Category Archives: my garden

A Friday in May, for May.

It’s the feast of Saints Constantine and Helen, and I was blessed to attend Liturgy, and afterward to meet a new friend there. Then a young altar server needed a ride home, and on the way I encouraged him to talk about his reading. He said that he’d read 40-odd Hardy Boys books but after about 30 realized that they were mostly the same, and getting boring. To make completely sure,  he read a few more. He is about to move up to The Hobbit.

We also talked about the fruit trees that his family has growing in their back yard. Which reminds me of my plum trees: I can report that at last sighting there were at least ten plums on my two Elephant Heart plum trees. They aren’t quite walnut sized yet.

After a warm spell, then a cold and foggy spell, then a high windy spell, the elements seem to be settling down to warm springiness. In the family of bees, this year I mostly have Yellow-Faced Bumblebees everywhere. They are, as last year, hard to photograph not only because of their buzziness, but because they are so heavy that when they light on a flower, it starts rocking and waving erratically from the weight. I did get one photo that is an improvement from last year.

Only a week after I yanked out the old snow-pea vines from October, I  picked a couple of pods from the new batch planted the last day of February. They are the same Green Beauty variety. I might rename them Giant Sweet Green Beauty, from their being substantial in every category.

The Cinderella (Rouge V’if D’Etampes) pumpkins I started in the greenhouse already have little fruits on them! As do the summer squashes.

Also from the greenhouse is the most spindly chamomile, and ground (hugging) cherries:

The Jerusalem Sage flowers don’t give up their nectar without a great effort from the bees, who burrow down inside and make the whole flower vibrate for a long minute or two while they finish their work and are backing out again.

The peskiest “weed” I have is Showy Milkweed, which has grown a whole forest of progeny under the fig tree. A few of the starts have willingly taken to be transplanted to this pot, but most break off when I try to move them, and I have temporarily given up trying.

The Showy Milkweed is aptly named. If any of you lives close to me and wants the pot of starts, here’s a picture of it in bloom:

My friend May has been teaching me about plants and sharing her love for gardening with me for about 40 years now. I remember the first time she noticed that I didn’t know what to do with my basil plants, and she offered to snip the leaves (and use them) to keep them growing. Today she celebrates her name day. So I dedicate this post and the beauty of my garden world to YOU, May! God bless you, and may the prayers of St. Helen help to prosper us in our gardening.

How many burning bushes today?

I stepped just beyond my front door only to put a letter out for the mailman, but I immediately forgot myself and stepped farther, to gaze upon that small part of my kingdom…

Carpenter bees were working at the white salvia that has filled out so well and become a definite feature of the landscape. Only carpenter bees were there. What about the other flowers? On the wallflower, grown to a prominent bulwark of purple in that area that is squeezed between the street and the driveway, buzzed a half dozen different sorts of pollinators, among them honeybees (I hope), stripey little bumblebees, and a species new to me, with bright yellow abdomens underneath.

And what a quietly “burning” bush — to follow the metaphor of the poem below — this creature is. I’m amazed that I saw him at all:

I spent a half hour studying them and collecting blurry pictures to help me see them better. I pulled out the orange California poppies that I am trying to keep from taking over my pale yellow plantation of them. After peering into the asparagus beds that are becoming a forest, I spied a few spears that could be cut, and managed to remember them long enough to bring out a knife with which to do that.

The rest of today promises to hold encounters with several bright and human epiphanies. My world is illuminated and shining full of these transitory and eternal treasures. Christ is risen!

THE BRIGHT FIELD

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the burning bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

~ R. S. Thomas (1913-2000), Welsh poet

The mood and the glow.

Today was Palm Sunday for us Orthodox Christians, and tonight I attended the first of the Bridegroom Matins services. Until this year, at least as long as I’ve been a member, our parish has held this service in the morning, but this year we are doing it in the evening. Here is an explanation of the tradition:

“Bridegroom Matins is a service specific to the first four evenings of Holy Week and commemorates the last days in the earthly life of the Lord. Incorporated into these services is the theme of the first three days of Holy Week; which is the last teachings of Christ to his disciples. As such, these services incorporate readings and hymns inspiring this theme. The mood of the services is to experience sorrow and to feel Christ’s voluntary submission to His passions and highlight the purpose behind the evil that is about to take place against the Lord. The atmosphere is one of mourning (for sins) and is symbolic of the shame the Christian should feel for the Fall of Adam and Eve, the depths of hell, the lost Paradise and the absence of God.”

Those mornings that seem so long ago, I would arrive in the dark, and come out from the service after the sun had risen; many times I’d walk around the church property and take pictures before driving home. This evening, I came straight home and visited my own garden, which was radiant with the setting sun after a rainy day.

One of the Gospel stories featured in today’s Matins service is the parable of the barren fig tree. Here is my own tree, that is not likely to be fully illustrative of that parable, come fall.

At least seven Psalms are read at every Orthodox Matins service, and tonight two more were read, including this one:

Psalm 19 (20)

May the Lord hear thee in the day of tribulation:
may the Name of the God of Jacob protect thee.

May he send thee help from the sanctuary:
and defend thee out of Zion.

May he be mindful of all thy sacrifices:
and may thy whole burnt offering be made fat.

May he give thee according to thine own heart;
and confirm all thy counsels.

We will rejoice in thy salvation;
and in the Name of our God we shall be exalted.

The Lord fulfill all thy petitions:
now have I known that the Lord hath saved his anointed.

He will hear him from his holy heaven:
the salvation of his right hand is in powers.

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses:
but we will call upon the Name of the Lord our God.

They are bound, and have fallen,
but we are risen, and are set upright.

O Lord, save the king:
and hear us in the day that we shall call upon thee.

Watching and watchfulness.

 

The birds are happy today and so am I. While I’ve been sitting in my garden corner both a wren and a chickadee came by to say hello. You can hear what the Bewick’s Wren told me here. A while later, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement in the collard patch.

The plants are tall, and with half a dozen house finches hopping from stem to stem and pecking among the flowers, they reminded me of their mustard cousins mentioned in the Bible, in the parable of the mustard seed.

A pair of bluebirds have been flitting about the garden for a week at least. They do appear to be playing, randomly flying from tree to tree to arbor to birdbath, swooping across each other’s paths. Weeks ago we saw them checking out the birdhouse, and now I find that there are at least the beginnings of a mossy nest in there, though I haven’t seen them working on it. They don’t sit still for long, but I got this shot that at least shows the male’s bright blueness.

I’ve selectively removed a couple of established ornamentals from the back garden so that I could carve out spaces for all the young plants that have just this week been liberated from the greenhouse. Last night was their first to stay out all night. Normally I wait to plant until May 1st, but that is Holy Saturday, and I won’t have time. No frost is forecast for the next ten days, so this year I will join the many people in my area who commonly plant in April.

Yesterday I invited neighbors over to see my back garden for the first time; I only met them in Covid-time and we have chatted on the sidewalk and texted a lot about our gardens, we have shared seeds and plants and produce. They brought their 2-year old and we had a good visit strolling about and drinking iced rooibos tea. The little boy insisted that both of his parents come into the playhouse with him. I told them that is the first time I’ve had a whole family in there together.

While we were looking at the pea vines, I asked them if they had seen any honeybees yet this season. They said they’d seen one. Suddenly the carpenter bees we’d been watching were joined by excited honeybees and bumblebees! I think they had just got the news about the borage.

I sent my neighbors home with a dozen plants, most of which I’d grown from seed this spring, but a few propagated from cuttings, or volunteers removed from the garden and potted up. In the last category were Yellow Bush Lupine and Showy Milkweed.

I have a lot of calendula seedlings from seeds that a friend at church gave me from her garden, the Indian Prince mix (picture from seed packet at right). Calendulas are blooming now here; they often overwinter and reseed themselves, but I only have two currently, so I’ll fill in with several new plants. This is one of the established ones:

It is the 5th Sunday of Lent for Orthodox Christians. After this last week of Lent proper, we enter Holy Week; Pascha is May 2nd this year. In this last week the tone changes a bit; it shifts from repentance to watchfulness, our rector told us, and we begin to look forward to the raising of Lazarus, which is a sort of pre-feast of the Resurrection of Christ Himself.

I arrived early today, so I could stop by the hall to drop off a bag of onion skins, which are being collected for dyeing eggs for Pascha. I couldn’t help taking pictures of the wisteria and other beautiful flowers there.

Today we commemorate St. Mary of Egypt, who in our hymnography is often called “Mother Mary,” which can be confusing to those who think of Christ’s mother by that name. We usually call that Mary the Theotokos (“God-bearer”) or the Mother of God, to affirm Christ’s divinity.

This hymn got my attention this morning:

The image of God was truly preserved in thee, O Mother,
for thou didst take up the Cross and follow Christ.
By so doing, thou taughtest us
to disregard the flesh for it passes away;
but to care instead for the soul,
for it is immortal.
Therefore thy spirit, O holy Mother Mary,
rejoices with the angels.

St. Mary of Egypt by her life exhorts us not to slacken our effort in this last week, not to think that we can coast the rest of the way to Pascha. She was repentant and watchful for decades in the desert, and the fruit of her life and testimony has nourished the Church ever since.

As Abba Zosimas said of her, “Truly God did not lie when he promised that those who purify themselves will be like Him. Glory to You, O Christ our God, for showing me through your holy servant, how far I am from perfection.”