Tag Archives: gardening

Heaven Scent

With all the bellyaching I’ve been doing here lately, I feel the least I can do is throw you, my readers, a small bone today. Even if it’s a brittle one. From a less than choice part of the animal. With most of the meat chewed off. And–wow. How do I cross the chasm from that odiferous (and rather odious) metaphor to my far more fragrant subject matter?

With a harebrained compositional leap, that’s how.

It’s lavender season chez nous! Our plant, after a year of looking like a plastic version of its ubiquitous living counterparts, has come out of its cryogenic phase and actually bloomed! It happened almost overnight, and man, does it bring a little cheer to our currently somewhat dour household. I may be feeling barren and over the hill; Mike may be coming up on a hiatus of unknown length; our savings may be about to take a precipitous drop; superbugs may be gaining ground in hospitals across the country; the weather may be Wuthering Heights bleak, but these little blooms, dark purple, statuesque, and ruffled like Spanish ladies of old, bring true satisfaction.

And the smell? Delectable. Particularly in the rain. Maybe every cloud does have a silver lining.

Or at least a purple one.


The Back “Yard,” or, Will the Real Hellhole Please Step Forward

Cement blocks. Iron bars. Peeling paint. Beating sun. An atmosphere of paralysis, fear, quiet despair. No, we’re not at Guantanamo. We’re in my back garden.

In some ways I expect this to be the harder of the two areas to confront. The front yard I must look at. Every. F-ing. Day. I must walk up those steps, past the paperwhites with their vapid expressions and senseless ubiquity. I must brush past the spiderplant tendrils, sons-of-tendrils, and grandsons-of-tendrils, all venturing ever-farther afield in a desperate search for a better garden to live in. I must trade glares with the Tree of Pain. I must wonder, again, when I’ll get around to recovering that overturned pot in the corner. I must, in short, confront my failures. Every day.

The back “yard,” (and I use that term generously) I can avoid for weeks at a time. And, in its current state, why shouldn’t I? “Oh,” people say, “you have outdoor space! How lucky for you!” Yes, I respond. I have outdoor space. So does a feed lot. And yet I doubt the inhabitants there are swooning for joy either.

Enough. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Bottom level. Believe me, it gets worse.

Here’s what you see when you first walk back. The potted plant in the foreground is some sort of drought-resistant grass. It was my first purchase for the garden. I don’t know what to do with it, so it is serving as sentry, there at the entrance, until permanent quarters may be found. Why do I suspect that desertion may be an issue?

Moving upwards. And wishing you weren't.

Behind that, more spider plants, other nameless grasses, a huge stone, and a retaining wall that begs to be covered. Finally, a sunburned aloe plant that takes up the lion’s share of the area. In this back garden it is the kingpin of the insurgency. I only wish I had a drone.

Stairs to left of terraces. Leading upward, unlike my mood.

I don’t even know what to say about this stairway. Maybe with a bunch of potted plants…?

Now the top level. Obviously my elderly predecessor ran out of money before she could get to it. Note the old container of Miracle Gro in the lower right corner? What it was used on is questionable. Possibly the cement. In any event, it’s a museum piece now.

The top level. Or, where all hope goes to die.

There’s a fig tree here, too. Not so bad, except when it’s dropping dying fruit all over the cement and attracting assorted vermin. Oh, and more of the Kafka-esque sprinkler system. Ouch!

Tomorrow’s post: The Kitchen Garden — or, Arsenic in the Carrots AGAIN?

Overview: Left Terraces, Front.

Left Terraces Overview

It starts with good intentions, devolves rapidly into confusion and ends in skin-ripping pain. The front left terraces are much like my first marriage.

If they have a theme it is: thorns. But even that implies more order than is actually here.

The bottom terrace  is composed of our old friends the “paper towels” (paper whites, for those louts who haven’t read the previous posts), various and sundry weeds, and a bastard offspring of the rose bush that was actually planted on the next terrace up.

We Move in Closer, and sigh.

The second terrace is entirely devoted to the aforementioned rose bush, a mediocre sample of the breed if I ever saw one. If this variety has a name it must be “lackluster.” It’s a hardy little feller, though, and seems determined to send its shoots — complete with spent buds — to the moon.

Rose Bush. Clearly related to George W.

What little “gardening” I have done so far I have done here, just whacking this thing back. I dislike roses on principle. They are dull, plebeian things, consuming an abundance of drink and wearing tacky ballgowns, like senseless little prom queens. (Sorry if I offend. It won’t be the last time. )

Anyway. Moving up to the top level we enter the aforementioned “Cape Fear.” Named so both for the ugliness of its visage and the extreme aggressiveness of its chief tenant.

Cape Fear, with "The Tree of Pain" in background

But before we meet him, please take a moment to enjoy the entire mise en scene. The one, scraggly, motheaten geranium. The requisite paperwhites. A nameless weed. A smattering of rose petals. In the far corner a potted jade plant lying discarded on its side, waiting for the horticultural version of a Good Samaritan (good luck).

And then there’s the Tree. Ten feet high or so, it is apparently a rare Japanese Lemon Tree. Very valuable. Very desirable. The fruit so fine, by all accounts, we will weep when we eat it. Which, upon closer inspection, I deem to be an excellent prediction. For the Tree of Pain is adorned — nay, littered — with the longest, sharpest thorns you have ever seen. More vicious spikes I have not encountered outside of a gladiatorium (How do YOU know I’ve never been to one?)

Tree of Pain, genus Daggerus Vicious Maximus.

Agh! And it looks so innocent from far away! Picking lemons from it, let alone pruning it, will be a veritable sea of agony. But we’ll probably never know, because this tree is high on my hit list. For one, it sits on our dearly-paid-for sewer line, for two, it is thirsty. And for three it’s utterly banal in appearance. So it must come down. Eventually.

But for now TOP stands sentinel over our bedroom window, baring its long green fangs and daring anyone to risk full-body lacerations whilst attempting to break in. For that, at least, I am grateful. High-tech home security systems, you are ONE thing we may not have to spend money on right now.

Next post: The Back “Yard,” or, Will the Real Hell Hole please Step Forward?

Meet Thumbstumbler.

The short version: we have lived here for 27 days. We have never owned a home before, either of us. We have very little money. What we had has been spent. The house has a garden. Something must be done with it. Thus here we are.

Actually, the house has two gardens  — such as they are. They are both more or less hellholes. I think this is only a moderate exaggeration. Some may call it an understatement. And yet, they are our hellholes now. (Well, Freddie Mac’s, technically, but unless someone there wants to pick up a hoe I think we’re still on our own.) So I, a stay-at-home mom, consummate underachiever, and highly unlikely horticultural candidate, am going to do something about it. I am not going to hire someone to do it for me, not because I wouldn’t like to — I would like to very much — but because we can’t. So I am here to show how a non-gardener from Brooklyn married to another non-gardener from Detroit turned her household hellholes into drought-resistant, lush, verdant oases for the enjoyment and leisure of her child, her husband, her friends…


Failing that, I at least hope to show how a human herbicide (my husband’s words — thanks, honey) can become something, well, less fatal to the plants around her.  Wanna watch?