Monday, July 11, 2005

Sweet Are the Uses of Adversity

Gardening is often the avocation of des femmes d'un certain âge. Being precocious, though, I started fiddling with flowers at the age of twelve or so. Our neighbor grew beautiful daylillies while ours were the common garden variety. So for fun (I had a sheltered sense of “fun” at twelve), I would ask permission to take a stamen or three from some of his beauties to cross-pollinate them with our Cinderellas. From seed to flower is at least two years; that’s a longish eternity when you're twelve. Nonetheless, I remembered to check occasionally. There were some interesting results: some of the lillies were prettier than their mommas and some got smacked a bit uglier than seemed fair at the time. Some seeds just never did grow.

Looking back, I can see a pattern. Kind of like raising children. You never know what you’ll get and there’s no way to tell what the vicissitudes of fate and fortune have in store for them. But eventually they all get grown and gone so you go back to raising flowers again, just for someone to boss around.

There are advantages to children: they give you grandchildren and they send you birthday cards and sometimes they call for advice. But raising flowers has some benefits, too. For one thing, you have more control over the process. During the dry spells you can water things, for example. Or maybe just install drought-resistant plants to begin with. You can move things around to suit yourself without having to listen to the flowers complain. Or at least not complain much; some of them refuse to grow or blossom under certain conditions so you can’t just stick them any old where. Zinnias and bergamot will have sun or they will have mold and mildew and not much in the way of flowers. On the other hand, in this climate it doesn’t seem to matter where you put rudbeckia, it just blooms.

Some of them are sooo fussy. Take clematis. There’s a large white variety that does quite well on my porch railing. Several feet down from it is a jackmanni. Now the latter is supposed to thrive and grow all over the place. Not this one. It sends out three or four branches, rather skinny and tentative, that curl around several spokes in the railing and looking like they don't want to take up too much room. For a week or so, it blossoms and then it just sits there, vegetating while the white one glories in the warm weather and grows thick and lush. The jackmanni is definitely the sickly sibling. Though clematis don’t like to share their space, I stealthily put a Heavenly Blue morning glory in between the two of them and it’s taking up the slack for the spindly one. That used to be the spot for moonflowers, but they took so long to finally blossom —August, usually — and they’re more voracious than morning glories. But the fragrance is wonderful, even better than mimosas.

Garden bench with Red Dragon Begonias

The bench is under the mimosa. Next to it is a Red Dragon begonia which I got for Mother’s Day. It’s outgrowing the pot so has to be watered assiduously until I find a bigger pot. If I do. Behind the bench (to the right in the picture) is a Brown turkey fig that was there when the mimosa was quite small. The fig is overpowered by the mimosa, of course, but as a result its fruit is tiny — like large grapes — and very sweet. Fig trees in other parts of the yard produce the usual-sized fruit but aren’t nearly as good…

Sweet are the uses of adversity
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in the stones, and good in every thing.
I never did get the part about toads wearing precious jewels in their heads, but I do love a toad's appetite for bugs. I've put a few toad houses under the hostas and such. I figured they needed housing when I found one huddled under a trowel I'd left by the salvia.


At 11:58 AM, Blogger Headmistress, zookeeper said...

That photograph made me catch my breath, it's so pretty.
I always thought the precious jewels in the toad's head were its eyes. Toads have beautiful eyes. But it turns out that Toads were once supposed to have a magical stone in their heads that had many beneficial properties (try

Hans Christian Anderson referred to it in this story (but since he was HCA, he took it a different direction):

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Dymphna said... that's it.

Thanks for the links. Now I know more than I did yesterday.

At 8:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And our children give us grandchildren which are our revenge on our children. I am still experiencing my parents' and in-laws' revenge.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger Dymphna said...

Hmm. Revenge again... a recurring theme.

I have a former daughter-in-law who is so angry at my son that I haven't seen my granddaughter Gracie since she was two. When I asked her other grandmother if she might spare a picture of Gracie, she sent me one of her at age four, nude...I'm still figuring that one out.

If I live long enough, I know Gracie will come around asking questions. I'm just sad that I don't get to see her grow up and she won't know me until I am an old, old lady.

I have some jewels and I have some mysteries. Geneva, my three year old grand d. has a Russian nannie who keeps her in the mornings. This woman was a sociology professor in the old country and when Geneva visits their house, she speaks only Russian. She teaches us words. Except I can hardly understand Geneva's English so it's not much help for me. I think it's a good thing she's learning but it does muddle her pronunciation. However, there's plenty of time for that, hmm?

It's the children of my daughter I worry about. Well, one must worry about *something.* Since their mother is dead they seem dispirited and there's not much to be done about that. When Shelagh walked into the room, things always livened up, but she won't be walking into any rooms of ours again...damn. Perhaps the bottom never stops dropping out of things...

...that's why I felt so deeply for those who were left behind when the murderers in London were finished their dirty work. All the mums and dads and children and sisters and brothers not coming home, ever.

Ah, yes, Bill, I do think of revenge.

At 2:55 AM, Blogger Headmistress, zookeeper said...

I'm so sorry, Dymphna.

At 2:58 AM, Blogger Headmistress, zookeeper said...

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