Six on Saturday: Always Another Surprise

This old redbud tree fell over in a storm last year, yet is covered in new growth this spring. Its roots are strongly planted in the earth even as its trunk lies nearly horizontal along the slope of the garden.

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We weren’t expecting to get between 3 and 5 inches of rain yesterday afternoon.  Sure, we knew it might rain; there might even be a little thunder.  It’s nearly June, the start of Hurricane Season.  Storms come and go in coastal Virginia, and we’ve had a lot of that wet traffic lately.

But the storms seemed to be going around us for much of the day.  And even when the wispy little edge of a system brushed over us on radar, we expected only a passing shower.  But no.  It lingered, grew, intensified, roiled around a while.  It filled the ditch by our street and turned the creek in the ravine into a rushing river of run-off as a flash-flood warning pinged on my phone.  We began to hear about local roads flooding as heavy rain pounded on the roof and patio, our trees bending and swaying under such an unexpected watery attack.

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Some parts of the garden love the rain.

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Does it make sense to say that you’re surprised, while not being really surprised at all?  We’ve had so many fast, unexpected storms roll over our area in recent years that nothing from the sky should surprise us anymore.  And yet when they sneak up in mid-afternoon, without proper warning from the weather-guessers, and then leave a changed landscape behind, it does leave a scuff-mark on one’s psyche.

Of course we are in these already surreal and surprising months of 2020, so nothing should surprise us too much at this point.  Weather seems the least of it, honestly.

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Athyrium ‘Ghost’

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But when I went out early this morning, camera in hand, to spy on the rabbits munching the front ‘lawn’ and to see what I could see in the garden, I was greeted with more little surprises in the garden.

Maybe what I really love most about gardening is the novelty of tending a living system and all of the surprises, both pleasant and not, which greet one each day.  What’s changed?  What’s in bloom?  What’s grown?  What’s been eaten overnight by the deer?  What young tree has just fallen over after the voles ate its roots?  You get my drift….

The very back of our garden is sheltered by a small ‘bamboo forest’ which shields it from the ravine.  Now, you likely know that bamboo, even when it’s 40′ tall and as big around as a large grapefruit, is a grass.  And grass grows from underground rhizomes, which spread as far as they possibly can.  We love the bamboo and the cool privacy it gives us.

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That said, every May we must police its new shoots daily to keep it in bounds.  You see, it really, really would like to claim more of the garden and so marches right up the hill towards our home every spring.  It sends up new shoots hourly over several weeks, and then it gives up until next year.  Sometimes the shoots are chopstick thin and actually look like a respectable grass.  They’re rather artistic and I’d be tempted to leave them, emerging in the midst of a flower border or my fernery, if I didn’t know their intent.

Other shoots come up thick and strong, like fast growing baseball bats claiming their right to seek the sun above the garden.  It’s a good thing that the squirrels love fresh bamboo shoots so much, because they quickly clean up the stray shoots we must knock over each day.

Well, when I wandered into the back garden this morning, I was greeted with unexpectedly prodigious new bamboo shoots thrusting up through shrubs, ferns, perennials and grass.  How can they grow that fast?  I wasn’t in my boots yet, so I made their portraits and left them to grow another few hours until my partner could deal with them.

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The ground was soft and squishy, still completely saturated from another early morning rain.  Fig branches were bent and touching the ground.  The lamb’s ears flower stalks I’d been allowing to grow for the bees lay flat in the mulch.  Only the ferns looked truly happy this morning.  The ferns, pushing out abundant new fronds, and a lone Japanese Iris that just bloomed for the first time in our garden.

A fresh Iris blossom always elicits a smile from me.  Like a deep breath of fresh spring air, it fills me with unreasonable happiness.  What is this magic some flowers work in our gnarly, jaded hearts?  I can turn away from two score bamboo shoots invading the garden to admire a single Iris blossom, and let that beautiful surprise buoy me back inside to pour my morning coffee.

Yes, we garden as much for the surprises as for the known rhythms of our gardening year.  There’s always something new to enjoy and always some new chore to do.  What more could one hope for?

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Iris ensata, ‘Temple Bells,’ blooming for the first time in our garden this morning.  It was a gift from a friend last summer.

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Woodland Gnome 2020

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Please visit my new website, Illuminations, for a daily photo from our garden.

Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator

Surprises

July 11 2013 garden 020Every walk through the garden brings surprises.

Munched parsley looks like its dying back.

Munched parsley looks like it’s dying back.

A mystery vine growing out of the fern garden.  Look like some kind of squash- a surprise volunteer.

A mystery vine growing out of the fern garden. Look like some kind of squash- a surprise volunteer.

Sometimes the surprises are good ones:  ripe figs to pick, a rose bloom opened, an unusual butterfly, a damaged shrub sending out new growth.  Sometimes the surprises are disappointing:  a sage plant turned brown from too much rain, a whole network of new vole holes to crush, a fig tree bending over double from the weight of its crop, a bed full of grass and weeds that need pulling- again.

A blue dragonfly resting on a faded Buddleia blossom.

A blue dragonfly resting on a faded Buddleia blossom.

A beautiful caterpillar has been munching the parsley.  He will soon join the butterflies living in the garden.

A beautiful caterpillar has been munching the parsley. He will soon join the butterflies living in the garden.

A Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on Lantana.

A Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on Lantana.

Gardeners learn to celebrate the happy surprises,  fix the disappointing ones, and move on.  Our world is in continual flux.

The Dharma, or path in Buddhism, is based in  realization of impermanence.  As we tend our gardens, we see the nature of impermanence and change every day.  An attitude of  non- attachment, as difficult as that tends to be, allows us to appreciate the beautiful while letting the disappoints go.  We eventually understand that the degree of suffering we experience from our disappointments is based on our attachment to what is lost, or damaged.

Sometimes transforming a disappointment into a joy comes with looking more closely.

Deer grazed all of the leaves from this jalapeno pepper plant, but left the peppers and the ocra growing behind it.

Deer grazed all of the leaves from this jalapeno pepper plant, but left the peppers and the okra growing behind it.

Sometimes, it only asks us to see a problem as an opportunity for growth.

Three massive oaks went down in a storm this June.

Three massive oaks went down in a storm this June.

This season has been a particularly hard one for many.  We have week upon week of record rainfall, floods, wind, and oppressive heat in some areas; drought, wildfires, hail, and late snowfall in others.  So many have lost everything in the wild weather patterns wracking our planet.

I remember those who sustain themselves and their families on what they grow.  I remember those who have lost the beauty of their gardens and the harvest of their fields and greenhouses in a single storm, and hope they have the heart and the means to clean it up, replant, and continue along their path.

butterfly bush

Butterfly bush, planted last spring and then lost in the fencing and assumed dead, survived and offers up its very first bloom.

As gardeners we continue to walk in beauty, to appreciate the gifts of our gardens, to fix what can be fixed, tend what must be tended, and share our love with those around us.   And, above all, we continue to believe that more beautiful and happy surprises await, on our next walk through our garden.

A fig tree, crushed by an oak and nearly destroyed in Hurricane Irene has recovered and is bearing figs again.

A fig tree, crushed by an oak and nearly destroyed in Hurricane Irene has recovered and is bearing a plentiful crop this season.

Coleus, a gift from a friend last summer, survived winter in the garage and is thriving again.

Coleus, a gift from a friend last summer, survived winter in the garage and is thriving again.

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