Tag Archives: Plants

Plant plethora

I loved this recent New Yorker cover by the French cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé. The woman emerges from her country home with clippers in hand to snip an armload of posies. Someone has been there ahead of her to water and otherwise tend the garden, so all she has to do is cut and arrange the flowers.

Not a bad life.

Once a year I have an ecstatic experience like this – the day after my garden helper and I have hacked back a truckload of overgrown shrubs and he has spread dark compost over the bare patches where weeds once thrived.

This morning was the morning when I was able to emerge from the house, clippers in hand, with no task before me but to snip posies for a big bouquet. Oh happy day.

Tomorrow I’ll be back to hauling hoses, deadheading, weeding, fussing.

Plants and permanence

Permanent: fixed and changeless; lasting; not expected to change in status, condition or place
Permanence: the condition of quality of being permanent

I spent much of the weekend in the garden, dealing with my plants (wanted and unwanted). Last week I hired Joe to deal with the plethora of my unwanted plants (otherwise known as weeds), and the garden looked fabulous. The rhodies, iris and peonies were at their peak, and the roses coming on.

But now the rhody bushes are covered with dead florets and look like hell. Ditto the iris and peonies. I want everything to STOP! Why won’t the rhodies just STAY in perfect bloom? Ditto the iris and peonies.

If there is one thing plants teach it’s impermanence. A plant is at its peak only for a couple of weeks. Cut a flower to bring inside and maybe it lasts a few days.

A few years ago I took an Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) class at the Shambhala Meditation Center in Portland. The teacher had brought all sorts of plant materials as well as just enough low vases and kenzan (the spiky base that hold stems in place) for each of us. I have had a fair amount of ikebana training so the lesson wasn’t particularly new for me, but some of the materials were novel (those flat sweet little peaches, for example).

We all fixed and fussed on our own arrangements for maybe an hour. Mine turned out the most beautiful, the most interesting, the most wonderful (etc etc etc) arrangement I had ever created (at least I thought so). It totally tickled me, particularly how I’d used the peach and picked up its subtle colors in the other plant materials I used.

The teacher walked us from arrangement to arrangement tweaking here and there and discussing what worked in each one. We were inspired by each other’s creations.

Then she said, “OK, take them apart. We’re going to do another arrangement and you’ll need to re-use that vase.”

WHAT !?!?! My chef ‘ouevre? The pinnacle of my ikebana career? Destroyed after only one hour??

I know that plants are ephemeral, but to KILL an arrangement after only one hour was unthinkable! And I didn’t even bring a camera to capture it on film for my continuing pleasure.

Buddhist teachings stress that all is impermanent, that attachment is suffering.  I got it.

Perseverance #2

Perseverance – continuing resolutely despite obstacles, opposition, importunity. Tenacity. From the Latin perseverare: per- through + severus severe

Twice a year, spring and fall, I call in the troops because my yard is in a state of emergency. Our fertile soil has produced more plant material than I can handle. Fecundity, they call it. In the spring it’s the unwanted – weeds; in the fall it’s the remains of plants I wanted – dead perennials, leaves, nuts, twigs.

Raul has been my main man for about fifteen years. He used to come with his two cousins. Now he’s the big boss and he sends three guys who whip thru the cleanup in a few hours laughing and singing.

I usually work with them, though not at their pace. They’re workers, not plant people, and I want to make sure they don’t mistake one of my babies for a weed.

But yesterday Raul’s crew was busy elsewhere and he just sent José. (“Call me Joe,” he said.). My heart sunk. The yard has never been more overgrown and I get one guy?

My back yard, where he started, is much worse than the front and I could tell that Joe was somewhat alarmed by the task ahead. I told him I wouldn’t be able to help because of my pulled muscle and asked if he wanted to send for reinforcements

He just shrugged and struck his hoe into the dirt. “I can do,” he said.

And he did. Section by section, hoeful by hoeful. Perseverance in action.

He worked for nine hours with only a lunch break. He pruned back a hedge and transplanted a rose too. In nine hours he transformed my yard from a jungle into a place of order.

Sure, there are still pockets where more work will be needed, but this just teaches me once again that no task is impossible if I would just hack away at it a little at a time, and again and again and again.

Once I set my priorities…