It’s a matter of perspective

It’s been a tough week, but today Laird and I spent the afternoon wandering around downtown, playing tourist in our own town. I took my camera, and made a discovery: You just can’t stay anxious and bummed out when you’re searching for interesting things to photograph. We had fun, and I was given a much needed reminder of how very beautiful Munich is, and how truly fortunate we are to live here.

It was a good thing to learn: That if you look for good things around you, you’ll find it.

Random list of things to do before I…

What with all this passing away business going on around me, I’ve been thinking lately about things I would do in my life if I had the motivation or money… but mostly motivation. Things I would really enjoy doing. And I’m afraid none of them include playing naked frisbee with you in the Englischer Gartens, Laird.

Here’s one: Learn to become a real gardener at Kew’s School of Horticulture, or even better, take the Wisley Diploma in Practical Horticulture. All in England, of course. Gardener’s Mecca.

I’m still interested in that Barking Frogs Permaculture course after all these years, even if their website is a mess.

I’d ride my bicycle around Germany and France, and Tuscany. Take off for 6 months or a year and be a bicycle gypsy.

I’d build a little home somewhere with some property — good land for a garden and a nice view. Just a little place, with solar panels and a woodstove and a rain barrel, and a covered veranda with big Adirondack chairs to sink into during thunderstorms. And high-speed internet access, of course. If I end up living in a tool shed in the middle of an allotment garden, don’t be too shocked. There are pretty schwanky-looking cottages here in Munich’s allotment gardens.

I’d cover my house with clematis. All kinds of clematis, every kind of clematis. Love the clematis.

That’s my humble list for tonight. Kayaking in the Queen Charlotte Islands in B.C. is still on my life list of things to do. But then, so was living in Europe about 5 years back. Now look at me. You just never know.

Oh, and write a book. Add that too.

Trees

It’s another sad day with the loss of a beloved friend’s mother, the ache made keener by the need to honour a difficult request. People react to grief in different ways, sometimes in ways that demand much of those who love us, turning sorrow into a test of a long friendship that must not fail.

I took a long walk tonight in the mature woods behind my home. Something about the old trees did much to soothe me, the solidity of the trunks, the knuckles of roots plunging deep in the earth, the delicate whispering of leaves in the breeze. Rooted, strong, standing firm through difficult seasons and terrible storms.

Comfort amid the green growing things

A friend of mine passed away yesterday, far too young and not at all willing. He was diagnosed with cancer back in October and given 3 months to live, but he was determined to see another birthday. Norm succeeded in going out on his own terms and passed away on July 27th, his 48th birthday.

I’m not sure what this has to do with gardening, except that it’s out here – sitting amid green growing things – that I am comforted. Things grow, things die, and if left to nature’s careful handling, every part of it contributes to the regeneration of a soil that will support a new season of growth. Norm was quite pragmatic, describing his lot as “survival of the fittest”. But it’s not that way, not really. Everything that grows and blooms is better because of what came before.

Friends are like that too.

Rest in peace, Norm. I won’t forget you.

Fashioning in a garden

I normally don’t think much about my attire while I’m out working in the garden, but today I was caught out by a young work colleague who dropped by to return some stuff he’d borrowed. At the office I’m neatly dressed, usually in jeans and no fashion queen but generally quite presentable. Today, I realized, I was quite a sight. It was a drizzly day and I had light gray track pants on that were soaked to the knees, one muddy trouser leg half caught in the top of a crusty Australian boot. On top I wore a couple of layers of disreputable t-shirts, nothing matching, topped off by a dirty and wet red rain jacket. My hair was pretty wild under the broad rim of my once-beige Tilly hat, the crowning glory of an eccentric attire, and I had mud on my face – a nice broad streak where I’d wiped my runny nose with a filthy glove. The poor fellow caught me while I was in a death roll with a large weed tree that I was trying to extract, and when I realized he was there I turned around face-to-face with some very wide eyes. Ha. He didn’t stay long.

Strangely enough, it didn’t bother me in the least. An image flitted through my mind of another gardener I once knew, a beautiful slender blond herbalist who always floated through her fairy gardens in flowery sundresses, looking tanned and magazine gorgeous. But I instantly dismissed the image with a grin; no matter how I may appear, I am never more beautiful than when I’m outdoors in my ridiculous hat playing gardener in the mud.

Neat vs. Nature

Gardeners are hard at work on the grounds around my apartment building, and I have to say I have decidedly mixed feelings about it. There are lots of jungly plots around the place, flowering bushes that over the years have grown out of control and melded into wild and impenetrable batches of shrub. The gardeners are pruning hard, untangling the impossible growth and scraping the ground around them bare of leaves and branches and other accumulated debris.

On one hand, the gardener in me appreciates the return to order, and looks forward to a nice display in the spring. On the other hand, the wildlife lover in me grieves. The birds use those little wild places for cover and nesting, and I’ve seen hedgehogs run in and out of those bushes in the dark hours of the evening. It’s a tough time of year for a hedgehog to be evicted from a warm nest.

That’s no fragile hothouse flower

Dsc_3741That’s one tough orchid.

Two years ago I brought a Lc. Cynthia ‘Model’ AM-FCC/AOS home from Madeira. This lovely orchid bloomed for me last winter, but we moved and life in our new home was not easy for a sun- and heat-loving plant. The summer was dull and rainy for the most part, and the morning sun through our window was filtered by a heavy cover of trees. In May I hung the obviously struggling plant on a tree outside, in the hope that it would get some more sun. It was definitely on the decline, and to be honest, I had already given up on it. Every once in a while I’d look over at the neglected orchid hanging on the tree and notice with a pang of guilt that it was still green, and still alive. But I’d shake my head and move on, knowing it was just a matter of time before it died.

In late August, I took a closer look, and was surprised to find that not only was the damned thing still alive, it even had some determined new growth. I decided then that this valiant orchid deserved a better home than I could give it. I cut off the new growth, potted it up, and gave it to my friend Christian — a kindred spirit with a sunny south window. I threw the two remaining shrivelled backbulbs and rubbery leaves onto the compost heap under the bushes.

Fast forward to late October. Chilly nights, and chilly days. Even a smattering of snow. Leaves were falling, and the green of those discarded backbulbs contrasted mightily with the brown leaves all around them. “Geez”, I thought. “That thing just won’t die. I might as well give it a chance, it can’t do any harm.” I picked it out of the pile, plopped it into a pot with some medium, stuck it into a plastic bag on the back of my bike, and cycled off to work. I put it on the sunny windowsill beside my desk, in the corner of the office that is starting to resemble a jungle. One plant at a time — that’s the secret I learned back in Toronto to bringing new plants home without arousing the suspicions of the spousal unit. Or in this case, good natured colleagues.

Said colleagues were alarmed by my squeal two mornings ago, when I found a new knob of growth at the base of the bulbs. The damned thing is starting to grow.

Like I said. That’s one tough plant.