IT’S NOT YET time to plant the spring bulbs—the tropical plants must come in first and they’re still happily humming along. Purple violas and baby cabbages are sitting on the porch, ready for the winter window-box makeover, but the window boxes are too pleased with themselves to touch yet as well; the sweet potato vines have gone mad, spilling onto the ground. Such glorious ruffles. Fall will just have to wait a few more weeks.
Allow me to digress for a moment (although it seems I haven’t yet mentioned any particular subject). The other night, over Cotoletta Milanese at Trattoria Alberto, The Prince suggested “we” do more with gardening; proposing togetherness work wherein I would design gardens and he would—under my direction, he says—execute the execution.
Anyone who has been around me and my beloved for more than 15 minutes over the last three-plus decades will instantly realize the ludicrousness of this suggestion. Chalk it up to an exceptionally fine merlot.
Moving right along.
On yet another dismal, drizzly morning a few days back, I was moved to resurrect Timmy, an exceptionally sad-looking house plant I’ve been nursing for several decades. Timmy is named for his original owner, an exceptionally talented and charming guy who died of AIDs who was part of a children’s theater troupe I once traipsed around with, performing Chicken Little in Washington DC public schools. I had a starring role as Henny Penny, and Tim was Foxy Loxy, if recollection serves. When Tim passed away, Susan (our director) took his plant, and passed it to me when she moved to L.A. It was green and lovely then, and has been, on occasion, since.
Then came my Grand Urn period, and I transplanted Timmy (the plant) from where he was happily ensconced in his original cracked turquoise plastic pot (which cunningly replicated porcelain) to this fabulous, if also broken, lead planter that my friend Maggie was about to discard when she moved to a condo. I don’t know if it was the urn or if Timmy preferred plastic, but he hasn’t looked at all well since.
So this morning, as such things go, I was leafing through a favorite book, Bringing Nature Home: Floral Arrangements Inspired by Nature by Ngoc Minh Ngo, Deborah Needleman and Nicolette Owen, and felt a tingle of inspiration—I’ll go find some natural stuff and arrange something floral myself.
Timmy was directly in my line of sight.
Here’s what I gathered between home and Harris Teeter, where I bought yeast and spinach for various eating purposes: a few leafy branches from a pruned tree, some curious-looking brown pods, a couple of twigs from a money plant that had been knocked down (no doubt) by either the postal person or someone’s dog, a few crape myrtle blossoms that I snapped up because they would otherwise be strangled by a marauding morning glory (a public service), a few interesting weeds from the alley and a dangle of ivy pulled off our own fence.
Much of this stuff I figured could be jabbed directly into the soil and it would stay for some weeks, while Timmy would continue to do what he does as long as I remember to water. The stubby branches of crape myrtle were stuffed into those plastic water holders with the rubber caps, which allowed some leeway for artful placement.
Deciding I had rather a large gap at the back on the left, I stuck a branch of the fluffy alley weed in there, and added a smaller bunch at the right rear for a little balance. The crape myrtle were stuck in left and right.
Those brownish pods were already dried and had firm stems, so they provided a happy explosion on the left and a smaller pop on the right. This left-right thing has to do with the fact that Timmy has been, understandably, reaching for the window and therefore is a little undernourished on one side. What we are doing is compensating for this drift, which could also have been corrected by turning the plant around. But as I always say, never do anything simple when, given a little procrastination, drastic ministrations become necessary.
Having depleted my supply of scavenged stuff, and never one to leave well enough alone, I rummaged in the bar-cabinet drawers and found some bunches of little rubber grapes (doesn’t everyone have these?) and dangled them from the urn’s handles.
For a smidge more color, I tossed in some purple wandering jew pinched from a pot on the back porch and jammed the stems right into the dirt where they will root and grow quite fabulously, perhaps. Note to self: I really should have done all of this long ago, it’s all very exciting.
Plugging the last few holes . . . a couple of hydrangea blossoms and pink geraniums from a vase on the dining table.
Over the next week or two some of these bits and pieces will dry in place, which is fine. Others will shrivel and begin to look unpleasant, and if I’m again feeling energetic I’ll replace them. Timmy, in the meantime, will continue doing what he does, struggle for life on the dining-room bar, albeit more grandly than he was earlier today.
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” reports on the green stuff, and sometimes The Prince, every Thursday.