French Flounce. Thursday, April 30, 2020

Last night, looking through old photos, I came upon one that was unlabeled, devoid of color, ugly and obscure.

What is it? 

Then suddenly I realized: it was my amateurish documentation of digging a hole for a tomato. Why bother to document such a widely, ordinary and much-repeated garden chore? Then I remembered: it included the vital ingredient of calcium in the form of ground-up egg shells! In that same moment a realization of disaster hit me between the eyes. In my panic about getting the tomatoes into the ground before the party guests started arriving (and to whom I would need to turn my attention) in mid-March I clean forgot this vital ingredient.  Why is it vital? Because tomato plants are prone to blossom end rot (where the end of the tomato rots), and planting with calcium prevents this (gypsum works just well, we use egg shells because the chickens give us these in return for regular feedings of cherry tomatoes with which they play soccer before devouring). How could I forget, after so many years, such an habitual routine? And the story only gets worse. When it came to planting the later tomatoes – the yellow grape and Dad’s Sunset my body remembered not the years of accumulated wisdom, but the month or so of cretinous mistakes.

It is a weird thing this question of body memory and gardening. I do believe the body remembers, better often than the conscious mind, but sometimes, it seems a whole lot worse. And yet, maybe I needed this shock to shake me out of routine unthinking behavior. Some of the practices I try and maintain regularly, but mostly fail, stress the breaking of habit, the retraining of body memory – Tai Chi and Xi Gong and Feldenkrais and Meditation. And so with gardening too it is possible to slip into repetition and maintenance of the status quo rather than exploring new processes and plants and combinations. So now I must explore what to do to when you haven’t included calcium in the planting. I remember Brijette telling me about an organic spray which you need to apply to the flowers, before the fruit suits. What is it? How does it work? It is also of course possible that there is enough calcium in the compost since Jeffrey includes ground -up eggshells.

Spent some time in the morning preparing the potting medium to welcome for the first time Astia, a French zucchini developed particularly for container growing and small gardens, and a Patio tomato, always very productive for me in a pot, and surprisingly tasty. They are now sitting in the driveway.

Surprise in the front yard: sunflowers

and poppies galore, including scarlet Delos poppies grown (by Steve) from seeds collected by a friend of a friend on the Greek island of Delos. The foliage is gorgeous, but the flowers a real knock out. They are growing on the Tam side, by our driveway (used for pots, not cars) so you can see them if you are out for a walk in the neighborhood and heading north.

At the front everyone walking by can see what we call Milane’s red poppy, as it grew in her garden when she was alive and Steve saved the seeds, along with a few Heirloom carnation poppies called, in a name that matches their show-offy exuberance, French Flounce (from Renee’s Seeds). 


In among the Delos are a couple of very flouncy in their own way, but much more ostentatiously modest, frilly Shirleys

more like the Victoria Secrets of the poppy world

I have had more conversations with neighbors in this time of lockdown than ever before, and all the conversations are about the garden. People do venture out from their homes to walk, generally being vigilant about keeping a safe distance. Because the nature strip is developed with plants and bushes people have the sensation of actually walking through the garden, of being enveloped by a variety of sensations, especially at the moment, because of the sweet peas and roses. One elderly couple paused to look around and the man grudgingly asked, How do you ever find anything in here? But the woman told me how much she loved passing through. The colors! she said, Oh and the smells, and she squished up her nose, sniffing, reminding me of my dear departed cat, Elvis

who would patrol the garden everyday smelling every plant

even ones that seemed to me to have no scent or to be unpleasantly stinky

Another woman told me, yours is my favorite garden in the neighborhood. Then she added, No, in the world! The world, for everyone, has really shrunken in this time of sheltering in place. So for us, the neighborhood IS our world. For those who can venture out that is. For others it is much more restricted, frightening, and without the pleasure of distracting sensations. My hope is that this blog might reach not just my gardening friends but gardeners I don’t know and even more, people who do not have access to gardens or space. So if those of you who read this blog could forward the link to one other person I’d be most appreciative

Last night Jeffrey put together the remainder of my (predominantly) veg and bean stew with the left-over mashed potato from my gnocchi dish to make a sort of shepherd’s pie, which he served up with an orange salad (oranges from Eleanor) with daikon, cabbage, and cucumber. 

4 thoughts on “French Flounce. Thursday, April 30, 2020

  1. Oh John, how lovely to see you here! Am following your work on the Botanic Garden on SD Gardener and so looking forward to visiting and seeing the changes in person.

  2. Your friend Eleanor (writers group members) your blog; it’s as lovely and fun as she said! Thx.
    A fellow gardener and writer,
    Barbara Bolton Brown
    Hope I’m now subscribed.

  3. Hi Barbara, glad to meet you and i do believe you are subscribed. tell me if you don’t get alerts (still learning how to blog …)

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