Thursday, June 8, 2017

Garden of Dreams

Gardening is one of our favorite outdoor sports. When we were growing up everyone we knew had a garden, large or small for fresh vegetables in the summer. They were called Victory gardens during WWII and their purpose was both to feed the immediate family and to aid the war effort by diverting commercially grown food stuffs to feed our troops overseas.
    Corn, beans, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, and potatoes were the major family garden crops. Vegetables that could either be canned or stored for winter consumption. Today it's hard to imagine a time when one couldn't go to the supermarket or produce market to purchase selections from countless rows of perishables regardless of the time of year.
   At that time flowers with the exception of marigolds, which deterred bugs were an extravagant personal indulgence except for a few daylilies, peonies, and roses left over from days before the war that became treasured spots of color around the house.
   The photo above is one of those flowers. People have seen the wild orange daylily growing in terrible soil, it is one of our most durable native wild flowers. As their name implies each bloom is only for one day.  My mother grew the one pictured above, which is not a single petal bloom, but a quadruple with four sets of petals in the same bloom. Her start was given to her by a relative when my parents bought their home. It is a 'sport', an accident of nature from the common wild daylily, that reproduces profusely and has traveled many miles among family and friends.
   Now for many, a couple of tomato plants still retain a place in our tiny gardens that are devoted to flowers to have something blooming all summer. The urge to garden is still with us, but space and time are limited so we indulge in beauty. Catalogs tempt us right after the first of year as we dream, turn down pages, and envision all of those marvelous plants blooming in our garden.
   Spring brings hundreds of offerings to the gardening centers and we walk for miles admiring the lovely flowers.  These have been forced and we're careful to purchase only those that have limited bloom because we want the flowering to be in our garden not in the greenhouse. Instant color is soon gone.

   This past winter was unusual, we lost plants we've had for years, but had Dusty Miller, which is an annual survive. Only a few of our azaleas and rhododendrons bloomed, but the bushes have sent out strong spurts of new growth so we can look forward to next year.
   We haven't noticed any change in the weed production. They continue to grow faster than we can remove them so they don't bloom to produce more seed to lie in wait for years to plague the gardener.
   We're two people, our days of cooking for a crowd are long gone as is our time of a large truck garden. Old habits die hard, but when we shop the produce stalls we try to be careful to buy small quantities so it can be used before it spoils. Sometimes this is difficult as a package of brussel spouts goes a long way, thank heavens they keep better than most fresh vegetables.
   I've often wondered what happens to all the left over truck that isn't sold when it passes the 'to be sold by date.' It's no secret that everyday enough food to feed a small size city is thrown away in the United States. It isn't even ground up to make compost to replenish the soil of organic farms or used to feed the chickens or slop the hogs as was the practice of our parents and thrifty farmers who collect town over production.
Nash Black, author of Forged Blade. Coming soon.


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