Drop by Drop

Time is the hidden magic behind every beautiful garden you’ve ever seen.

IMG_9904When you first start a garden, it’s not going to look great. It’s going to look spotty and a bit sad, really. The trick is not to get discouraged but to keep plugging at it, planting a snowdrop from a neighbor here and a columbine from your friend there, dividing anything and everything and redistributing as if you know what you’re doing. For a few years you’ll wonder if maybe you’re just not great at making gardens, then, poof, one May your garden will spring to life. All those plants will suddenly look like they’ve been there forever, lush and thick and trying to outdo each other with flowers, and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll feel the itch to get started on another section of your yard so you can experience the ride all over again.


A Bit Of Earth

This little swath of bulbs is part of my daughter’s garden, a patch of land she claimed at seven years old and has tended for the sixteen years since. Some years it was meticulously cared for, others overgrown and weedy. These days it’s generally the neatest spot on our property.


“Might I have a bit of earth?” is the question posed by ten year old Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden, and it sums up an almost universal longing. To have a bit of earth is to have a sense of belonging, of being part of the world. What I’ve learned from my bit is that ownership doesn’t necessarily mean, ‘this is mine’, but rather, ‘I care for this.’

Let There Be Light

My usual cure for my impatience with early spring – waiting to plant seeds, waiting for seeds to grow – is to buy myself a new houseplant.


Nothing fancy, just a little something  to bring life and color and give me a bit of dirt under my fingernails. Cheap therapy. This year I went with a $4 Pothos. Not my favorite plant in general, but I was drawn to these leaves, which have golden spots that give the impression of being filled with light. Just what I need to get me through mud season.

Victory is Sweet

Last year’s experiment with growing stevia left me intrigued by its sweetness but not sold on its aftertaste.


Happily, cold weather worked its sugar magic last fall and the aftertaste disappeared completely. Results of hanging those cold-snapped leaves to dry are good too, so stevia has now earned a spot in our pantry.

Color Me Surprised

Last year at our local garden club’s sale I bought a plant labeled ‘tall red aster’.


I didn’t know what an aster looked like, but I wanted to add some red to the garden and the price was right. When these started blooming this month it took me a while to put these bright pink flowers together with that tag.

Red or no, they’ve added some nice color to September. They’ve grown about 3 feet tall and are producing a ton of blooms. The foliage is not very attractive, so I’ll be planting something shorter in front to camouflage it a bit. Maybe I’ll find just the thing at next Spring’s plant sale.

Keeping It Fresh

Stevia from the store is a white, powdery product.


Unsurprisingly, fresh stevia looks nothing like that. We came across a plant this spring at a garden center and surreptitiously snipped a leaf to give it a try. It was different than anything we had ever tasted before, which meant it had to come home with us. So far it’s been a novelty plant for us – something I ask everyone who visits to taste – but hasn’t made its way into our diet. It’s sweet, as you’d expect, but then it has a very strange aftertaste, one I’m not sure I quite like. I have some sprigs hanging to dry in the kitchen, so we’ll see how that affects the flavor. Experimenting with new plants is one of my favorite parts of gardening. Some may not grow, others may not be to my taste, but the trying keeps things interesting.

Fly the Coop

There’s something almost alien looking about Hens and Chicks.


It’s lovely in and around rocks, adding great texture to the garden. Chicks are happy to be removed and planted independently, and will then become hens in their own right. After two or three years a hen will flower, signalling the end of its life. By that point it will have produced many chicks, and hopefully meets its demise with the sense of a job well done.

Try, Try Again

In most cases I’m happy to see a flower appear, but when it comes to basil I get busy pinching whenever I see the beginnings of a bud.


The great purpose, from the plant’s perspective, is to flower and set seed. Once that’s accomplished, it dies. My purpose for the basil plants is lots and lots of pesto. I want to extend the life of my plants as long as possible in order to harvest as many leaves as possible. Nipping their flowers sends the message that things didn’t work out, so they’ll keep growing and try again.