheating in her own garden by deftly inserting potted plants. And there is the Professor, whose musings on life and the universe make one slightly dizzy.

Reading Down the Garden Path is rather like sitting down for a conversation with Nichols himself. He speaks directly to the reader, never overwhelming the reader with Latin, nor going on about soil types and amendments, but always entertaining and always either in rapture or despair over some event or other in the garden. Anyone who has ever gasped aloud at a fine plant specimen at the nursery or has broken out into a lurid string of curses over dead or damaged plants can understand and sympathize.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Weekend Kitten Drama

You just never know what's going to turn up in your garden sometimes.

For instance, this last weekend I turned the compost bin, and chased a pair of rats out of it. I hope I upset their reproductive plans. But as I worked, I heard a rustling in the nearby brush pile, and heard a thin mewing sound.

Uh, oh.

In the back of the pile was a neat little cave-like nest, and in the nest I found a pair of tiny, almost brand-new kittens, with their eyes still closed and their ears buttoned down, each tiny enough to fit in one hand.

Well, what do you do? Leave them for the mama to take care of, and start a colony of feral cats? Take them in and take care of them and risk losing them due to inept bottle feeding?

We tried putting the babies back to see if the mama would come around, but she didn't, and one of the babies had dirtied itself. I took them in for the evening, and with some instruction from the nearby veterinary clinic, fed the babies kitten formula from a tiny bottle every couple of hours.

The next day I got on the phone until I could find someone who would talk to me. I'd seen the mother by the brush pile that morning, so I knew she was still around. As this was a Sunday, that wasn't easy, but I did get hold of the Humane Society, who said that it was good to take the kittens in so they'd grow up socialized. They also told me where I could get a live trap to see if I could catch the mama (having never had need for one, I didn't know where to get such a thing, but it turns out equipment rental places have them). Then I got a call back from the Friends of Felines rescue organization who said no, they need to be with the mother. Nothing like contradictory information when you've got little time to lose in figuring out what's best for fragile little ones. A woman from Friends of Felines came to our house and showed us where to set the trap up, and said we should put the kittens in the trap so that the mother would come for them.

We did so, though I didn't feel good about putting the babies out in the cold and the rain, even with a sheet of plastic over the trap and a warm rice sock (one sock, filled with rice, heated in the microwave) beside them for warmth. I came back and fed the critters a couple of hours later. No sign of mama yet. But a few hours after that, my son went and checked the trap. One baby was missing.

We searched all over for him, afraid that he'd somehow crawled out of the trap, but no sign of him. I was heartsick thinking that maybe the rats had taken him, but there was no sign of predation, and rats probably would have killed them on the spot. I hope that he didn't crawl out and get taken by a predator.

I'm thinking -- hoping -- maybe the little mama came and fetched him, and hadn't gotten to the other one yet. She might be wiley enough to get him without springing the trap. It may be that the trigger mechanism wasn't sensitive enough. She's not a very big kitty.

I'm also wondering if there are more kittens, and the mama kitty was in the middle of moving them because of my presence by the compost heap when I discovered the pair. Maybe it's just as well we didn't trap her, if she's got other kittens somewhere else.

We took apart the trap and took in the little black kitty, the loner who was left. My son took the night shift, bottle-feeding the little guy all night. I took the kitten to work with me the next day, and my students (I have one biology class this term ) went crazy over him. When he came out for a feeding, half my class crowded around with their camera phones snapping away.

When I got home that evening, Friends of Felines called again. They'd found a foster mama for the little guy. So off he went to get proper kitty care. But, we said, we're so attached to him now and feel responsible for him. We want to see him as he gets bigger, and take him back when he's old enough to leave his foster mom-cat.

His name now is Jack.

I distributed notices to the neighbors advising them that there's a nest of kittens somewhere in the neighborhood. We're hoping to get the whole family in foster care and get mama kitty spayed. Once the kittens are weaned and placed in good homes, she can come back here and be an outdoor cat. But first we have to find her, and that's not going to be easy. She'll be all the more secretive for having to move her nest once already.

Moral of the story: If I ever run across a feral cat nest again, the first thing I'll do is watch to see if she's moving the nest. Then if the litter seems intact, call the feline rescue and run and fetch a trap to get the whole family all at once.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Shady Suburban Farmer

Summertime in the 'burbs: the smell of fresh-mown grass, a hammock in the cool shade of a spreading maple tree, a tall lemonade -- sounds great, doesn't it?

Unless, of course, you're trying to grow your own food. Cool shade trees are all well and good for relaxing and keeping off the summer sun, and they're a boon to the economically-minded and ecologically minded because they help keep the house cool, but alas, those ungrateful tomatoes insist on growing out in the blazing sun. If your yard is a shady delight, the veggies sulk miserably.

So what am I, homeowner with five big trees in the yard and with sunshine at a premium, supposed to do if I want a vegetable garden of more than a few square feet? Cut down all the trees? Sure, and roast in the summer, as well as drive all the birds away. Stick pots up on the roof? Believe me, I've been tempted. Find food crops that grow in the shade? Hah! As if --

But wait, turns out that's not so impossible after all. Turns out there's something called forest gardening, a type of permaculture where people grow perennial, shade-tolerant crops at the feet of useful trees, often fruit or nut trees. My crabapple, oaks, and Douglas-firs aren't exactly fruit or nut trees, but there may be something in this for me.

Books on forest gardening aren't easy to find, but I've rustled up a few. One is by Robert Hart. This is a good summary of the philosophy of forest gardening, and gives a nice list of North American resources. For practical "how-to" instructions, check out by Patrick Whitefield. And if you're way into the idea, there's , which is the second in a two-book series. The first book is on the theory of permaculture, and may be better suited for people who want to do this on a wide scale, or teach others how to do it.

So what's the picture of the scraggly little baby bush at the top there? That's one of a pair of new shrubs I recently installed in a semi-shady spot alongside the deck: honeyberry. It's a honeysuckle (Lonicera) that grows in part-shade and produces an edible blue berry. With berries touted as one of the super-duper and with more shade in my yard than I know what to do with, honeyberry made total sense. sells them in pairs (it's their pretty picture you see at the right), because they are not self-pollinating, and you need two varieties to cross-pollinate to produce fruit. One will grow about six or seven feet tall, and will fill in a space under the deck stairs. The other will grow lower and wider, and fill in the space where the yard slopes up under the deck. With honeyberry by the deck and with my blueberries interplanted with strawberries, I have my own little start toward a forest garden. Now if I can just get those tree trimmers to finally come out and trim up my ratty crabapple, maybe I'll have some new forest garden territory.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Happy May Day!

Back when I was just a tot (longer ago than I care to think), every April 30th, my brothers and I used to fold colored paper (yes, we had paper back then, it wasn't that long ago) into cone-shaped baskets, fill them with flowers from the yard with their stems wrapped in wet paper towels and then plastic wrap. Early the next morning, on May Day, we'd hang our floral offerings on the neighbor's doors, with crayon-scrawled cards saying, "Happy May Day!"

It's a pity that the charming tradition of celebrating spring has faded. Perhaps the association of May Day with the Communist regimes had something to do with that. I don't know.

But this morning I cut a fat bouquet of tulips, bleeding hearts, wild iris, and greenery and put it on the secretary's desk. Every day is a good day to make someone's day.

So why not? If you have the chance and some spare change, stop at the grocery store on the way home and pick up a bouquet to brighten someone's day. Your own. Your neighbor's. Your significant other's.

Happy May Day, everyone!