Monday, October 25, 2004

Gather Your Seeds While You May

I'm not the world's greatest gardener, but I like to borrow seeds, ideas or just moral support from others' gardens to add punch to my own. Last weekend, I took a stroll through a special garden of a friend. I realized I was actually following Julia Cameron's advice in "The Artist's Way," but without really trying -- to make an artist's date with yourself on a regular basis to enhance your writing or artistic expression.

I soon realized the garden's rich pallette of sights, smells and stories stood forth to be preserved before the deep freeze of winter erradicated their beautiful images, leaving a blank slate and/or an empty journal page come spring thaw.

So there I was, among those fortunate enough to be surrounded on a sunny morning, husband in hand, with amazing verdant splendor I didn't think possible at the end of October. A long, leafy plant vined in and out of the fence topped here and there with lovely lilac-colored variegated flowers alternated with plump, purplish seed pods the shade of eggplant. It's a Hyacinth Bean, our friend told us. But don't hyacinths only bloom in the spring? It gets its hyacinth name because the flowers smell like hyacinths, although they're just impersonating them, he said. He let us twist off a couple of pods to dry over the winter and plant in April. Each will grow to about 20 feet, he told us. Not high, but long and curling over land otherwise dirtied with ever-present weeds I longed to push out of my garden and my life. I once wrote a series of haikus about the summer I nurtured a long, luxurious butternut squash vine alongside a rented garage formerly littered with broken beer bottles. I looked forward to the hyacinth bean's own story, starting sometime next spring.

Our friend next urged us to step onto his front porch. Last summer, he said, I told everyone I'd give $500 to anyone who got a mosquito bite. I had no takers, he boasted. His secret? A plant called Tansy that he grew in pots and placed here and there along the porch. He broke off some leaves, crushed them in his hand and raised them to my nose. They smelled deeply and exotically of lemon verbena.

You like it? he asked. Well, the mosquitos don't. He suggested we could grow our own tansy by purchasing small plants at the garden supply next spring, as tansy is rather impossible to grow from seed and doesn't root from cuttings. Just make sure they don't give you pansies, he warned. Spell it out for them. T-a-n-s-y.

Duly noted. If I don't remember come April, that's what this page is for.

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