Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In Search of My Mother's Garden, I Found My Own.

Hello lovely readers! Boy have I been busy! Between an advanced pattern drafting class at my local college (such fun but loads of homework), doctor's visits, Mrs. Depew Vintage and about three on-going family disasters, I have been stretched to my breaking point lately. My husband finally sat me down this weekend and said, "Look, it's only been 7 months since you watched your Mom die. No one expects you to be ok, there is no reason for you to take so much on when you're not yourself, and shouldn't be. If you don't let a few things slide and give yourself a break, I'm going to sit on you."

This guy, I love him. And he is right. Being this busy was partly a choice to prove to myself that I can get back to normal, that I want to be normal again, and it was a total failure. I'm not normal, I'm broken, and that's ok. Oh, that feels good to say!
So yesterday, I took a deep breath and let things slide. I still processed business orders but after that, I spent the entire afternoon in my garden (a self-soothing mechanism that I learned from my mother) and at the end of a day full of sunshine, bugs, dirt, flowers, and one shoe caked in dog doo, I felt just just a tiny bit more like a person.

So I know I've been threatening to talk about my garden for a while now... so here it is:

Here we have climbing mandevilla, sweet pea - both a favorite of hummingbirds, alyssum, and pansies.

I started with what I like to think of as "Beauty Base Zero" and went from there. The yard had nothing but wood chips and cigarette butts in it when we moved in last year. The next door neighbors just moved in and their yard is a mirror image of mine last year before I started.

(Please pardon the photos - I took them through a screened window.)

Things are actually a bit more bare than they usually are right now. It's October in Monterey bay and I have no idea how the seasons work here... so I'm winging it. So far, the alyssum (all the fluffy white stuff) is unstoppable no matter the weather. In fact, I don't know that one could try to successfully kill it! I have read that it's a great plant to have around because it attracts beneficial bugs to your garden.

And above, we have 'the crazy.' I started these tomatoes from seeds and, newbie that I am to gardening (without my Mom helping me, that is,) I staked them, barely, but really should have put cages on them. Now, I have a tomato thicket. A thicket, I say. But they are thriving and I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with, which means I have become that weird neighbor who shows up at doors with baskets full of tomatoes saying. "Please, for the love of God, eat these."

I have also really been enjoying exploring the tropicals that can grow out here.  These hibiscus are growing and re-blooming like champs, and also bring in a lot of hummingbirds all day long!

Yesterday's project was paving our gate closure with stones and moss. Skunks have been digging holes at the gate to get in and play and I wanted an attractive way to keep them out. There's a story there...
It's five a.m. and my husband is up and getting ready for an early shift at work. I wake up to the sound of frantic barking, and then Butters the puppy gallops madly up the stairs and launches himself into the bed with the kitty and I.  And he smells like burnt plastic. After much screaming, and not a little swearing, I get up, get the dog outside, and try to figure out what the hell is going on. There had been a skunk in the backyard when the hubby let Butters outside, but it had quickly escaped through the hole at the gate, after very thoroughly blasting Butters in the face. My husband, only hearing barking and letting the dog inside, wondered if our toaster had chosen that moment to die, because unbeknownst to either of us, fresh skunk spray smells like burnt wiring. It is now 5:45 and my husband has to be at work (the military really does frown on tardiness, but I'm pretty sure this would fall under the classification of emergency) so he apologetically leaves me to deal with the dog.

Fast forward to 6:15 a.m. at my local grocery store where at checkout, I unload the following: 4 bottles of hydrogen peroxide, 2 boxes of baking soda (best anti-skunk remedy ever, thanks to my sister Jessi!) a pair of rubber gloves, half a dozen donuts, and a small bottle of whiskey. Not wrinkling her nose too obviously at the skunk smell radiating from my person, she asks, "Rough morning, hon'?"

I'm skunk-proofing the hell out of my yard - those suckers are ALL OVER base housing here.

Clematis, pansy, one rogue ranunculus ready to bloom, and my clematis who seams to be done blooming for the now.

I read a quote the other day that said, "In search of my mother's garden, I found my own."

My Mama under her green bean trellis.

That echoes in my mind as I plant things. It's not full of green beans and irises of every color like Mama's was, and it's not perfect by any stretch, but it's mine, and I love it.

It would be a lot more pristine if I didn't have a 75 lb. German Shepherd puppy treating the yard like a bouncy house.

More tomatoes trying to climb the bird feeder, some lavender, and some baby pole beans that will hopefully take off and fill the whole fence line with vines.
I also have morning glories and varied varieties of sweet pea popping up, ready to climb the fence like their parent plants did months ago. I have no idea if the slightly cooler nights (it's dropping to about 55 at night) will stunt them or not.

These flower beds are also rife with tulip and ranunculus bulbs and will be teeming with blooms in a few months.

One inhabitant of the tomato thicket is a very large, Cherokee purple tomato plant. The tomatoes start out as tiny black marbles, and then the lighten up to mostly green, and they are ripe, tart, and juicy when a deep red on the bottom. I made lasagna with them the other day and it was heavenly.

I'm also starting a lot of seeds indoors, including midnight black morning glories, snap dragons, safflower, impatiens, purple dragon carrots, Walla Walla onions, and more sage, basil, chive and cilantro to add to my teaming herb garden.

My Midnight Morning Glories quite literally came up this large overnight!

And that's it! If any of you garden, and especially if you have experience gardening in the bay area, I would really love to hear your tips and suggestions!


  1. I love what you have done with the space. I wish I was your neighbor, because I would love for you to show up at my house with a basket full of tomatoes, begging me to take them. My grandparents are excellent gardeners and often have tomatoes and cucumbers for me in the summer. However, the growing season in MN is short, so that's been over for a while now.

    That picture of your mom under the green bean trellis is beautiful! It would be so amazing to have a garden like hers. I can definitely see how she is a big influence on exploring your own green thumb.

    Sorry about your rough morning with the dog and the skunk. I hope you and Butters have both recovered.

  2. That's awesome! I love gardening too- next year I am going to grow interesting colored carrots too. I think the little white flower is Alyssa or Alyssum, something like that. My parents have it in their garden in Oregon. You black tomatoes are cool; I grew Black Russian ones this summer and they are gigantic and good. They do have many lobes and got those weird lines that look like stitches though. Your yard is looking great, I am jealous!

  3. Gardening is so soothing for your mind. I relax completely in my mind when working in my very large garden, although it is hard psysical work and I am tired when I'm done. It's a cute little garden with a lot interesting things you have, congratulations. Only time will heal your wounds, so do take the time. e-hugs from Denmark

  4. Your garden is beautiful and you seem to have a natural talent. I'd bet your mom would be proud!

  5. To plant a seed is the ultimate gesture of hope.

  6. Oh, our garden, in a community garden plot, was a source of renewal and sanity for us too. There's something exhilarating about watching things grow, bugs doing their thing, and feeling the, seemingly, calm energy of life happening in a garden. I am so happy that you can take the time to plant things here in CA. We recently relocated to the bay area from Oregon, where our garden plot was, and finding a plot here hasn't happened yet. But, I am also very curious to know what can grow in this climate; although, seeing how many neighborhoods have citrus trees, I'd love to try that even if just for their Springtime fragrance. We primarily grew vegetables in the garden plot with various flowers to encourage beneficial bugs to visit and pretty up the place. When I first started fixing up the garden plot, I went to the library and found several helpful books for gardening in Oregon. The only book I actually bought and decided to bring to CA is "How to grow more vegetables" by John Jeavons. He's based in Willits, CA, so, it probably has relevant info for growing out here, although I imagine the info is useful for growing anywhere else too. I used many of the principles of organic gardening described in the book and had amazing success growing happy and nutritious vegetables. Hopefully, we can start a new plot out here soon, but I thought I'd share this book with you since you're already on your way! Good luck with your garden and all your interesting projects!

  7. How wonderful! Your garden looks lovely, Anna.

    Sorry to hear about Mr. Skunkersons. I would have eaten all of those doughnuts too as a reward for the morning. :)

  8. Dear Anna, How wonderful your garden looks. I think your husband is right. You should take more time to take it easy and it's my hope that you will feel better as time passes. The wound is not going to go away--it did not go away for me either. A friend of mine from high school is going through the same situation. She lost her husband not too long ago and at the same time she is literally going blind. She has no one to rely upon and it is really a sad situation. Keep up your good works! Kathy

  9. Your husband is so supportive, you're very lucky! I garden as well, and reading this post I found myself smiling at similar instances, problems and questions. I've always been surrounded by a garden, be it my childhood home, visiting my great-grandmothers houses, etc. People and their knowledge and experience is always more valuable than any gardening book. I look forward to more garden updates!


  10. Aren't some of us lucky to have married the right person. Your garden is gorgeous it suits you.We have almost nightly "Skunk Drills". Someone yells SKUNK! and all of us run to close a window. It was funny for awhile - after moths of it - I'm done.

    Your husband is absolutely right. The pain of losing one of the most important people in your life will never go away, but slowly (very slowly) fade. 7 months is a drop in the bucket. Hang in there. I loved that you included a picture of your mom in her garden. She had a beautiful smile.