Time in the garden is time to think. While the hostas thrust firm green stems through damp cool ground in the spring to reach for the sun’s warming rays, there is a sense of the universe and nature being at one. It’s a busy time of survival and renewal with nest building, verdant growth, leaves pushing out from cold winter’s grasp. Energy abounds in this spring work; we’re aware that summer’s lazy heat will soon sap our strength, leaving us soft like melted butter, our skin crisping, shielding ourselves under trees and gazebos and umbrellas, gazing in awe at roofers and farmers and marathon bikers. Autumn’s voluptuous bounty is but a short reprieve teasing us back outside into the fresh scents (sometimes mouldy too) of falling leaves and magical shaggy mane mushrooms until alas, winter winds blow us indoors once again to gaze mournfully through frosted panes at our shivering mounds of shrubs and potted plants. We’re thankful when the poor dears are able to draw snow blankets around their branchy shoulders and huddle, covered, in wishful dreams of spring.
It is these seasonal characteristics that motivated me to write MasterGardener. Years of observing the effect of nature on gardeners, wildlife and children led me to wonder how it was in the earlier days before air conditioning and other technological advances. I began to read everything I could about gardening from Pliny to Rudyard Kipling, from seed catalogues to fiction, becoming increasingly interested in the webs of similarities of plant behaviours and human behaviours. For instance, there are plants that reproduce by flinging their seeds away from the parent plant onto the wind as a dandelion does; there are the hidden propagators who send out runners, underground, to sprout unseen as does the lily of the valley; the asparagus plant invites grackles and other birds to taste its glowing red berries in the fall when the birds, are on the move. Those seeds fall in their own casing of bird-provided manure to grow along fence rows.
For every plant characteristic there is a personality trait in humans and this has been mentioned in writings since early times, by the serious and not so serious observers of our world as can be noted in this excerpt from the novel MasterGardener:
I once loved brown-eyed Susan
but my love for her is dead,
for I found a bachelor’s button,
in brown-eyed Susan’s bed.
Rudbekia hirta (Latin for black-eyed Susan) is touted as one of the most loved wildflowers, with its golden-orange daisies and brown centres. The plant and root have both been used by North American tribes to treat a wide range of ailments from worms in children to snakebites and earaches.
Bachelor’s button was known to women healers as a clarifying flower, an aid to finding things previously hidden.
This garden lore tickles my fancy, sends my imagination soaring into the kitchens and bedrooms and workplaces of the world to discover stories to be told. Come, travel with me as I share some imaginings in this blog and please tell me your interesting, related discoveries from the garden and the world.