Linda Larson is a regular contributor for Roots & Shoots, writing for the monthly column, “Traveling Gardener.” The articles reflect her passion for combining two of her favorite pastimes – travel and gardening. After graduating from Indiana State University with a Master’s degree in Audio/Visual Communications, she went on to make her home in Mesa, AZ, teaching public speaking at Mesa College. Nearing retirement from teaching, she has begun an entirely new career – encouraging audiences to discover the beauty and enjoyment of public gardens at home and in their travels.
What a pot holds. . ..
In my garden there is a large plastic yellow flower pot which I purchased decades ago at the FW Woolworth store. Its survived several moves from house to new house and years of intense heat. Throughout the years its been blown over, pushed around and sometimes ignored. I am amazed it is still intact. (“Benjamin, just one word: plastics.” The Graduate) Even as my garden style evolved a yellow pot w/ a scalloped edge was easily worked into an arrangement of other container plantings. Today it holds a group of succulents and it holds a part of my story.
Garden above the Ocean
Walking in a garden in a different climate with sandy soil expands my view of what a garden can be. Perhaps there is no greater contrast from my garden in the desert to gardens on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. High on a rocky cliff near Ft. Bragg, California the Mendocino Botanical Garden mixes the coastal climate elements of salt air, sandy soil, foggy sky and sun to create magical results. The dew soaks my shoes and moisture climbs up the hems of my jeans as I wander down a path in the early morning. Tiny droplets of water ring the leaves and sparkle as patches of sun break through the sky cover of gray. This doesn’t happen in my desert garden.
The July heat storms in and drives me inside. Putting away my gardening gloves it is time to engage in some fantasy gardening. I imagine a garden where the plants stay in optimum health; the blooms unfold in predictable order of color and quality assured by a perfect feeding schedule and ideal watering. Such a garden is always orderly, where any storm damage is minimized and cleared promptly by industrious garden gnomes. Yes, a fantasy I realize and yet since children may escape the day-to-day world by visiting a magic kingdom why can’t a gardener escape to a magic garden?
Imagining SnowAs the temperature rises and it is too hot for gardening I try all manner of things to help me make it through the months of July and August. I tell myself this is our dormancy period, our non gardening time like the deep winter months in other parts of the country. I try to put my garden records in order noting successful efforts and what to plan for next season. When I am really desperate I pretend my white flowers are snow! Once on a visit to San Diego Botanic gardens as I moved from one shady spot to the next I found in full bloom a plant labeled “snow in summer.” The name just grabbed my attention. Snow! Imagining snow in the garden cooled me down.
Many people think a garden of white flowers is designed to reflect the moonlight yet bright moonlight cooperates for only a brief time each month and what if the moon flowers are not yet in bloom? Compare that to every day imagining white flowers as snow! It could cool our thoughts and inspire memories of cooler times!
Celebrations have to be made, troubles come by themselves.
– Russian Proverb
National Public Garden Day is May 7. This is only the 2nd year the America Public Garden Association, (APGA)formerly the American Association of Botanical Gardens & Arboretahas sponsored this event. This group founded in 1940 has 500 institutional members from all 50 states, Washington DC, Canada, & 24 other countries. Our local Desert Botanical Garden is a member and will celebrate the event with educational presentations, kids activities and special tours. The mission of the APGA is to support the professionals who work to keep our public gardens flourishing and provide access to horticultural displays, education, research and plant conservation.
Outside my lattice window,
Is the spring light warm yet
For a plum blossom flower? Wang Wei (701-761)
In the early morning looking through my window I glimpse a bit of my garden; the flowers, some grass, a tree. Each day I look through the same window and think this is the garden! Yet like a living painting, the light shifts, seasons change and so does the view. The garden grows, declines and remerges in new growth. The window frames my view. Outside looking in is the same garden but a different view. I stand in the grass, under my tree looking toward the window. The window is significantly smaller, the flowers fill the view, the grass and tree are no longer in the picture. My position changes my viewpoint.
When birds stop singing. . .
“Across some stretches every tree had been felled by gunfire or cut down intentionally. No bird song was heard, no birds remained.”*
It is comforting to sit in a garden and hear the songs of birds. The tall trees provide an orchestra hall for the birds to welcome the morning. I am the audience enjoying the notes sung by the chorus of mockingbirds, cactus wrens, grackles and doves.
Once upon a time Elvis sang:
“Open your eyes the sky is full of butterflies
The blossoms on the trees stir up the honey bees
Spring makes my fever right
Friends planning a visit to a new garden struggled to pick the best time to go, wanting the garden to be at its’ peak perfection. Predicting the weather, wondering if it would rain, if the climate would be just right for the flowers to bloom they struggled to match their schedules to the hoped for perfect visit. Poet William Brown wrote “There is no season such delight can bring as summer, autumn, winter, spring.” When is the best season to visit a public garden? When will the garden reach its’ perfection? Whenever you get yourself to a garden, I believe you can find something good.