Saturday, February 19, 2011

Flamboyant Revolutionary Reinforcements

I’ve been slogging through mounds of paperwork and happened upon the oddest phrase in a rather revealing statement of purpose. Someone described himself as “flamboyantly heterosexual.” Flamboyantly heterosexual? Really?! I’ve heard of metrosexuals, and flamboyant homosexuals, but never flamboyant heterosexuals. What might that mean? Does he dress like a lumberjack, or a plumber with the omnipresent visual of…well, let’s say, the beginning of the torso’s division at the rear of the spine? Does he communicate in monosyllabic grunts? Bottle up his emotions? Crush beer cans with his bare hands when his favorite team scores a touchdown, or a homerun, or a hole in one?

Unless the author of the statement deliberately wished to convey the message that he is a walking stereotype (perhaps outdated ones at that!), wouldn’t “metrosexual” have proven a more apt descriptor?

I remained puzzled until I spent time in the garden yesterday (in our glorious 70 degree February day!).  And then I saw it: flamboyant heterosexuality at its best!

Kerria japonica began to leaf out yesterday (or, given the maturity of one leaf, the previous day).

Aerial reinforcements to advance the revolutionary cause have arrived!

I do masculinize Kerria, and I’m not sure why. Regardless, he, like Petasites, uses his masculinity (their flamboyant heterosexuality?) in the spring garden to tremendous, rousing effect! His lithe chartreuse stems, populated by red, bulging buds, seem otherworldly. One would think his gangly self could not endure; his lankiness, though, belies his brawniness. He is a star.

Perhaps, then, there is more than horticultural coincidence—perhaps there is deep significance—that Star of Bethlehem too emerges from the cold, soggy soil, sporting her slender spring green leaves with narrow white medians. Each compliments the other and reinforce their avant-gardism.

This is flamboyancy at its best!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Revolution will be Televised

From a revolutionary perspective, 2011 has been extraordinary: first, Tunisia; then, Egypt. As I listen to media reports about protests in other Middle East countries, I sense the pregnant but as yet unspoken urgency to identify a third. Will it be Bahrain? Iran? Yemen?

Yet the revolutionary winds have blown far from the Middle East.

A revolution brews right here at 410. Yes, here in Wilmington, Delaware. I tremble.

Today, 16 February 2011—yes, 16 February!—I spotted the vanguard itself, rearing their heads ready for the battle to begin. At first these things seem sporadic, disconnected. But then they magnify and, over time, the assault begins.

To the north, I spied one little opening bud of the Climbing Hydrangea (quite prematurely, given the closed tight buds on the remainder of the plant). It is the vanguard of the vanguard, scouting out the terrain and the atmosphere.

In the south-central part of the garden, I spied this little patch of the new shoots of Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum)!

And across the walkway, to the south-west, there he was, safety in numbers: three artichoke-like flower buds of my beloved, hunky Petasites japonicus emerging from the soil. He returned to sweep me off my feet, my knight-in-leafy armor!

Soon, the revolution will occur. Winter will be ceremoniously deposed! Photos will be taken! The landscape will change!  
Can there be anything more delicious than spring green after months of winter white and moribund browns?

Vegetative vanguard, unite! 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Future Foretold: Pastel Spring meets Winter Gloaming

For a brief moment, at 6:34 a.m., the sky foretold a coming future: a pastel spring juxtaposed to winter's gloaming.

The sky was dark--that blue black characteristic of early mornings. Yet a small patch of sky in the southwest exuded azure, while a few large puffy clouds--errant children racing back to their mother storm now off to sea-- reflected a soft pink.

Realizing my photos (even with the night setting on my camera) did not capture the intensity of the blues and blacks, or the preternatural softness yet simultaneous brilliance of the pink when set against the sky and shadowed trees, I ran outside again to capture the scene.

Yet the sky had changed.

And a small plane appeared above, its landing lights on as it approaches Philadelphia Airport.

And I realized that I was fortunate to take a break from life and see the ethereal.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gardening: The Original Precarious Vocation

As always, I may tend to the hyperbolic (but what better way to attract attention or elicit thought).

The massive winter storm that has gripped 30 states and paralyzed major metropolitan areas clipped the very north of Delaware this morning, sparing us. True, we received a bit of ice yesterday and a bit of ice this morning, but warmer temperatures melted the ice and forced precipitation from the sky from solid to liquid. In fact, as of this moment (4:16 p.m.) the sun shines for broad spans of time before another wayward mass of clouds occludes the symbol of our hope that spring shall arrive, no matter what Punxsutawney Phil presumably communicates.

“Warmth” (we must encase it in quotation marks, for warmth is a relative term) is, when confronting the remnants of winter, an archaeologist. It removes, layer by layer, almost imperceptibly, methodically, slowly, the detritus of storms to reveal that which had been buried. (Unless the ardent, stressed out gardener, like me, prematurely erases winter and “rescues” bushes and plants from their snow white coffins, as I have done with the Nikko Blue Hydrangea and the Nandinas, the multiple Pieris bushes and the Brooms.)

And our archaeology is not always pretty. (Recall my lamentations after our 4 feet of snow last February.) I pity poor Rosemary, which now begins to peer out from her white encasement, and the Boxwoods, which show signs of "freezer burn." I can barely see the rest of the garden, covered as it remains by heaps of snow.

Of course, I hear the scorns of my dear readers:

"Real gardeners would have religiously wrapped the Boxwoods and the Rosemary in swaths of burlap, like some theological icon sheltered from the scourge of humanity, waiting for spring to reveal its radiant splendor to show us all how penitent we should be." 

"Real gardeners would have at least sprayed anti-transpirant spray like 'Wilt-Pruf' to protect the darlings of the structured garden." 

So, I admit, once again, and once again publicly, my failures as a gardener. Perhaps I unconsciously like the precariousness of it all.
Perhaps the precariousness of it all is the small gardener's answer to change. Gardeners blessed with large spaces in which to cultivate their art can always expand. The small garden gardener faces more severe restrictions. And the paramount restriction of space makes change more desired but change more painful--for every change must come with a corresponding loss (unless--GARDEN SNOB ALERT--the small space gardener cheats and only plants pedestrian, how boring).

And so, we rely not on our own inner realists, but on nature. Nature may giveth, but nature taketh away.
Sure, she may rob us of our prized plants, and may consequently plunge us into despair. No matter how long I garden, no matter how many plants await me in the garden shops in the spring to purchase and fill those new, unexpected holes in the garden, I still experience the sadness engendered by loss, and still mourn the departed.

But those acts of thievery must always be reinterpreted as opportunities--opportunities for purchasing yourself "a little happy."