HORTENSE WAS fascinated by the annual Moving of the Plants. She was making dovish noises and tilting her head this way and that, red eyes wondering: Will I be next?
I spent a few moments contemplating the installation of a dovecote in the back garden, thinking maybe she’d like to summer outdoors; mingle with the exceptional number of lovely birds that have descended on us this spring. Have you noticed all of the birds? That is one of the (very few) upsides to this virus.
A dovecote seemed such a romantic idea. It’s a bird house with little round holes that doves . . . hole up in. It’s surprising the small spaces that birds can worm into. There’s really not much meat on them—if you’ve ever picked one up and gently squished you’ll notice that they’re mostly feathers. And a beak.
Anyway, I was happily envisioning Hortie (as she’s known) perching among the jasmine and whatnot. She doesn’t fly much, maybe six feet to some perch or other and then back to her cage. I doubt if she’d go far from her food source—she does love her food.
She is, after all 25, which is ancient for doves, who usually top out, or drop off, or fizzle at about 15, tops. Her age may even be some sort of record. Hortense is a ring-necked dove that we’ve taken in for the . . . duration. I forgive you for skipping the remainder of this paragraph, as I’ve introduced her before, but she’s an office pet belonging to an office that’s not open. I volunteered our solarium, since Hortense is only cooped up when she feels like it, and how many people have the space (or the inclination) to let a bird loose in the house?
Really, that pretty much left only me.
As for the dovecote fantasy, the Prince pointed out that our geriatric guest would make a tasty morsel for the raccoon that usually dines on the pond fish, and she would be unlikely to be able to escape.
Returning to the story, which actually has nothing to do with Hortense, we moved the plants out of the solarium last weekend: he trundling them down the stairs and littering the stair steps and floors with petals on their way to the back garden, I contemplating the garden and the where-to-put-what and digging the occasional hole.
Just as the inside of the house shifts from winter to summer, with the lifting of the carpets and the changing of the drapes, when the last petals fall from the Kwanzan cherry tree and the tulips have dripped their leaves, we go from quasi country garden to quasi tropical oasis.
Now the chandelier hangs above the pond, there are bananas and a bird of paradise, jasmine and trumpet vines, palms, orchids, a lemon, a lime, a kiwi, ferns, a plumeria, elephant ears and philodendrons with leaves that grow the size of Thanksgiving turkey platters. There’s also various stuffs I’ve pilfered from my sister’s beach place in south Florida—some are budded. I haven’t a clue what they are, but it’s very exciting.
Meanwhile, the porch is draped in yards of fabric. I don’t know how I’ve suddenly amassed so many gorgeous tropical palm prints, one green and white, another shot with startling pinks. One features monkeys; I do love monkeys. Sadly, there’s not enough of any one to do more than make pillow and hassock covers. For one reason and another, they are not appealing when combined.
“Mario Buatta would just mix them all,” said My Prince, who tends to latch on to only parts of concepts, repeating these errant bits to me professorially, even when I was the one to plant the concept in the first place.
“No, he wouldn’t,” I said. “The colors and patterns and scale of each print have to work together . . . ” Which is where I stopped saying because I can’t explain it to myself so there’s no use trying to explain to him; it’s just too exhausting.
“There’s a magic to the mixing,” I said, with authoritative gestures. “I’ll know it when I see it. Now, please go find my sewing machine and the staple gun.”
Although. Sewing is not my strong suit. Back in junior high we had Home Economics (remember home ec?); the girls sewed and the boys did “shop,” which involved building cool stuff and fixing cars. Our first project, after learning to thread the sewing machine, was to make a half apron, very June Cleaver. When my classmates had moved on to blouses, I was still ripping out stitches and resewing that damn apron hoping for a “D.”
But I did learn to thread the machine and, given a straight run, I can slam my foot on that pedal and race to the finish like Christian Siriano. The seam may not be exactly straight but, like that new wrinkle you’re obsessing over, no one notices. All this to say, I can make pillows, so long as they don’t involve piping or, god forbid, zippers.
I’m far more talented with a staple gun, which I used quite a lot in a previous life, designing furniture showroom displays. Among other things, it’s very useful for recovering chair seats and hassock cushions. Bam bam bam, done. My kind of tool.
So the backyard is set, not that anyone but us will see it this summer, I fear.
Hortense, meanwhile, seems surprisingly fine with her empty room. I set a pedestal with a Pyrex pan that serves as her bird bath in front of the screened doorway so she can wallow with a garden view. She seems content, or at least alive.
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” knows it’s summer when the backyard takes on a tropical feeling.