Sunday, July 31, 2011

White Hibiscus: Physical Representation of My Inferiority Complex

Do you have a plant in your garden that, when you look at it, you almost get embarrassed that you grow it?  For me that's my big gaudy white hibiscus.

I am always fascinated by how things going on in my garden are such tangible representations of what's going on in my head.  What's going on in my life.

The flowers on this hibiscus are around 10 inches wide.  From a distance they look like plates on a plant, so sturdy you could pop them off and use them as Frisbees.  But when you look closely at the blooms you notice the delicate crisp white ripples that draw your eyes to the center which you only notice is pink when you're face to face with the bloom.  The bloom flutter when the wind blows like the edges of a light cotton summer dress.  When you touch them it's clear they're very delicate.  But boy do command attention!  When you walk by there is absolutely no way not to notice them.  Sometimes I gasp when I see them myself, even though I know they've been in the same spots for 3 years.  I have one planted in the backyard so that I can see it from the kitchen window and one is planted in the front yard garden for the passers by to admire.

In general, I walk around trying not to be noticed.  I've definitely got an inferiority complex and body image issues.  I know it goes beyond weight because the times in my life where I've been much thinner and very fit I loved to shop for stylish clothes and although I loved the way I felt in them, I hated for people to notice me, or my clothes.  "That outfit looks really amazing on you!"  I'd cringe, roll my eyes and launch into pointing out the bad parts of the outfit or my body that may have gone unnoticed.  When the conversation was over, I'd walk away smiling, but with the same tape playing in my head.  Idiot!

The hibiscus evokes the exact same response.  Coneflower, black-eyed susan, shasta daisy, snapdragons, BIG GAUDY HIBISCUS!

Nobody has ever visited my garden while the hibiscus is blooming and not commented on it.  And when they do, I am catapulted back to that place inside me that likes pretty things but doesn't like the attention.  I'm on autopilot, rambling, pointing out all the flaws in my garden, how the hibiscus really doesn't belong here.  It comes from the same place as those "I am not worthy" feelings.  And when I walk away I'm playing the same tape in my head as before.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

On Being Like Bindweed

I know there is peace and solitude out there but I can't see it for the bindweed blanketing the garden right now.  It's symbolic of the regular maintenance needed to fully experience life.  And how neglect keeps you from enjoying it.  I sneak through my garden on the way to my car feeling like the plants are staring at me and I'm somebody in dark glasses hoping not to be recognized.  I water when I have to, quickly, trying to notice which variety of tomato is starting to turn pink without reaching into the bed to look at the label.  I have no right to be that close. I am like a man trying to steal a glance at a pretty girl without anybody noticing. 

I'm in a dark place these days.  More inward.  I'm disconnected from you...from everything and everyone that isn't an absolute necessity.  I wish I could go off some place and pretend like I don't exist for a while.  To be able to go as deep inside myself as I need to and for as long as I need to figure things out.  I don't mean to seem like I'm in the same negative vortex I've complained about before.  It's just that I am realizing if you can get deep enough inside your own head, it's a pretty peaceful place.  There's clarity in there.  And energy and healing.  And I need more of that right now.  I have let the stress of life cripple me and make me sick and I'm just trying to fix it. But I do worry about the collateral damage.  It's a vicious cycle I have always struggled with, focusing on one thing while the other gets neglected and becomes its own source of stress. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I wish I was more like the bindweed.  A fierce competitor refusing to go down without a fight.  It is efficient and beautiful, growing fast and effortlessly. No matter the conditions, it gets by.  Without fail, its delicate white flower opens every morning, its vines crawl along the the garden not caring what goes on around it.  And when I have ferociously yanked every visible piece of it out, it does not get discouraged because its very deep roots give it the foundation to persevere.  It simply does what it does, keeping with the rhythm of life, maintaining its focus, growing.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Dark Side of Homegrown Salad Greens

me: "Hi, this is Gina, how may I help you?"
me: "Why? What's wrong?" (I am only moderately concerned)
me: "Hmmmm...really?  That sucks. I'm surprised it survived the washing and fridge overnight."
me:  Silence. I know what's coming...

I washed it.  Three times!  I swear!  I have this technique of washing my homegrown salad greens where I put them in the salad spinner and fill the bowl with cold water and let them sit for a few minutes.  You know, so the bugs will drown and float to the top.  I do that three times and usually it works.  God!  I have run across some crazy shit in those salad greens.  I am particularly creeped out by earwigs so when they crawl out of the salad greens onto my hand while I'm picking them or washing them it's all I can do not to scream bloody murder.  My goal is to remain calm so as not to alert my husband who is even more creeped out by bugs in the garden than I am.  It is hard enough to get him to eat the food I grow after he watches squirrels and rabbits frolicking amongst the food but bugs that survived the cleaning process?  Forget it.

I have written about my husband's pest issues before.  How he used to keep a pile of rocks by the back door of the 2nd floor two flat apartment we rented.  He'd put a couple in his pocket in case he encountered a squirrel in the yard on the way to the train in the mornings.  In his defense, the squirrels were very aggressive, probably because the folks next door fed them all manner of food right out of their kitchen.  We once found a partially eaten hot dog with a bun on our back porch which we assumed had been dragged up there by a squirrel.  And then there's the time he accidentally ran over the baby rabbits with the lawn mower. He left the lawn mower sitting in the middle of the yard and refused to mow the grass for 3 years.  I was content paying for the service because they helped me weed the garden, too.  But then they "weeded" my strawberries, so I fired them.  And the next ones "weeded" an expensive Autumn Moon Japanese Maple and some other nice plants so I fired them, too.  I digress.

I'm making light of it here but bugs and animals in the garden are just part of the organic home garden.  I wish somebody would tell me how to wash my salad greens in a manner that would remove 100% of bugs 100% of the time.  Or how to convince my husband that a bug or a squirrel in the garden isn't the end of the world. That just because grocery store salad comes in a nice clear crispy plastic bag doesn't mean it's really clean or safe.  I guarantee we'll never get e. coli from my homegrown salad greens!

me: "J says to tell you that you can either deal with an occasional bug in your salad or a lifetime of pesticide"
him: "I'll take the pesticide"

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Squirrels Love the Washtub and Marigolds!

There's no good way to say this but my wash tub as a container garden isn't going well.  I expected the bindweed to be a problem because, well, every inch of my dirt is contaminated with bindweed.  What I wasn't really expecting was that it would be such a squirrel magnet.

I direct sow a lot of seeds in my garden, especially lettuce.  I don't have a picture of it but I had excellent germination of the three seeds (marigold, basil and lettuce) I sowed in this container but ever since they sprouted, the squirrel basically been camped out in there.  I am pretty sure it has eaten every single marigold and basil seedling, only leaving a little of the lettuce.  Aren't marigolds supposed to stink?  Hence why you plant them with tomatoes so they'll keep the pests away?  Or did I dream that?  It's not just that the seedlings were young succulent microgreen squirrel goodness either.  I started other marigolds indoors and transplanted them into my vegetable garden after they were several inches tall and the squirrels ate all of them except one plant which is now blooming, thankfully.  Flash of genius! Genetically engineered squirrels that love bindweed!

It's unfortunate but I think I'm going to need to clean the weeds out, replant the seeds and cover it with some ugly screen until the plants are big enough to be a little more unappealing to squirrels.  I tell ya, these are the types of things that make round-up and BB guns appealing.  I'm just sayin.

I'm growing with the SeedGROW project. Thanks to Reenes Garden for the seeds.