“Ms.” Gardener??

So this Master Gardener program began almost 9 weeks ago. My brains are so full of information on annuals, biennials, perennials, grasses, fruits, vegetables, fungal diseases, bacterial diseases, blights, beneficial and pest-y insects, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, you name it, in these 9 weeks of intensive classes of 6 hours per week I am in gardening overload.

I have always enjoyed gardening. If you had told me at the beginning of this herbal odyssey I would feel this way I’d have laughed myself silly. It’s like gorging at Thanksgiving. The feeling’s just the same except my head wants to explode, not my waistline.

No idea when or if I will ever use this information. Maybe it’s crammed in there in such a way as to come through as second nature. I’ll look at an azalea leaf and know it is a rust disease, not lacewing insects. Or see little raised tunnels in my yard and know they are not really tiny moles but mole crickets. I will know the small, round shiny-gray things are ground pearl, an insect for which there is no remedy except to dig up and completely replace the sod, no small (or inexpensive) feat.

There are more varieties of oak that I could ever have imagined, and most wasps are beneficial. (I don’t guess that applies to yellow jackets as well).

I won’t know, right off the bat, if you have your soil tested and it has a low ph of 4.7 what proportions of fertilizer it will need. Clemson University can tell you. I won’t likely be able to say if a camellia variety is a japonica or sasanqua, but I know they are both beautiful flowering shrubs. I know more than I did at the outset of this class, much more, I just have to integrate it into my current knowledge.

So it’s hard, if I even actually pass the course, thinking of myself as a master anything, much less a master gardener. Even so as with most everything else, I will not ever know it all, at least I certainly hope not.

What fun could that possibly be?


The end of things, a new beginning

My parents were pretty social when my brother and I were little. We often found ourselves at the mercy of some strange lady of a Friday or Saturday evening, having been tucked into bed by mom or dad before they left. But the best times were when they’d let us spend the night at our grandparents’ house. Lavishly doted on, read to for hours, innumerable card games of “Go Fish” or “Old Maid”. These nights were the best. There were rules of course, and bedtimes, but the thing of it was we simply felt adored. Not spoiled. Just loved, unrestrained.

I do not know how much furniture, books or other items Nana and Papa rid themselves of when they moved to Charlotte from New York to be near us. They moved into a tiny brick cottage: a living room, small kitchen, 2 bedrooms and a bathroom. There must have been cases of books, arm chairs, bureaus and other things that were given away or simply left when they moved from their apartment near Columbia University, but they did still have a few books, adult and some children’s, that my brother and I enjoyed when visiting them.

So when both my brother and I stayed there we shared a bedroom, but the most special times were when Jon was at basketball camp or at a friends’ house and I got our grandparents all to myself. There was one book which both my brother and I loved, a very small book of a “parable in pictures” (I suppose the first graphic novel) as the author himself, James Thurber, called it. The Last Flower, originally published in 1939 and so named because as the book opens during World War XII there is massive and unimaginable destruction. Afterward the people who were left had no idea what to do, how to begin again. A young girl happens upon what may be the last flower on the earth and it is dying. She tells people about it, no one listens except one boy. So they nurture this flower until it lives again, the earth flourishes and love returns to the world. Pretty soon there are merchants, and communities, and of course, soldiers. So the story cycles again to discontent. But what remains: a boy, a girl and one flower.

Somehow this little book of new beginnings and the truth of human nature told so simply and humbly attracted my brother and me. Today my rescue dog Lily and I were walking where the new development of homes has cleared many pines, scrub oaks and wild blueberry bushes. As we walked down a remaining trail I saw a small cluster of ovate, white flowers.

A tiny wild blueberry bush.


Losing time

Daylight saving time.

No, it isn’t. We skip forward over one whole hour. I never catch up. When I was little and time really did not make any difference because somebody else marked it for me, maybe. When school was out we could stay out later playing kick the can over at our friends’ but not much later.

My dad commuted to New York every Sunday, coming home on Friday evening. Spring summer and fall he’d adjust his watch when he got home. New York wasn’t on this time change then. So I asked my mother why we were. “Farmers,” she said. “They like the extra hour of daylight to work their fields.”


My rescue dog Lily and I like to go out on the beach before sunrise to watch it come up over the ocean. Tomorrow when we set out and the clock reads 5:30 it is actually 4:30 so we have that much more time to get our act together without missing the sun. Another hour.

But we still lose that hour. I read somewhere that some countries stopped changing the clock because people became so anxious and tired from the loss of that hour that they were not only unproductive at work but some actually had to go to the hospital. I used to work with a company out in Arizona, a place where there are no real deciduous trees, no real trees at all actually, and a lot of hot, sunny days. I once asked why they did not have daylight saving time there.

She paused and said, “Honey, we don’t need anymore daylight.”

I will be happy when I get my hour of time back next November.


Vacation plans, career plans, family plans, college plans, wedding plans, dinner plans, weekend plans.

Landscape plans?

I took a good, long look at my house and yard today. Rectangular  depth, one story brick, just like every other house in the subdivision. With a very strict and binding homeowner’s association the backyard is really all I can play around with. To quote each officer in the HOA, “we wouldn’t want houses with pink shutters and orange polka-dots, would we?”

Why not??

So I can’t do anything, really to my front yard., not much more than I already have. But I can put a helipad in my backyard, or a scale model of the Eiffel tower, or basically anything I’d like as long as (per HOA) “it can’t be seen from the front”.

So that opens everything pretty wide for anything I can imagine. I have never liked lawn turf. Grasses are hard to maintain, they need a lot of water, feeding, this isn’t normal.

Ornamental grasses- purple fountain grass, pink muhly grass, millet, sea oats– these are basically weeds and take care of themselves. So I figure if I use all native flowers, shrubs, grasses after a few weeks of watering in they can pretty much manage well without a lot of feeding, watering and attention. I have always wanted something like a jungle around my house. Anything to block out any sign of civilization leaving only nature. The birds, squirrels and other little critters will enjoy it. My philodendron are climbing the walls in the master bath. They are draping themselves gracefully down the bookcases and desks through the house.

So I will find something I like that is natural and easy. Gravel and slate pathways, maybe a small pond with a fountain. Or not. Anyway it will keep me busy during the next several months.

And the HOA do not have to see a thing.