My readers haven’t heard much from me lately. I confess that, in this beautiful part of the year, the garden has exerted a stronger pull on me than the study and the computer.
There’s always the potential for chaos in the garden, And I’m the sort of gardener who proceeds as much by accident as by advanced planning anyway. I may form a kind of overall plan with the garden: potting bench there, table space here, vegetable garden in a sunny corner, bench to enjoy the whole thing from, and so forth. But the plants that fill it out are a chance combination of things already here when we moved in, things that commanded my attention at the nursery, starts from my sister Wanda’s garden, and things other people have brought as gifts or as refugees.
The refugees are a particular challenge. Some of them were generated right here, when we found we had to dig up and replace an irrigation line, for example, or when we needed to move things back from the fence while our neighbors built a new studio in place of the old one. Some of them may have been put back into the ground, but in the wrong place. Others have been in pots much longer than they like. I spent a lot of time in September rectifying some of those problems.
And just as I began feeling that I was actually getting the better of the chaos, our friend Scott announced that he would be moving to Phoenix and that his sizable collection of balcony plants would be needing a new home. Yes, a new troop of refugees. I do not, of course, equate my plant refugees with the great suffering of people whom the terrible troubles of recent years have forced out of their homes (and for whom I offer them what support I can through Episcopal Relief and Development). But my own dealings with the plant refugees certainly gives me a new respect for all the people who labor to find shelter and food for the displaced and who are getting new refugees before they can get the previous ones on their feet.
In my case, the initial challenge has been met more quickly than I expected—with a lot of help from Jon. The trove of plants included two princess flower trees, which came in as not much more than nubs because it was the only way to get them out of Scott’s apartment. One is still in its pot and can wait for a while; the other needed immediate attention.
By great good fortune, I had emptied out a bed of small agaves—beautiful plants that I had brought back from Tucson long ago but which proved far too aggressive to be housed with anything else. And it ought to be a good spot for a small tree like this, which can contribute beautiful purple blooms much of the year. One has to hope, of course. It certainly doesn’t look like much just now:
There were also some clivias, whose deep green, strap-shaped leaves want shade—something our garden is short on. Part of them went to another friend, Sue, who lives on the edge of the woods. Part went into the ground under an old apricot tree that keeps company with an oakleaf hydrangea; their orange flowers should be very welcome in the spring:
The remainder went into a couple of pots sheltered from the sun by the eaves of the shop:
In the meantime, some old-timers are putting on a nice show, including a Sedum sieboldii with its soft pink flowers and gray green leaves:
and an angel-wing begonia that has to be at least thirty years old:
Maybe the best summing up of it all is what I have recently gathered together as “the citrus grove.” The mandarin I bought years ago with some gift money. It got very confused in the drought and is bearing its fruit at an odd time this year. The Meyer lemon is just recovering from a serious attack of scale. The little cumquat, in full bloom, is another refugee—from our friend Eric. And the odd spindly one on the right is The Unknown Citrus, planted by an office prankster in a pot of dracaena that sat on Jon’s desk at work for years. We have no idea what it will turn out to be—quite possibly something inedible—but curiosity is a powerful motivation.
As you can see from the rubble around the pots. We’re still in the midst of getting things sorted out. Not that I expect that process will ever really get finished.