Thursday, April 26, 2012

High Spring, Quasi-Miracles and Variegated Solomons Seal

Not my garden, just a gate I passed.

Ahhh--High Spring

 Post 35                  

Variegated Solomon's Seal & Tulips

Sometime in the spring, late April or May, you look at the garden and wonder, how has this happened? How does this fresh, sweet (for it smells of lilac, lily of the valley, and later, roses ) lushness of High Spring happen?  How can the piddling amount of work a human can do translate into this? And something fills up inside of you because no amount of work could turn into this. There is something like a miracle going on here that has nothing to do with work. For all that work is doing is giving a little goose to the quasi-miracle.         
  I am writing this while watching "Dancing with the Stars." I am a sucker for dancing and enjoy the dance routines. But slowing down the fun  is a competitive drama, replete with tearful protestations of hard work, full commitment and being in this to win/triumph/dominate. 
No one would argue that work is utterly necessary for great dancing. or great anything. But what exactly is this work?  Maybe on one level it is a privilege, a chance to participate in the real miracle: the miracle of  a healthy human body fully realizing its grace, beauty and balance.                                                                                                                                                      Now look at this flower on the left. It is dancing, its arms extended, its legs poised, its beaming head turned upward towards us, the audience. It is a part of nature just as we are part of nature, and nature is economical in how she creates her abundance. The same principles come into play. And Nature has more principles up her extended sleeve than just competition.                                                                                                                                                

Some say we are more than we know, just as any garden is more than what we can do. What plays in nature plays in us, allowing us to work just hard enough to feel as if we have helped make a part of the garden's beauty.

What powers my garden work? Love. And at High Spring I feel as if I can smell, taste and apprehend that love coming back to me in physical form. Within the year's cycle, it is as if here is where nature figures reciprocating love.

Variegated Solomon's Seal, Forget-me-Nots, Tulips, Adjuga, Grass
From little often comes much. Great things do not just come from competition, though that is the message our culture sends. Great things also come from cooperation, open communication and inspiration, especially if they are powered by real love. It is love in the garden that makes for what I call the Amended Golden Rule -- "if I were that individual member of a particular life-form, how would I want/need to be treated in order to properly flourish."  This is what allows lives to develop into their best true being. Without these glorious spring weeks, we might forget the peace and wholeness that the best really signifies.

Competition can be brutal and brutalizing. It can stamp out what is best in people as they pursue a limiting goal. It can breed anxiety, insecurity, depression and various partial escapes, especially addictions.

But if we are more than we can know; if we are more than what we can do--then there is more to the story. Gardening can lead us out of the ego's competitive trap. And it is good to learn wisdom firsthand,  through the work of your hands and the labor of your heart.

Variegated Solomon's Seal
So--what is this plant to the right? In this post, two of the pictures above also show it, but here it stands alone, an adaptive, easy, beautiful plant for semi-shade with a mighty and mystical name: Varigated Solomon's Seal (aka Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum'.) In legend Solomon's Seal quelled demons with an insignia of the four elements balanced into wholeness. The plant got its name because if you detatch a stem away from its rhizome, you  see an image of the Seal; the Seal being what binds the sun-and-air-processing leaves and stem to the earth-and-water-gathering roots.

Ned Wolfe Park with Variegated Solomon's Seal,Creeping Phlox & Tulips

So here is a sign for High Spring, for balance, peace, wholeness and love. And of course it has variegated leaves as a sign that here on this earth, who of us is not?  And best of all, it plays well with others. Woodland flowers spring up around it in early spring before the trees take leaf. Its graceful flowering curve of small white bells blends in with gaudier tones. Then as summer approaches the other plants loose their flowers and the Solomon's Seal's variegation brightens up the otherwise pure green shade.


How to Solomon's Seal:  It does need some shade and some sun but is not too fussy about the proportion. It needs water, but once established is pretty drought-tolerant and its beautiful leaves usually stay fresh looking all summer. It is said to want good drainage but the large patch in the earlier picture has its feet in fairly compacted clay soil. It will reproduce easily, often at an exponential rate, but can be easily dug up. In short, an excellent plant.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Gardening Spring: Kerria & Tulips

Post 34

What has sprung up this spring? The  picture on the left was taken recently and shows local spring staples like tulips (the bits of color spotted about) and kerria ( the big yellow blob to the left of the birdbath.). Both are common around here because they are easy, and if done well, attractive.

Kerria japonica Golden Guinea:
Here is a picture of a small bit of Kerria just beginning. What I like about this plant is that it can take a fair amount of shade, fills in an awkward time of year (the one between blindingly brassy forsythias and either horribly or gloriously brassy azaleas,) and when done right, is not brassy at all. It is a mellower yellow than forsythia, and naturally grows in a squiggly way. If you let it squig and do not plant it in too solid blocks (or buy the double flowered version, which too my eyes is way too dense,) and cut it back hard right after blooming, you will be rewarded with a woodland plant that spreads just enough to let you easily divide it and use the suckers elsewhere. It will even do some reblooming later in the summer.

Tulipa clusiana:  Here you see kerria with one of my favorite tulips, Lady Tulip. It has a graceful form where the stalk is not overwhelmed by the flower, which shows that it is a species tulips, an old type of tulip that naturalizes easily.  In good conditions can count on it coming back for, well, a lot longer than non species tulips. Carolus Clusius (1526-1609),humanistic botanist,  is supposed to have first brought it to the Netherlands and hence Europe. Give it sun ,water and good drainage. After bloom deadhead most but leave a few to develop seeds, seeds that may end up in places you never expected.

This is a back, utility part of the garden. Yet somehow it has acquired a stray euphorbia and a small Lady tulip. Good surprises are part of what I love about the garden. Sure, you can rip up everything that does not fit with your plans. But why would you want to? Sometimes things turn out better than your plans could have imagined. Next year,  I may try to plant more of this combination of Lady tulip and wood spurge. It works.

Now, while my main investment is in species tulips, I admit to having a hard time passing up the cheap bags of bulbs they sell in the box stores. So if the price is right, I give in, knowing I'm getting tulips good for at best 2 or 3 years.

Here is a bunch in bloom right now. They make me think of the stately tulips in old Dutch still lives. The painterly feathers of red on cream were then the result of a potato blight which caused the color to "break," which made the tulips rare, expensive and the cause of a financial crash that briefly ruined the baroque Dutch economy.  Now, of course, these tulips are not the effects of a blight, but bred to look this way. Still, they are a lovely reminder of how silly humans, and even  whole societies, can be.

From a few years back, these tulips on the left are another of my favorite tulips, but I can not remember what they were called, nor have I seen them again. They were a strong, jubilant pink that fanned  out in ruffled, variegated stripes. They looked good from bud to bloom to falling apart, as they are pictured here. I do hope they turn up again. 

I had a neighbor who once told me that our
contiguous front yards were poisoned, that the soil had been harmed in some way. What he meant was that when he plunked a plant down into said soil's embrace, the plant would die. But it died because he paid no heed to what the plant needed. 

He had dry shade with low pH but he expected plants to grow that needed different, easier conditions.The soil was difficult--all compacted clay riddled with tree roots. But he did not care to improve the structure of the soil with compost or dig out some of the tree roots.  Still, he could not fathom why a plant, a living thing, did not thrive under such stringent conditions.

Anybody can get a plant, but it is care, taking care, that makes a garden. I like kerria because it reminds me of this, just as tulips remind me how silly we humans can be, and how we all need care, all of us, if our lives are to flourish.


How to Kerria: Kerria does well in all but the deepest shade, is not fussy about soil type and has the main drawback of growing like Topsey. So cut it back hard after blooming and in the spring or fall, dig up and transplant any suckers to where you want more of it. Because you will want more of it.             

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Resurrection: Night and Day

Post 33

Resurrection: An easy, yet not easy concept to grasp.

What would it be like to be resurrected into a new life where everything was the same, but different. Different in a fully-embodied, liberated, amazing way, better than your best dream, on the edge of unimaginable.

What would the moment before resurrection be like?

What would death be like?

We do not, cannot know.

But life we can somewhat know.  And new life we can guess at, imagine, perhaps even experience for blessed instances within our present mortality. Instances that are an earnest of a greater, deeper reality from which we have come, and to which we go. Ancient poets have written of the tears in things, but sometimes I feel as if there is a greater happiness just beating within all things, just waiting for the joy that is theirs, and ours, truest inheritance of all.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Wissahickon Style V, or Who will Spring for Spring Bank?

Post 32

Ahhh, Spring. Spring forward. Spring out. Usually once a year... unless you have a an actual spring stream running through your property..

Somewhere out there is a local history buff with a mere extra million burning a hold in her or his pocket. One who needs an interesting house where the kids get their own space, yet is intimate enough for a normal size family. One who wants a house with a bit of soul to it.

A peaceful place, with its own creek,with an extra lot of wilderness that can be gardened or, perhaps built on later. Maybe a small Green cottage to retire in, while the next generation takes over the main house. A house part colonial, part late Victorian,  part recent, sensitive renovations.

It  even has its own ruins-- two stone, spring houses, one of which houses what must be the most tastefully situated Jacuzzi ever. There is even a hook half-hidden in the stone for your towel, if you feel you need it. For notice the porch stairs on your left, you can spring back into the house without anyone the wiser.

So, why buy a McMansion when you can hang out where colonial Rittenhouses, Poe, lunatics, Frank Furness (his being the addition,) and the gentleman  who commissioned the "Toleration" statue in Fairmont Park, have hung out?

Did a mention that, besides this view, this wonder also includes a sleeping porch, a breakfast porch, a house-long glassed-in winter garden and a house-long open porch? A walled garden? A servants' back staircase so sunny and glossy you could sit there and read all day? A dining room fireplace mantel of King of Prussia marble? Did you know there -was- King of Prussia marble?

Sold?  I hope so. You will get your money's worth and more on this one. If so, contact the broker:

Loretta C. Witt, CRS, GRI Associate Broker
Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors 14 West Evergreen Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19118
office 215-247-3750 direct line 215-248-6522

P.S. If you google Spring Bank you will see the price listed as as $1,200.000. I believe it is now closer to a million. And no, I am not related to anyone involved with this, nor am I getting (nor want) any incentive for writing this post. I just think this property is part of what makes this part of the world such an interesting, beautiful and meaningful bit of earth, and would like to see it tended by an appreciative hand.

For old pictures of how Spring bank once looked, check out the Library Company's photo Here and some from the Univ. of Penn., Here