Saturday, March 15, 2008

Remembering seeds

Because of the instant garden culture by which I am surrounded professionally, where pleached beech hedges, 8 foot tall, are shipped from Europe to be planted on New York rooftops, mature trees are craned up to terraces, and perennials are bought in a fit of kid-in-a-candy-store-ness at nurseries, just as they burst into their seasonal best, because of all this I-can-pay-for-it-so-I can-have-it-ness, this you-mean-it-takes-time-to-grow???-ness, I have forgotten about seeds.

I went to my hardware store on Smith Street to buy some potting soil (I confess, it's Miracle-Gro, so basically Speed for plants, but as Bob, my counsellor and advisor in all things drug-related, tells me, drugs sure can make you feel good, and my plants agree. I fed MG to my roses mid-season last year and kerpow! Big flowers. It was a sobering experience. But I digress). So I had my bag of soil and then I saw...seeds! I remember these, I thought.

My mom grew everything from seed. I don't even remember a nursery in Bloemfontein, though there must have been one, surely. Where did the trees and shrubs come from? Hm. Question To Ask Parent. She had black plastic seedtrays and grew all her annuals (spring, summer, autumn)and perennials this way, or from cuttings, thinning them out, transplanting into beds...I saw everything from start to finish, and did the same in my own little bed behind the house.

I was shocked, when I first worked for the Chelsea Garden Center, may it rot in peace, by the Instant Garden. I even looked down my nose at it. Selling annuals and perennials only in bloom: how superficial! But I caught on quickly enough.

So, looking at these seeds today I suddenly remembered, rocket! or, for Americans, arugula! Found a packet. And another of mezuna, or mustard greens. My gardening space is extremely limited: I have two zinc baths that usually hold herbs (thyme and parsley) and for this early season, when one craves to plant something, anything, they will be my salad bar. There was no parsley, that will be planted later, and the thyme I moved to a smaller terra cotta pot.

So, in 66 square feet this Saturday:

One New Dawn rose, with prickly canes 10 feet long, transplanted. It must have weighed 150 lbs. Sorry Mommy. I had to pick it up. I'll stretch. It was a mission.

One overgrown chive repotted. Their roots go crazy.

One thyme, divided and transplanted.
One zinc bath cleaned out and sown with mustard greens.
Manymany leaves picked up off gravel floor.
One mint plant rescued from gravel, trimmed and replanted.

Three peanuts in their shells unearthed, forgotten by the squirrel.
Two mushy lily bulbs discovered and tossed.
Many found strong and intact.
Two earthworms moved from soil under gravel to pots.
Self-sown violet discovered in Estorbo's green patch in the corner.

So, to the tune of the dishwasher polishing its load, Ella Fitzgerald singing Mamma Come Home, accompanied by a glass of Kanonkop, a cracker with tarama, to the scent of lamb chops in the oven cooking with anchovies and rosemary, I go into Saturday night happier and more sore than into Friday's.

Everyone should have a garden.


  1. You write beautifully about the culture of seed - guess I'm also pretty much part of the instant generation. I am Amazed and slightly Envious about how much you get done on one day! Puts me to shame: I have more than a dozen plants standing around for months, now half dead, waiting to be planted somewhere. And wild areas, and too dry spots, and a thirsty orange tree, borer beetle in the olive and a tidal wave of Asystasia coming towards the house.
    Sometimes my garden gives me energy and enjoyment, and sometimes it's just a drain...

  2. The tidal wave sounds scary! Well, you have a Big Garden...

    But you can also retreat to it with a nice glass of wine and just water the ornage tree, :-)


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