Sunday, April 17, 2005

"Glory Be To God For Dappled Things..."

We interrupt this blog for a little partisan horticultural lobbying.

I love fancy-leaved geraniums. They are a product of the Victorian age, and reflect the busy, colorful aesthetic of that era. Their flowers tend to be simple and not that spectacular -- most of the visual interest is in the multicolored leaves. Surprisingly, a couple of gardening venues around here, as well as the gift shop of a large public garden located within reasonable driving distance, offer a few varieties of fancy-leaved geraniums; so I try to have one or two pots of them around here in the summertime. Unlike those unkillable, happy-to-be-neglected red zonal geraniums that some people keep going on their windowsills for years, fancy-leaved geraniums are prima donnas -- they need more water and less sunlight, and are more susceptible to disease and plain ol' failure to thrive. (Sort of like an overwrought Victorian lady, lying there upon her chaise lounge, hand upon her brow, sipping her Lydia Pinkham's.) That weakness, and their fussy appearance, contributed to fancy-leaved geraniums falling out of favor with gardeners for several generations. But -- gosh darn -- they're so pretty. They're always a featured plant in my fantasy, if-I-won-the-Lotto greenhouse.

Because of deer predation, I've completely given up on in-the-ground gardening at my house. (My one ill-fated attempt at Internet romance imploded when, after the local deer herd utterly destroyed my vegetable garden -- reduced my lovely rows of beans and tomatoes to bare nubbins sticking out of the ground-- I opined in a dejected e-mail to my new friend that as far as I was concerned the only good use for deer was as a source for venison tenderloin, with perhaps some nice wild mushrooms and garlic mashed potatoes on the side. Turns out that my correspondent was a militant vegan whose philosophy of non-violence toward sentient beings did not extend to omnivorous humans. Well, alrighty then.) So container gardening is what I do. And that's all right. It's like haiku; the limitations of the medium impose a creative discipline that can result in some nice flower and foliage combinations.

I haven't been in a gardening mood at all this spring, but after spending some time outside raking this afternoon I started getting the bug again; wanted to get my hands in some good, humus-y black dirt and plant something. If you feel that way too, consider some fancy-leaved geraniums. Posted by Hello


LutheranChik said...

I was looking for a certain Marge Piercy poem about the pornography of seed catalogs, LOL, that I was going to include here, but I just can't find's another earthy gardening poem of Piercy's.

bls said...

Mmmm. The daffodils are all out here now - it's been 75+ degrees for the past two days. The Viburnum is starting to bloom, too - my favorite of all, with the most sweet-smelling blossoms in the whole world. The Butterfly bush is starting to bud, too.

And the Clematis I planted last fall lived through the cold winter and is growing like crazy. I've got the deer problem, too, but this is just little so far and nobody's noticed it. But now I'm worried and am going to go net it.

It's all very nice, isn't it? I got a Certificate in Landscape Design last year and hope I can start doing something with that pretty soon. I've been teaching my little 4-year-old neighbor the names of all the plants in Latin, so that's something. (She's pretty good, too!)

LutheranChik said...

Bls, you are performing an important public service -- it is never too early to learn either Latin or botany! (Speaking as a former dinosaur aficionado, who also had a "fun aunt" who'd take me tromping through her pasture and woods and teach me the names of all the wildflowers.)

We have had a late spring here...would you believe that there were still pussy willows in bud here last week? But the daffs have come up here too now, and today especially things have greened out. (Waiting excitedly for the warbler migration through our neighborhood, which happens around this time of year.) I have a clematis too...actually my dad planted it many years ago...but it just isn't happy, and I don't know where to transplant it.

Funny story about deer: Many years ago I made the acquaintance of a couple of women who run an ecofeminist, eclectically ecumenical women's retreat center -- very Matthew Fox -- out in the woods of western Michigan. They wanted to live off the grid and low on the food chain as much as possible, so when I was hanging out with them they were trying to grow a lot of their own food, and of course their local deer kept eating it all. At some point they began reading "Kinship With All Life" and other books about the human-animal connection, and decided that they were going to try kything with the deer -- going out into the woods, addressing the deer, explaining the problem and asking the deer to please leave their vegetables alone. (If you knew these women...they were so spiritual and sincere, you wanted to believe too.;-)) Anyhow, they did this; they talked to the deer, and said, "We really need these vegetables to live on, and we can't eat a lot of the other things around here that you can eat, so we'd appreciate it if you'd eat those things instead" -- and the deer promptly ravaged their garden again. They wound up installing an electric fence. I KNEW this was going to happen...but I still felt really bad. City people getting their hearts broken and idealism assaulted out in the happens.