Garden, etc.

Continually, I apologize for the sporadic nature of the blog. I want it to be less intermittent, but I also would prefer it not be stupendously mundane. ‘Today, I went to the library. I read materials. I came home, ate dinner, and fell asleep watching television.’ Short short blog.

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But I am embarking on something new! There’s been a small taste of it already, in a small succulent (that, if not dead, isn’t happy right now), and my window boxes (proud to say going strong). I’m writing, of course, about gardening. Gardening is very special to me, for two reasons. One, it’s very nice to do something physical that has a visual result when you spend so much time in your own head all day. I spend quite a bit of time sitting, whether in an office or in front of a microfilm machine, so the whole idea of doing something out of doors sounds quite nice (though not right this second, if anyone is aware of London weather right now). The other reason is that my parents are avid gardeners. When we first moved to our home in Virginia, it was a very standard Northern Virginia new build; a patchwork quilt of incredibly similar houses on tiny squares of cropped farmland. My mother stared out the windows of our new home in a new state, across one yard onto the next onto the next, all with only scarred plot lines and brown grass.  She and my dad managed to create from this small plot, with its stereotypical Virginia red clay, a beautiful yard filled with flowers and trees. My mom meticulously researched each plant for the best matches in soil conditions, sunlight, and various other factors that I’m not even sure I can think about. The garden has changed over the years, as the décor of a house does as tastes (both yours and society’s) evolve. A patio and screened-in porch have popped up over the years, with a very lovely water feature that is largely the hard work of my Dad.

While they did this, the bulk of the work on the weekends when both my parents were home and continual maintenance done a few days a week by my mom, they of course hoped and expected that my sister and I would come outside and join them. We rarely did (have you BEEN in Virginia in the summer?), but the few times we did are stuck in my mind. I remember, even when we lived in Delaware, my mom carefully instructing me in how to gently dislodge the plant from its pot and to position the plants before planting to get a feel of spacing and what looks pleasing to the eye. I’ve always loved the feeling of dirt on my fingers and rarely plant with gloves or even a spade, more often than not. I love the look of flowers and have vague memories of freshly shelled peas from the backyard plot, on the concrete slab outside my old house (my mother will of course tell you that this was the last time I ate a vegetable for about 20 years).

I like to convince myself that the sight of flowers is good for the soul, and thereby a TOTAL necessity once the season starts and prices drop a bit. I feel very grown-up as I trim the stems and arrange the flowers (almost always a single type and color of flower, since fancier bouquets are naturally pricier). This feeling of adulthood is stymied by the fact that my only vase is a pint glass . . . but I’m getting there. Anyway, I’m growing some herbs from seed (chives, flat-leaf parsley, and sage), re-planting a grocery store basil plant, and growing a chilli plant from seeds in the pots that the previous tenant left behind. The window boxes are being decided (I’m shuffling around lavender and ivy, but The Language of Flowers tells me that the meanings don’t jive well). But what I’m most excited about is my little plot of earth in the suburbs of London. Before any allotment hopefuls get their dander up that I’ve jumped a waiting list somewhere, the little plot is in the backyard of Sir Not Appearing in this Blog’s parents (DEFINITELY not appearing in this blog). They’ve very generously, and fearlessly I might add, have turned over a small plot to myself and the good Sir.

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After reading allotment blogs, allotment books, bits on the Royal Horticultural Society website and lord knows what else, we’ve decided that the inaugural run of this plot is going to be done with whatever the hell we feel like. It’s a learning experience, with what I’m sure is a steep learning curve, so we might as well (maybe) get something we want out of it. Obviously I’m still choosing vegetable varieties that suit the climate, the amount of sunlight, etc. but I’m not going to worry about not having x, when I have plants from y and z. So! We’ve ordered seeds for purple-podded peas (we have trellises from previous climbing beans that have been ousted by weeds), kuri pumpkins (pumpkin korroke curry!!), perpetual spinach, small cucumbers (Sir is now obsessed with pickles, as he should be, so we’re going to learn how to make our own pickles), Black Russian tomatoes, Golden Sunrise tomatoes, and Tigerella tomatoes. We’re also going to get a few strawberry plants (already grown and matured so we can enjoy the literal fruits of our labors).

The seeds are arriving any day now, and we’ve bought compost for our little seedling trays. On Sunday we will tenderly plant our little seeds in the hopes that a few will germinate, fortify, and survive the transfer into the soil outside. Of course, the seeds germinating indoors is probably the least of our concern . . . slugs, birds, unexpected frost, and God knows what else could make this venture a complete and utter disaster.  More notes to come (and hopefully photos, if it goes well).

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