Saturday, June 27, 2009

ready, aim, fire

One of our goals this summer is to do more stuff together. Michael will come foraging with me and I'll try shooting with him. Two weeks ago we signed up for a mushroom walk; turns out the website listed the wrong place so we were thwarted (along with 10 other eager mycophiles). This morning we had perfect weather as we headed to the rifle range. Michael was going to show me how to shoot his 22 Marlin.

In my first year at camp I won a sharp shooter award for BBs. True, that was 40 years ago. But I had a feeling I might be good at this. I was. And I really liked it.

A few years ago Michael got into archery. He liked the way it slowed him down, helped him relax, get centered. I don't care much about slowing down. I suppose I should, but the truth is, I enjoy my fast paced pace.

While I don't strive for relaxation through marksmanship, I do admire and appreciate skill. I also enjoy the learning process, the striving, the getting better at something that isn't easy, that not everyone can do. Hitting a bullseye is damned satisfying.

(I was going for a head cluster and a heart cluster.)

Will I be buying a game license this fall? No. If I were starving, I might hunt as a last resort, but otherwise the thought of pulling the trigger on an animal is unbearable. Couldn't do it. Will I continue going to the rifle range with Michael? You bet your sweet gopher-shaped target I will!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

seduction: a gardener succumbs

If I were a proper Victorian gardener I would blush with shame. Shame at how I have succumbed to seduction. Seduction by the lush, the fragrant, the I-want-to-dive-in-and-bury-myself-in-its-petals...the peony!

I'm not a fan of the merely pretty flower. I need more: multiple seasons of interest, tasty fruit, edible foliage. When we moved into our house in PA the first things I dug up and gave away were four peonies. The idea of an old-fashioned, traditional flower didn't appeal to me. No, I wasn't high, I'd simply never grown peonies before. Never sunk my nose deep into the the silky softness of the too-numerous-to-count petals. Never lost myself inside the corolla, pushing deeper into the center of the bloom to brush against the velvety yellow stamens. To truly appreciate this flower, you've got to give yourself over completely.

Sure, I could tell you Paeonia hybrids are sun-loving perennials, hardy to Zone 3. They grow to be approximately 3 feet wide and 2.5' tall. Leaves are alternate, sometimes lobed, with elliptical to lanceolate leaflets. Peony flowers are 3-6" wide, in shades of red, pink, and white. They may be single or double and are always fragrant. They grow best in well-drained, fertile soil and flower most proliferously in full sun. (Even in partial sun you'll get several worthwhile blooms.) Peonies make an excellent cut flower. They should be divided in late summer, making sure to plant the crown 1" below the soil surface.

That's the run-down I give my students in Spring Perennials at the NYBG. But what does it REALLY tell you? Does it tell you even the back of the flower is beautiful? Does it tell you you can lose yourself in the abundant layers of each individual bloom? Does it tell you once you've grown a peony you can never be without them?

There are certain things you can only learn through experience, and peony appreciation is one of those things. I urge you to give in. You're going to thank me.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, June 6, 2009

father of our kitchen garden

Last Friday morning I had the privilege of strolling through the gardens of Mount Vernon before they opened to the public. Courtesy of the Garden Writers Association I was inside the gates at 6 am, when the light is superb and the crowds are nonexistent.

I know most people go to Mount Vernon to see the house, the paintings, the furniture... but I didn't set foot in a single building! The gardens are magnificent, especially the lower (kitchen) garden where vegetables are stunningly arranged amongst fruits, herbs, and edible flowers.

I'm not a fan of the EAT, that is. But they make a lovely ground cover.
can be ornamental:

An amphitheatre of strawberries:
Even a peach (when espaliered) becomes decorative as well as delicious.
Gardeners today talk about the blended garden, one that incorporates edible and ornamental plants into a single garden, both productive and attractive. Hats off to George Washington, the father of our kitchen garden.

Labels: , ,