Tag Archives: Gardening

My Garden Grows

borderI learned to garden not as a lady of leisure, but as a writer who needed a source of income and who knew that it had to be in the realm of creative self-expression lest it suck the muse dry.  So I worked at a flower shop in Harvard Sq., and later at a nursery in Seattle, and after that, at a landscaping operation.  I learned a lot along the way, and little by little I began to play with my own garden dreams.  I’d bowed at the altar of my childhood favorite illustrator, Tasha Tudor, in deeply spiritual groans over her lush tangle of flowers and barefoot ruddy-faced children, dogs and cats– a peaceable kingdom that I longed to one day create.  I wanted to be this woman, so self-sufficient and Yankee, walking barefoot in her garden, pausing only for the rigors of afternoon tea and a sensible nap.  I wanted to set up a writing table the way she did an easel, and use it all to inspire worlds from this small postage stamp of my creation in the physical world.

tasha_2

I planted small perennial gardens wherever I lived, even in rentals.  Suffice it to say that there are a lot of perennial beds across the country, and I hope that they are still alive and well.  Perennials are both good friends and traitors that way.  The second I bought my first home, I planned out the garden, pouring through all the Tasha Tudor books I could find about her garden, and locked in on my vision:  a cottage garden, dripping in structure that would over the years, take care of itself.  patio_2
Honeysuckle would grow over grapevines, clematis would vine through ragosa roses barbed to antique metal trellices.  There would be show after show, each star introducing the next from narcissus, to tulips, to forget-me-nots, to allium, to ladies mantle, to lupine, to poppies, to peonies, to roses, to delphinium, to mallow, to rudbeckia, to monarda, and the final autumn show stoppers– sunflowers, aster, sedum, done.   And so much inbetween.  It would be a fine mess of old friends that would return every year, and I would welcome them as such, praying away hail for the easily bruised poppies, high winds for the hollow-stalked delphinium, and praying for ants for the peonies.IMG_0334

We had little to choose from at our rural Montana nurseries in the way of perennials, and the catalogues were a let down– the bare root stubs that showed up in the mail nothing like what they promised in profusion on their pages that taunted you mid-February.  So whenever I travelled, be it by car, train, or airplane, I would always bring home roots from friends’ gardens, wrapped in wet newspaper, and stored in plastic bags.  To this day, old friends who have passed on, are still alive in my garden, reminding me of the power of roots.  The power of vision.  The power of creating your own postage stamp of perennial friends who for the most part, live, even through the most brutal winter.trio

My garden has been a room in our home, inspiring mudpies, bedside bud vases, Mother’s Day bouquets, teacher appreciation gifts, strawberry jam. No matter what, I try to have something from the garden in the house. Because it helps. In their exquisite and tender elegance, flowers remind us that we are all root, stalk and petal. And that we all bloom, fade, and grow again. Unless it’s time to move on like my honeysuckles decided this winter after a 20 year run, sometimes even growing in winter!070 (2)

There have been years when I was ambitious, building a dry stack wall by  myself, or binding willow trellices to support the sweet peas, or digging up day lillies and soaking them so that I could release them from the grass that bound their roots, divide them and replant.  And years when I didn’t have the time or the back power to add even one bulb in the fall, or pull weeds in the spring, and there was one year when I didn’t have the energy to water them at all.  Still, for 20 years, these friends have grown loyally and religiously.  The garden then, is the outward and visible sign of my inward invisible truth.peon

May your garden grow whatever kind of day you are having!

Take a moment and meet these good old friends of mine:


Honeysuckle: May you rest in peace…
honey
We bedeck you with crystals from my childhood lamp.
009

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Long Ago: Community Entry #22

 

I am building community up in this neck of the woods in all sorts of places I'd never think to look at home...

As you may know, I am spending a few months in the dormancy of winter, working on a book. And, like last year at this time, I am offering my blog to you. Last year we looked into our Breaking Points and found community and grace in grief and vulnerability. This year we are looking into our past, and finding the weaving of community that stitches us to our present. I will be posting these pieces at These Here Hills. Their authors will be happy to receive and respond to your comments.  Here is the blog post I wrote about this subject.

Contest submissions closed. Winner will receive a scholarship to one of my upcoming Haven writing retreats in Montana, announced mid-February…

Now I am further stepping into the wilderness of Montana and the wilderness of writing. If you’d like to create haven for your creativity…come to a Haven Writing Retreat here in Montana. June, August, and September retreats are now booking and filling fast.  Email me for more info:  Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com

Grandma’s Garden, by Susie Hartman

Grandma let us kids select a vegetable we wanted to grow.  Sweet Peas were always my first choice.  Grandma’s garden was planned and plotted through each long and cold Nebraska winter and would take up the better part of one fourth of our acre sized back yard.  Starting with seeds in little cups of dirt on our kitchen table, we would all cheer the sprouts as their life began, until six weeks later when Grandma placed them gently in their selected spots.  She would lovingly pat the dirt around each one, giving the little seedlings the support they would need to get through their young life and on to maturity.    There is a picture of her leaning on the handle of her hoe with a grin as broad as the straw hat on her head.  Standing in the midst of the life she nurtured must have given her a feeling of purpose.  

What memories we have of my Grandma and that garden.   My brother, sister and I would try to get up earlier than the others so we could be first to the garden to pick the juiciest strawberry or the fattest sweet pea.  Grandma would often pull a rhubarb stalk from the plant and sprinkle it with sugar for us all to take a bite of the bittersweet taste.   At the end of the summer would come harvest time.  Once there was an early freeze and our entire family was out in the cold picking every last tomatoe on the vine.  The smell of tomatoe plants, and of the hot cocoa made to warm us, always brings me back to that night.  Autumn also heralded in the canning of tomatoes, pumpkins and cucumbers.  Thanksgiving would be the grand inauguration of the garden’s fall harvest where we would have friends and family come from afar for Mom’ s prepared feast, packed with the wealth of vegetables lovingly grown in Grandma’s summer garden.

I suppose Grandma’s love of gardening was destined from her heritage. She was born in 1903 to German Immigrants, whose late 1800’s American dream landed them working on a farm in Iowa.   Great Grandpa would not allow Grandma to go to school so she never did learn to read.  This young farm girl named Josephine married a hard working farm boy and had five sons.  At the old age of 42, Grandma gave birth to Lucille Josephine, my mom.  Her unexpected daughter never left her side.   As soon as Grandma’s last son left home, my Grandfather also moved out.  This left Mom and Grandma  to care for each other.   Years later their interdependence on each other was sealed when Grandma went to chase a rogue cow, causing her to fall into a ditch where she broke her ankle.  The only doctor in the small town hospital was a drunk who did not provide her proper care.  There was no choice but to amputate her leg below the knee when the gangrene set in.   My mom was just seventeen, and Grandma’s sole/soul provider.

Grandma lived with us during our growing-up years.  She was not the soft and padded greeting card type of Grandma most kids had in those old television shows.  She was more weathered and wiry, with bent crippled fingers and a crooked nose from a sledding accident as a kid.  She smoked cigarettes, and of course, had her fake wooden leg.   Mom and Grandma made an agreement.  Grandma would watch us kids while Mom and Dad worked, but she refused to cook.   In spite of her wooden leg, we saw Grandma hang every load of our seven member family’s laundry out on the clothesline, police four young children, and tend to her garden daily.

Grandma was good to us in her rough way and we kids loved her deeply.  She was the kind of grandma who would sneak the dreaded unwanted food off our plates and onto hers so that we could be excused from the table.   I remember her fondly as she rocked the baby in her arms, singing, terribly off key, “He’s got the Whole World in His hands.”  This while hitting the side of her black and white TV to make it stop running while watching World Wide Wrestling.   It was Grandma we would go to for comfort and a band aid when hurt or sad.  It was Grandma’s bed we would go to when we were scared in the night.   It was Grandma who tended to, and nurtured us, as we grew into young adulthood.

The end of Grandma’s season came after we moved to California.  The yard was too little for a garden, and Grandma had a stroke.  Now it was our turn to take care of her, and we tried, until we could no longer care for her properly.  Our hearts broke as she cried like a young child that first week in the convalescent home.  She died when I was 17.

In the years after Grandma died, I attempted on a few occasions to plant sweet peas.  Once it was in a very small spot near the patio of the condo I rented while in college.  It was during this event that I fell in love with my husband.  He surprised me by bringing a watering can, a little spade, stakes, string and seeds so that I could attempt this endeavor.   I guess you could say more than peas sprouted from that garden.  I harvested and shared a good number of sweet peas one day that summer, with my sister Cindy, who was visiting me.  We cherished each pea as it came from the freshly picked pod, and recalled sweet memories of the garden and the grandma we held so dear.

Now I am raising girls at the young age of 40 something.  We also have attempted to grow sweet peas, some green beans and even carrots, in a container garden with some success.  My girls have heard many stories about their Great Grandma’s garden and how much I loved her and sweet peas still.  Luckily we have been blessed by dear friends who “live off the grid” and have a healthy working garden in order to sustain the family in their remote location.  It has become a tradition each summer that we drive out to their house and spend the day working in the garden, picking all the wonderful vegetables we desire.  The girls collect eggs from the chickens and we all spend time in my friend’s kitchen cooking a wonderful, garden fresh dinner.  We leave with the gifts of fresh veggies, full stomachs and good friendship.   As I leave, I am also brought back in time to be reminded of a Grandma I loved, and the garden she grew.

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End of Summer

Last trail ride, last bouquet, last carrots.



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June Hail on the Garden

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Wet Day


There is something fiercely gratifying about hearing a sump pump working below you, every four or five minutes motoring from the basement bowels, and then the spilling waters leaving what could have occupied your house, bound for the filtering of soil and sand and rock.
I have been listening to that sound all day, glad we put in the pump after last spring’s 6 inches of standing water in our basement that took out the whole of what was once the Rec Room. I like rain. I am the daughter of farm people. I know the power of “a good rain.”

“We need the rain” was the solution to many soggy Saturdays in my youth. And the phrase I used to justify my children’s last week. It’s a sales pitch. And in forest fire terrain, it’s something they understand not unlike like the children of corn and soy bean farmers in Illinois.

But I didn’t expect the rain I got just now, in my house, not from a leaking gutter or a high water table, but from my own doing. I ran my bath, water on water, and went outside to photograph the dripping garden. I had on tennis socks and pocketed them into flip flops—very fashionable. Who cares. I live in rural Montana. And there is a world outside to behold.

I love how water plays on flowers.

On the fuzz of poppies,
the palms of lupine,

the folds of ladies mantle.

And when I returned to the warmth and dry of my house, there was the sound of sump pump. Only not where I was used to it motoring away all day. It was somewhere central and wrong. I listened and waited. My son yelled, “Mommy, it’s raining in the kitchen!” And it was. I’d overflown the bathtub!

My socks are very wet now. And my pride too. This is a very wet day.

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