Spirits in the Trees

tree face 3Shortly after that last post I went to California to visit family, masked up but gleeful that we could travel at last! One day we went for a walk in some old growth redwoods. They were tall, stately, awesome, enduring, all of that was true. But these particular redwoods had something else. They had faces. Is that a sheep? Is that a rabbit?

tree face 4My head began to fill with stories of spirits trapped in trees; or maybe taking refuge in trees? These trees have survived wildfires, droughts, and colonizers, for over a thousand years – and these are the young ones. Being toxic to insects and able to regenerate after fire only go so far. How did they keep us from cutting them all down? Did these faces have something to do with it? Maybe the faceless ones are gone now, leaving behind only the ones that can look us in the eyes.

mountain laurel 1The garden was more or less on automatic pilot while I was gone, sprinklers on timers and mulch on the bare spots to block out weeds. I was pleased to see my three-year-old Kalmia blooming. We had these all around the house where I grew up, and I loved to detach the small blossoms with their stiff pink ribs, and use them as umbrellas to shade the Monopoly houses I took outside and settled between tree roots. Yes, I did that. Monopoly houses used to be made of wood.

greenhouse tomatoesI had left Zerlina and the houseplants in the care of my friend Cindy while I was away, and came home to find she’d done an excellent job. Zerlina was miffed that I’d been gone, but recovered. In the garden, the transplanted tomatoes had rooted themselves in, ready to grow. But the surprise was the greenhouse tomato plants in my front window: three feet tall, thick, and glowing in the captive glassy light. I hope the tomatoes taste as good as the plants look. In fact, I hope there are tomatoes.

Planting Season

dames rocket pathMy plants have strong opinions about the unusual spring weather we’ve had. The crabapple trees were giddy in their delight; the lilacs are in such a sulk, most of them have refused to come out. Dame’s rocket is thriving; garlic mustard is in retreat – happy, that. The asparagus was very late. The Jacob’s Ladder is flowering on every rung, and the ferns in the backyard are, well, full of themselves.

jacob's ladderA gardener, like plants, accommodates to the weather. Weeding for instance: pull when wet, hoe when dry. That’s what they say, and mostly I follow that advice. Between hoeing weather and pulling weather I cleared a lot of space. The relevant advice for that is, cover bare ground or the weeds will do it for you. I was able to get all my seedling tomatoes in the ground and sowed several varieties of zinnia and cosmos, on a late afternoon when rain was predicted for the next morning. Seedlings and seeds are happiest if you can set them out in such a situation. I felt somewhere between blessed and smug.

mulch pileI also put in a bit more lamium, a favorite groundcover, but there was more ground to cover. The situation called for mulch. I called my dirt supplier, and the cedar mulch arrived soon after. Mulch is lighter than dirt, so we’re handling it ourselves without the Rent-a-Rowers. Which means Doug carts it and I spread it – brawn and brains, he says.

chairs in the woodsFor a break we sat in our little wooded spot, enjoying the mulch job from last year, listening to the territorial arguments of the cardinals and storm warnings of the jays, basking in the success of the tomato house… and contemplating what to do about the compost bin.

crooked compost 2