Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Guess what? Change is constant.

Plants grow larger. They want more space.

Every morning, if the weather looks okay (I trust wunderground, generally) I carry manifold trays, six-packs, and red party cups full of plants outside onto the new deck our handyman built last month.

I dip a coffee cup into the accidental rain barrel I made when I shoved this red plastic bin directly under a clogged gutter pipe. It's heavy with rainwater, which I hope I can trust, that's rolled off the roof. I thought I'd store extra soil in the bin, but the natural world/architecture/happenstance thought otherwise, and now I have a really easy source of water. I pour lazy heaping amounts onto my seedlings, hoping to hydrate them thoroughly enough for a long day of sun, wind, and other uncontrollable conditions.

Then I hop the deck fence with a sort of swinging self-launch I've perfected over the past week, and I carry each tray out onto the roof. I was hesitant to bring the plants all the way out here, thinking it would be too much work, but every morning I get some pretty serious satisfaction from the repetition: water, swing-launch, step step step, place the tray down. Walk back to the deck, swing back over the railing, and repeat. It builds a little internal heat, and involves almost no mental activity = perfect for morningtime.

When I'm finished, I stand up on the edge of the roof and monitor my little dog, Govinda, as he wanders around below. I spend a minute thinking about all the things that need to happen in our veggie garden out back, and the finishing touches the chicken coop needs before the long-awaited feathered ones arrive (on Sunday, cross yr fingers please). Then I realize I'm still wearing sweatpants, and I turn and launch myself back over the railing and into the day.

At night, they all come back in. Every day more big and green, or shriveled and dead, or windblown or new-leafed. All inevitable results in the life of a little green plant in a constant state of change.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sun and moon, sun and moon...

"... time goes. In Mrs. Smith's garden, crocuses break the crust. Daffodils and narcissi unpack their trumpets. The reviving grass harbors violets, and the lawn is suddenly coarse with dandelions and broad-leaved weeds. Invisible rivulets running brokenly make the low land of the estate sing. The flowerbeds, bordered with bricks buried diagonally, are pierced by dull red spikes that will be peonies, and the earth itself, scumbled, stone-flecked, horny, raggedly patched with damp and dry, looks like the oldest and smells like the newest thing under Heaven. The shaggy golden suds of blooming forsythia glow through the smoke that fogs that garden while Rabbit burns rakings of crumpled stalks, perished grass, oak leaves shed in the dark privacy of winter, and rosebud prunings that cling together in infuriating ankle-clawing clumps. These brush piles, ignited soon after he arrives, crusty-eyed and tasting coffee, in the midst of the webs of dew, are still damply smoldering when he leaves, making ghosts in the night behind him as his footsteps crunch on the spalls of the Smith driveway. All the way back to Brewer in the bus he smells the warm ashes.

"Funny, for these two months he never has to cut his fingernails. He lops, lifts, digs. He plants annuals, packets the old lady gives him--nasturtiums, poppies, sweet peas, petunias. He loves folding the hoed ridge of crumbs of soil over the seeds. Sealed, they cease to be his. The simplicity. Getting rid of something by giving it. God Himself folded into the tiny adamant structure. Self-destined to a succession of explosions, the great slow gathering out of water and air and silicon: felt without words in the turn of the round hoe-handle in his palms."

   - from Rabbit, Run by John Updike, a novel of winter into summer, of immense natural beauty and horrible inevitable human error. This passage reminds me so directly of this particular week of this particular spring we're having right now, or maybe of a week we'll have very soon.

Friday, April 11, 2014


Get up, turn on plant lights. Make coffee. Stare at plants; thin as needed, drinking coffee. Water.

Go to work. Think about plants.

Come home. Stare at plants. Make notes. (Has any new green emerged? What's not growing? Why isn't it growing?) Think about the benefits of talking to plants. Find tongue tied; hum genially at plants.

Hang out. Update friends on plants' status. Turn off plant light. Go to bed.


A lot of these February babies are getting their true leaves, now. The first adorable leaflets, called cotyledons, are beginning to yellow and fade. But every variety is different, and there are 26 varieties of flowers growing slowly under fluorescence here.

In truth, a few of them aren't going anywhere. They'll be beautiful phantoms I'll have to imagine, like Black Knight delphiniums and Early Grey larkspur. Sigh. But others are so plentiful I'll never be able to grow them all.

Goldfinger tithonia. Las Vegas gomphrena. Only the Lonely nicotiana. Empress of India nasturtium. Psyche White cosmos. Tiger's Eye sunflower. Goooood names. 

Sweet peas at attention. Future groundhog food, if I'm not careful. 

As a result of the current glut, knock-on-wood (in cosmos, zinnias, celosia, amaranth, and more), I'll be hosting a tiny seedling sale at some point in the next month. Maybe on my stoop. Do you want a six-pack of Troy-grown flower babies? They've been lovingly hummed at! If so, stay tuned.