By Stephanie Cavanaugh
“I HAD MY DOUBTS about those seeds,” said Baby in her most dour voice, a seriously depressing tone she takes from time to time. Thanks to Zoom-calling, I can see that her expression is equally unconvinced.
Wesley, her baby, is in his highchair, babbling into a red toy phone. He looks like a miniature, shirtless mogul doing a deal.
Have I mentioned that a fortune teller once said, “Did you know your daughter is your mother?” This rang shockingly true. As an infant she’d lie in my arms and look at me so full of doubt that I’d find myself whispering, “Ma? Are you in there? If so, HELP ME!”
While my mother never had the chance to meet my baby, she seems to have returned to be her.
Meanwhile—cue the Psycho music—Wesley, was born on my mother’s birthday, two weeks before he was due.
Anyway, Baby was reacting to the seeds of ornamental kale I planted last week, the little black fly specks I’d tenderly tucked into the back of the upper window boxes, where there are patches of bare soil, with hopes that they might, might, turn into . . . ornamental kale.
Seeds and I have a fraught relationship, as Baby well knows. I can’t even grow zinnias from seed, and these are at the top of the list for easy-to-grow flowers. For kids. The type of flower suggested because they never disappoint budding gardeners, blooming easily in masses of candy-colored ruffles . . . for everyone else.
I got a flower once a few years ago, a sad orange one. I don’t like orange flowers.
So, I showed her my kale sprouts, angling my phone above the tender seedlings that had already emerged—enough of them that if they actually survive (oh, please, please!) they’ll adorn the winter boxes with enough left over to pop into containers here and there in the garden front and rear.
It was a moment, let me tell you. Though it’s still near impossible to believe that these green sprigs will eventually grow into flamboyant, foot-tall and -wide cabbages within a couple of months.
Meanwhile, the midsummer boxes, all five of them, are something to see. Three upstairs, two down, they’re traffic stoppers. Obviously, none of the plants was started from seed. Baby said I have to write about them. I said, haven’t they (meaning you) read enough about my damn boxes?
“Nope. They’re too good this year,” she said.
So. See photo at the top. Now quintuple it.
The oregano I planted last summer in the center of each box flourished greenly through the winter, forming a center mound that’s beginning to spill over the edge; the coleus and (surprise) caladium wave their sensationally colorful leaves on either side, the sedum is pinking out nicely off in a corner, and the acid-green sweet-potato vines occupy the centers. In the lower boxes the vines are starting to cascade toward the front porch floor; upstairs they’re falling to the tops of the windows below. Mingled in are purple sprigs of pittosporum, and other bits of stray things, while anchoring the ends is ivy, which has been growing for decades, just needing regular trims.
With luck, by early November, when the summery stuffs have had it for the year, my kale can be moved forward, growing over the cold months into lovely fat cabbages, frilled green around the edges with purple and fuchsia centers.
When the Easter Bunny comes, we’ll start all over again.