In all beginnings dwells a magic force

A funny thing about orchids — they don’t die willingly. In a burst of energy one Sunday not too long ago, I pulled the feral grocery store orchids out from their neglected corner of the patio, and repotted them. Watered them and brought them indoors. It’s the first time I’ve paid any attention to my orchids since I threw them outdoors last spring after a winter of neglect on the windowsill.

Not only are they not dead, one of them is going to put out blooms. Three fat and defiant inflorescences.

It’s kind of like this blog. Neglected, ignored, but still… not dead.

And apparently (heart-swellingly), not forgotten either.

Just a few days afterward, I received an email from an orchid hero and blast from my botanical past, Aaron J. Hicks. He wrote to say hi and to tell me that a 4 year-old blog post of mine was “Boing-Boinged“. Today, another nice note came out of the blue from my favourite Herbal Wise Woman of the Northern Light Centre, to say hello and tell me that she’d had a laugh over some of my blog posts. A laugh! Awesome.

It’s been 5 years since I moved to Munich, and my horticultural/writing impulse has gone into a deep slumber. But these sweet nudges are encouraging me to come out of hibernation. To come out and play. I don’t have a garden. The vast majority of my flower pots are upside down under a bench, and the only greenery I lay claim to are a few stubborn and unremarkable orchids. Orchids that have life in them still, and a few flowers – like this blog.

As every flower fades and as all youth
Departs, so life at every stage,
So every virtue, so our grasp of truth,
Blooms in its day and may not last forever.
Since life may summon us at every age
Be ready, heart, for parting, new endeavor,
Be ready bravely and without remorse
To find new light that old ties cannot give.
In all beginnings dwells a magic force
For guarding us and helping us to live.

– from the poem, Stufen (translation)
Hermann Hesse

May all your gardens bloom

In the week since I last posted, summer has turned over to a dreary autumn in a neat little turn of pathetic fallacy. Rain, rain, rain… even the leather grips on the handlebars of my bike are spotted with mildew. Indoors, the tears have dried up and life is returning to normal – more or less. It helped to hear from so many kind people who knew and loved Jake, or who know the pain of losing a beloved canine friend. Thank you.

But as we all know, seasons turn and life marches on. There are many things to look forward to, including blooms on two of my orchids: An ondontoglossum (I can’t remember what it looks like) and a Burrageara Stefan Isler with two inflorescences.  The red nasturtium outside my door has climbed all over my rose, which is just fine with me. The red geraniums are still blooming madly, in spite of the cold grey weather, and the clematis has happily leaped from the bamboo support that I jammed into the pot, over to a nearby bush. It is giving me more flowers.

My husband said it best: "Life is a garden, watered with tears".

May all your gardens bloom.

The quest for horse manure

Orchids in horse poop… I’ve read about it, and I’ve always wondered if it worked. An entire website is devoted to the glories of growing orchids in horse manure, and I’m sure that I’m not the only fool who has read it and actually been inspired to try.

And so yesterday I was invited to go out on a cart ride with my friend Sylvia and her beautiful Halflinger horse, Albert, after work. Sylvia is a tolerant soul, and when I floated the idea by her she gamely brought along two plastic shopping bags with the full knowledge that she’d be transporting fresh horse poo home in the trunk of her car for me. Such a good sport. Her parents are gardeners so I guess that bizarre botanical enthusiasms don’t alarm her any more; she’s had experience.
The cart ride through through the tranquil Bavarian countryside was unforgettable. We spent over an hour exploring quiet car-free trails through farmer’s fields and coniferous forests. We passed cyclists and joggers in our Roman-style chariot, and watched a deep red sunset and a big fat moonrise over the meadows. Wow. So beautiful. Albert is a gorgeous creature, with a ridiculously long and curling flowing mane and tail, and he seemed to enjoy the trip as much as we did. Halflingers are the equine equivalent of Golden Retrievers; loveable and friendly, and extremely intelligent. Not just a horse, but one of three friends out on an adventure.

After the ride, Sylvia led me to an enormous mound of manure and up along a long wooden board leading to the top of it. We balanced precariously on the narrow plank and giggled while we bent over and filled the plastic bag. No accidents, thankfully. Sylvia dropped me off back at the office where my bike was locked, and I rode home with a steaming warm bag of horse poo in the front basket. A memorable evening.

This morning, the experiment began. I repotted a small cymbidium, one from a bulb that I bought three years ago in Madeira. This has to be the slowest growing plant I’ve ever grown, and I’m so frustrated with its progress I don’t mind if it becomes the victim of a bad idea. If this works, bonus.

Ghost pain of a gardener

There is most definitely a hint of autumn in the air, a certain crispness and energy that urges me to get out into the garden. It’s an instinct really; a strong sense of needing to be out harvesting and tending and working the soil, preparing for a coming change of the seasons.

It’s a strange and misplaced feeling. Strange, not just because it’s mid-August and at least a month early for this sort of thing, but also because I don’t have a garden. I find myself irresistably pulled to the shops, trolling the aisles for perennials, investigating the shiny tools hanging on the walls, checking out the selection of seeds. It’s the same urge that causes me to gather seeds from plants that I come across during my wanders, even though I have nowhere to plant them. My fellow apartment dwellers point to my patio and tell me what a lovely garden I have; I see a bunch of pots. It does look nice, but pots on a patio are unsatisfying in a way that only a passionate gardener can understand.

A gardener without a garden. Kind of like an amputee who can feel and move his limb, a long long time after it’s gone.

Any low-rent allotment gardens around here?

A few days ago I mentioned the proliferation of allotment gardens here in Germany, and by coincidence I came across an article in the Telegraph by an expat who has actually rented one.

You have to understand, these allotment gardens are no ordinary garden plots. They’re pretty much summer cottages in the middle of the city. I’d post a picture but the grounds are surrounded by double rows of thick shrubbery, and are securely locked up at entrance gates.

I’ve toyed with the idea of renting one myself, but after reading the article I changed my mind. Clubs? Rules? Thousands of euros? Uhh… don’t think so. I’ll stick with my pots and a little guerilla gardening for now.