Wednesday, April 11, 2007

By the Pricking in My Thumb

By the pricking in my thumb I know I have run into something wicked, a stinging nettle, to be precise. For the millionth or so time I remonstrate with myself: I should be wearing gloves when I garden. Not just for the nettles but to minimize the drying effect of the soil on the skin and the grime beneath the fingernails and for all the other reasons I have heard a thousand times or more. I actually even sometimes remember before I have my hands in the dirt. I have several mismatched gloves from such good intentions. One glove comes off as soon as I really need to do something with one hand or the other, and then that glove walks away in despair at having been discarded.

And today was a celebration. Several pots have been languishing on windowsills suffering from too much cold and confinement, not unlike myself for these past weeks. Today was warm, the air was easy, and I was ready to spread my roots. First were the leftover Christmas trees in pots. By the time I bought them, they were marked down to 99 pence. Their little tag had no botanical name, but they looked and smelled like Picea glauca, Dwarf Alberta Spruce--great little trees for pots in a protected area. They are slow growing, gently fragrant, and retain their Christmas tree shape. They had been sitting still in their Christmas shiny wrapping in their pots long after Christmas had passed them by. I put them in a sheltered area in the corner of the close with a promise of better things to come. Today they shed their faded tinsel wrapping, slipped out of their tight-fitting pots, and had their roots spread out in tubs with lots of room for them. One of them managed to put out shoots of bright green new growth even while still in his little pot. Both of them looked surprisingly well for their ordeal. I think they are troopers. I have great hopes for them despite having been disappointed in two pedigreed picea glaucas bought from a nursery two years ago. Gardens up here favor the sturdy, and I have a fondness for underdogs.

Next to be liberated were the two surviving hyacinth bulbs that I started indoors as part of an activity for the local garden club. They were meant to be part of a competition, but that is not my style, so my lopsided, fragrant white blooms lived and faded in the privacy of our own windowsill. Now they are joining three lovely blue hyacinth bulbs in full flower. Their fragrance is a delight as I fuss over the few weeds sprouting where I want to put the white ones after I remove their faded flowers. The blue ones, hopefully, will be role models. They were originally potted themselves. A friend of my husband's came calling out of curiosity and courtesy when I was still new in the county. Both the hyacinth and I have taken root since that visit.

Two ridiculously yellow primroses join the hyacinths in the old iron tub in the center of the close. I give the heather on either end a much needed haircut and wonder briefly where I can get some more primroses, but I have more pot bound plants yearning for their freedom. Two heathers marked down to 75 pence at the local grocery store join the merry band of marked-down, liberated plants. These heathers join two others in a bed shared with other pink-blooming flowers--dianthus, tiny creeping heather, flowering currant, bleeding hearts, and a tall yellow bloomer that was included because its leaves have a lovely deep red-pink tone. I survey the bed. The rose is leafing out, the heather is sturdy and blooming already, the bleeding hearts are threatening to take over the bed, and the currant has burst into an exuberance of blooms that make me forgive the fact that it is elbowing out of its way anything except the weeds. The lavender did not survive. I pull it out and enjoy its last scent from the dried stems as it goes onto the compost heap.

The rosemary and the culinary thyme in pots on the close, within easy distance of the kitchen for last minute additions to cooking, survived the winter but succumbed to the spring, which brought a late frost and heavy wet-salt winds from the nearby sea. They were an experiment. I could not winter them over in Indiana, so I did not have high hopes for them here. I'll bring them in or build a cold frame or perhaps just buy them fresh each year. One of the favorite parts of gardening for me is this thinking about possibilities.

I begin to feel tired, so I turn away from thinking myself into more projects than I could manage in several lifetimes. The cats have kept me company, so I walk with Solomon and Sheba in the front garden. The purple willow transplanted from a friend's house is doing well. The daffodils are up but need to be moved because they have become too crowded to bloom well. I am so involved with flowers and cats that I fail to notice that I am now face to face with Hopalong, the lame sterk, discounting a flagstone wall and a budding privet hedge between us. He sees me and moves off quickly. I notice cheerfully that he moves much more easily than he did when he first was moved into the paddock by the house.

The cows and their calves have been moved into the field next to Hoplaong, so he feels less lonely. Today another sterk was moved into the field adjacent to Hopalong. In my gardening frame of mind, they seem to have sprouted along with the other flowers of spring.


At 6:19 AM, Blogger Just Country said...

Should I send you a pair of gloves with cords to attach to your wrists?
I have recently learned to keep hold of my gloves. As I use them so many times in my job, they don't get much of a chance to scamper off.

At 10:25 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, I think those mittens we had when we were young with the cord that went from one to the other were, like so many things, wasted on the young. I could really use that now--maybe I'll knit one for myself. How do you keep track of your gloves?

At 2:49 AM, Blogger Hayden said...

I have a similar problem. I'll come home from work, in a suit, and 'stop for a moment, just to pluck out this one weed.' you know the rest of the story. 30-40 minutes later I'm looking at myself in dismay, and wishing I'd gone in to change and get gloves.

At 7:21 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Yep, Hayden, I know what you mean. Just one weed is like just one row to knitters.


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