Playing in the dirt.

Archive for the ‘Blogaround’ Category

Inspiration and Influence

Most recently, Gayla has asked who or what we look to for inspiration in our garden, with Grow Write Guild prompt #4.

For me, that would be Genevieve Mason, a woman I came to meet when my high school biology teacher tracked me down at the end of my senior year to ask if I’d like a job over the summer working in her stepmother’s garden.  Mrs. Mason, in her mid-eighties and frail health, was ordered by her doctors to have someone else tend her garden for her, lest she overwork herself.  I would have gladly done the work as a favor to one of my favorite teachers, but Mrs. Mason would not hear of it, and so we settled on a polite arrangement where once a week I gave her two hours of pruning and weeding, and she would give me a five dollar bill.

She was a delightful woman who had traveled a great deal, mostly to French-speaking countries and most often to France, having been a French teacher before her retirement.  Her husband had been gone for several years, and I expect that our three hours of conversation each week were a greater service to her than the two hours I spent in the garden before she would kindly insist that I come in and have a drink and rest a bit before walking home in the heat.

One of the first things she had me do was plant a flat of pansies right up against the house, and while I do not currently keep pansies, I always think of her when I see them, and if I ever get my Someday and have land of my own, pansies will be tucked in somewhere in her honor.  She had the most amazing climbing roses, which I pruned under her direction.  By mid-summer, when she wanted to add some soil amendments, I told her that I’d bring her a couple of bags of rabbit manure for free, so she could just buy enough pretty “dirt” to cover it with.  She was pleased with the offer, and so the next week, I spent the first hour spreading rabbit manure around flowers of every description, and the second spreading garden soil over the top of it.

She introduced me to Queen Anne cherries, and she had an impossible number of herbs in a tiny herb garden just off her kitchen.  Mint had escaped its bed near the garage, and I spent one week doing nothing but digging it out of the lawn.  She told me to take as many of the cuttings as I wanted, with the suggestion that I keep it in a large pot as she looked over the lawn to see if she could see any other strays.

She had two overgrown evergreen shrubs of some ilk on either side of her front door–which I never used, having been directed to the kitchen door ’round the side–but that she wanted to prune to clear the doorway of encroaching branches.  When I told her that I hadn’t the first idea how to prune evergreens, she said that she didn’t care, she hated the things, anyway, and to just cut it all back so that the doorway was clear six inches all the way around, as high as I could reach.  It was a hack job, but she was happy with it, and I have still never learned how to properly prune evergreens.

I left for college at the end of August, and that last week, she told me that her garden had not looked so lovely in many years and thanked me for helping her get it back into shape.  Then she gave me her suitcase, an old and battered light blue hard-side with her initials writ large on the side in red electrical tape, saying that her traveling days were over, but she hoped the suitcase that had served her well for many years would be of use to me as I packed to move several states away.

Mrs. Mason died that December, just three days before my great-grandfather also passed away, and news of both reached me an hour before a chemistry test.  I failed the exam, but I’ve had more use for the things I learned from her, anyway.



We’re having a family emergency right now that has interrupted work on the garden.  In the meantime, let me share a few of the blogs I’ve been reading for inspiration and some vicarious gardening over the past couple of years.

You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail

You Grow Girl is one of my favorite gardening blogs.  The writing and photos are interesting and the author has managed to grow some amazing things in less than stellar conditions.  Her success gives me some hope that I’ve got a chance to make something happen, too.

Squash’s Garden by Ursula Vernon

Yes, that Ursula Vernon.  The artist who wrote Dragonbreath and Digger and who sells (not-always-suitable-for-all-audiences) art at Red Wombat Studio.  She has a spirit of impulsiveness that I identify with, and I was delighted to find out that the author of one of my all-time favorite web comics was also an avid gardener with a desire toward organic methods and native plants.

Daily Farm (at Chickens in the Road) by Suzanne McMinn

I’d love to have a farm like Suzanne’s.  That’s not really in the cards for me, so I read about Sassafras Farm and daydream about maybe having a few laying hens one day.  Reading her blog is like stopping by to chat a bit with a favorite neighbor.

Voice for Reason by “Crusty”

Crusty talks about asparagus and tomatoes and lizards and birds and turtles and pumpkins and poppies and, on occasion, politics.  He’s got an eye for beautiful things and a philosophical bent that makes me ponder all manner of things.

Gardening Boise by Megan Sutton

The newest addition to my regular reading, I’m still getting a feel for this blog, but so far, I’m enjoying it.  It’s nice to read about gardening in a place with some similar climate challenges.

I expect I’ll be able to get some garden work done this weekend, but I can only hope that I’ll be able to get to planting at this point.  That’s probably okay, because they’re calling for a bit of snow tonight, and I’m just as glad I don’t have to be out in the damp wrestling a tarp over a bed of sprouts tonight.  Please enjoy the fine blogs above, and feel free to share your favorite garden links in the comments.