A Memorial. You can grow that.


I was out for a run this morning (zombies weren’t even chasing me- I was running for pleasure) and all over the neighborhood tulips are blooming. My heart bounced up at all of them, but especially the red ones.

They look pink in this shot, but I assure you, the tulips are red.

They look pink in this shot, but I assure you, the tulips are red.

My dad was not what you’d call a keen gardener.  I remember planting radishes with him when I was very little, and he took great pride in his lawn, but he certainly wasn’t where I inherited my love of plants. He did work hard on his red tulips, though.  He planted them beside the front door, and after they bloomed and the foliage faded, he would dig them up, and separate out the daughter bulbs, or offsets, from the ones that had bloomed, then save them on screens he had built until fall, when he would plant them again. I can only ever remember him having red tulips- not sure why.

My dad died about 11 years ago. Kate barely remembers him, and Will only knows him from stories and pictures.  The spring after he died, we planted a Burr Oak tree in the back yard, and it has thrived- it so represents him- strong and tall. He was an oak.  Additionally, that fall, I ordered and planted 100 red tulips, which I put under the oak.  That next spring, they bloomed strongly and vividly- a blanket of red under the little oak. I didn’t follow my daddy’s example, and dig them up and sort them. I never do- I try to select varieties that naturalize, and just let nature take its course.

Nature’s course with tulips is that the bulbs form offsets every year, and they don’t send up flowers until they are big enough. They may come back after a couple of years, but if they aren’t divided, they tend to peter out. Last year, there were one or two flowers, this year I don’t see any.

It strikes me that grief is like that- early on, a blanket of red, and as time passes, the feeling fades, only to be brought up again, with a reminder, or a dream, or a pun. (One of my colleagues recently broke her arm in 3 places. I laughed and told her to stay out of them places. No one in the teacher’s lounge laughed, but Daddy would have.)

Now, I’m not saying that oaks and red tulips are a universal memorial, but if you are grieving someone, think about what they loved, and what you can plant to help their memory stay with you, so that when you smell lilacs, or see daffodils, or pass by a lily, you remember.  You can grow that.

(If you are curious about why no blogging recently, nothing’s wrong, just very busy with they day job, family stuff, and of course, exercise and coffee. I’ve got some ideas of things to write about, and I will, as I have time.)

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Mistakes in Scale


My tulips bloomed last week. I know this because as I was pulling into the driveway, I saw a flash of yellow, very far away.
Then it snowed, and I forgot about them. Now they are pitiful- squashed by a foot and a half of very wet snow.

See- way over there, by the bricks...under the window? Yellow and orange tulips?

See- way over there, by the bricks…under the window? Yellow and orange tulips?

Why, oh why won’t I learn to plant big things far away, and little things close?
I kind of learn it- I did put about 20 bulbs into a pot on the porch, where I can sit next to them in the morning sunshine, and I have some other tiny scilla mixed in with the grass just off the patio, so I can strum the ukulele and enjoy their tiny bell shaped blossoms. But putting 6 inch tall yellow tulips 30 feet away from where I walk, or sit, or drive, that’s just silly.
Mistakes in scale are super common- my favorite (now that it is gone) is the Russian sage that the previous owners planted underneath the mailbox. So, think about this- a shrubby perennial, beloved by bees, that gets to be 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide, in a 2 foot wide bed between the driveway and the front walk, right under the mailbox. Did I mention it was beloved by bees? Yeah. It was not beloved by mailmen.
I broke two separate digging forks trying to uproot it. DH was heard to comment one time after I cut it back severely and tried to dig it out, “I hope I never make you as mad as that russian sage made you.”
It didn’t make me mad, it just was in the wrong place. When you are in the wrong place, I let you know.

Another mistake in scale I see all the time is a narrow flower bed along the back fence, planted with geraniums and marigolds. A wooden stockade fence 6 feet tall, with 6 inch flowers in front of it, 20 or 30 feet away from the porch or the patio or the deck.
So, maybe size doesn’t matter, but scale does… what mistakes in scale with gardens to you see? What mistakes do you still make?

Bloom Day- Apple Blossoms


A wall of flower petals.

I have an elderly apple tree which continually grows into the power lines and every year city crews come by to whack it back. The apples are sour, and numerous (overly numerous most years). This is the best year for blossoms I can remember- the tree is a shower and curtain of blooms. And, they are predicting a snow tonight, and a low of 28 degrees. Sigh. I guess we won’t have to worry about numerous apples this year.

"Ooh-leee-oool" I think that's how you say it, anyway. The French don't spell things like they say them.

Also in bloom- species tulips, white,purple and yellow hybrid tulips ones whose variety I can’t remember. There is one blooming “oullioules” tulip, out of 50 I planted several years ago. It is my absolute favorite pink tulip- it is kind of on the orchid-colored range of pink, with white stripes. It makes me realize I should buy a bunch more. I also have siberian squill and grape hyacinth, which are both naturalizing nicely.
Golden currant, lilac and mock orange shrubs are blossoming as well, and a goumi shrub. Goumi is related to russian olive and is a nitrogen fixer. It is supposed to have delicious fruit, but this one has never produced any, to my knowledge. It is windy enough that the flowers on shrubs are coming out ridiculously blurry. It is the storm coming in.
And, of course, the dandelions are in full bloom. hooray! I know, I should have picked them before they bloomed and eaten them…