Monthly Archives: March 2009

What is the Crocus?

The feet of people walking home
With gayer sandals go-
The Crocus-till she rises
The Vassal of the snow-
The lips at Hallelujah
Long years of practise bore
Till bye and bye these Bargemen
Walked singing on the shore.

Pearls are the Diver’s farthings
Extorted from the sea-
Pinions-the Seraph’s wagon
Pedestrian once-as we-
Night is the morning’s Canvas
Larceny-legacy-
Death, but our rapt attention
To Immortality.

My figures fail to tel me
How far the Village lies-
Whose peasants are the Angels-
Whose Cantons dot the skies-
My Classics veil their faces-
My faith that Dark adores-
Which from its solemn abbeys
Such resurrection pours.

Emily Dickinson, 1858–#7

March 28
Weather: 40s partially cloudy

What a beautiful poem. “Death, but our rapt attention/To Immortality/My figures fail to tell me/How far the village lies….” Honesty–that’s Emily Dickinson. “The Crocus–till she rises/The Vassal of the snow.”

So, what does it mean to be a vassal or slave/subject/subordinate to the snow until you “rise”? And, “pinion”–that is a loaded word. The flight feathers of a bird–if you cut them off, they can’t fly. The “Seraph” who sits next to God’s throne.

I get so much longing, and even hope, in this poem–and the Crocus is such a powerful image in the poem–I believe, of these two things. And every year, Emily gets to look forward to the Crocus emerging in her Early Spring Garden.

giant_mixed_crocus

During the Victorian era, people often gave gifts of flowers to represent some symbolic meaning that most everyone understood. Emily Dickinson did this a lot–sometimes accompanied by a poem. So, what did the crocus mean symbolically? From what I understand, to most, it represented cheefulness and gladness. But what about to Emily?

Here is a poem Emily sent to her cousin–accompanied by a Crocus:

She dwelleth in the Ground —
Where Daffodils — abide —
Her Maker — Her Metropolis —
The Universe — Her Maid —

To fetch Her Grace — and Hue —
And Fairness — and Renown —
The Firmament’s — To Pluck Her —
And fetch Her Thee — be mine —
(Emily Dickinson, 744)

I must admit, I have no experience with Crocuses. I’m a Crocus dummy. It’s not a very elegant name for a flower–in fact, it’s kind of funny.

Do you have experience with it–in your garden, or arrangements you’ve put together or received, poetry or art? What are you thoughts about this flower?

Snowdrops in Spring

New feet within my garden go–
New fingers stir the sod-
A Troubadour opon the Elm
Betrays the solitude

New Children play opon the green-
New Weary sleep below-
And still the pensive Spring returns-
And still the punctual snow!

Emily Dickinson (79)

March 25, ’09
Degrees 40’s
Yesterday we had snow.

My books arrived and, oh my goodnes, I LOVE them. I’m just getting started, and have read the “Early Spring” section of Emily Dickinson’s Gardens by Marta McDowell. We’ll follow along with her on this blog the early Spring plantings of Emily. If you’d like to add other poems of hers (or others) that you think might refer to the flower we’re highlighting, please do so in the comments–we’d love to read them.

Today’s flower, in Early Spring, is the Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis). They were the first flowers to bloom in the garden. They are a bulb flower. Here is a picture:

snowdrop

Information from theplantexpert.com as follows:

“The major benefit of planting Garden Snowdrops is their early arrival. They can show up weeks before crocuses do, and will often poke through a covering of snow. In the South, snowdrops may even bloom all winter long.

A snowdrop plant looks like three drops of milk hanging from a stem. This accounts for the Latin name Galanthus which means “milk-white flowers”.

Since they are small, you probably need to plant a large number to make a dramatic effect. However, in a rock garden, or planted among other early-blooming plants like Snow Crocuses, an odd number of snowdrops here and there can be just as effective.

Under the right circumstances (see Notes) snowdrops will naturalize very well, and a planting of them can last a lifetime. They are well worth the investment. As an added benefit, snowdrops (like other members of the Amaryllis family) are normally avoided by deer and rodents.

Flowering time: Very early spring

Plant height: 4 – 6″ (10 – 15 cm), although some cultivated varieties grow up to 10″ (25 cm) tall

Minimum planting depth: 3″ (8 cm)

Hardiness zones: Suitable for zones 2 – 9, although they do best in zones 4 – 7

Colours: Clear milk white, usually with emerald green tipped inner segments

Shape/form: A single, nodding, bell-like flower, about 1″ long with 3 lobes, and shorter inner segments, hanging from a stiff, slender, leafless stalk; 2 – 3 very narrow leaves grow from the base of the plant

Alternate names: Common Snowdrop, Milk Flower

Latin name: Galanthus nivalis

Notes: Good for rock gardens, under trees and shrubs, at the fronts of borders or in front of flowering shrubs, in lawns, or along woodland paths

Prefers moist, humus-rich soils, sun-dappled shade, and cooler climates, as in zones 4 – 7

Naturalizes both by self-seeding and bulb offsets

Example varieties: Garden Snowdrop (white), Flore Pleno (double white flowers), Viridapicis (green markings on tips of both outer and inner petal segments), Sam Arnott (larger flowers, with distinct heart-shaped green markings), Atkins Snowdrop (taller than most, with long, shapely petals)”

Have you planted Snowdrops in your garden? Will you this year? What is your exprerience or memories of them?

When Birds (and other things) Come Back

THESE are the days when birds come back,
A very few, a bird or two,
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies put on
The old, old sophistries of June,–
A blue and gold mistake.

Oh, fraud that cannot cheat the bee,
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief,

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear,
And softly through the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf!

Oh, sacrament of summer days,
Oh, last communion in the haze,
Permit a child to join,

Thy sacred emblems to partake,
Thy consecrated bread to break,
Taste thine immortal wine!

These are the days when the birds return. This morning, for the first time, our pasture looked like it was moving again–it was the birds hopping around looking for breakfast.

three-birds

Brown is slowly being deposed by Green.

And, we have intruders. Weeds.

What to do with those plants we didn’t ask for–that thrive here–in the heat and drought and foot traffic–and that choke out plants we want to cultivate?

I’ve been thinking a lot about weeds lately–how best to manage them (I say manage because I can’t eradicate them, or I would).

Around here we fight the Yellow Tumble Mustard. When you think of the West, the tumbleweed is probably one of the first things you’d picture, and you’d be right. They THRIVE here.

(A Young Tumble Mustard Plant)

tumble-mustard-baby

(A flowering Tumble Mustard).

mature-tumble-mustard

When we first moved onto this property, we didn’t know what was what–we had to wait until it matured. And, since weeds grow fast, it didn’t take too long to realize we had a lovely yellow flower all over our pasture.

This stalky plant grew to be about 2 feet tall or higher and populated our entire acreage. As the horses would walk over it, it would brush against their bellies–implanting these lovely little bugs–who would jump from the tops of the plants to the belly of the horses–these bugs are called ticks. Have you heard of them?

I happen to hate ticks–how about you? They are disgusting, foul, blood-sucking, parasites—IIIICCCCKKKK! We had to burn them off the horses, cut down the foliage and keep the horses sprayed all year to prevent a reinfestation.

Now, as for the Tumble Mustard, it doesn’t kill horses, but ingesting too much could make a pregnant mare abort a foal, or cause the foal to be born with birth defects. That’s enough to make them my mortal enemy.

Tumble Mustard was imported from Europe–like many of our other noxious weeds–Yellow Star Thistle, for example–which is toxic and deadly to horses as well.

Weeds that thrive in certain regions–soils–to me, there seems a lot of symbolism there. I certainly have my weakness in life–like weeds–things that grow in my heart and choke out what good I’m trying to cultivate. It’s all part of being human and organic. We’re prone to tempers, jealousies, laziness, and getting our feelings hurt–among many other things.

Even Dickinson had her weeds. **cough, cough** I won’t name them…yet.

Gardening is the outward effort of what we do internally. We try to make our life a beautiful garden, but it takes constant weeding–and though some weeds may appear pretty themselves–we have to decide what is acceptable and not in our garden.

What weeds are growing in your garden?

Happy First Day of Spring Account

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.

Emily Dickinson, 812

Today I’m doing an inventory of my trees–to see if they’ve made it through winter.

The Poplars have bark damage–maybe from the cats–maybe from the deer when they were rubbing off their antlers. Yet, they’re still budding. My question is, what do I do to help them now? Will they survive stress? Will they continue to grow at the rate of the others?

poplar-bark-damage
The buds of the same Poplar.
poplar-with-bark-damage-3

My Flowering Plum, in front of the house, also has bark damage. This one’s survival is so important. I chose it from the others because I liked its shape–the way it spread out and would give the window area privacy.

fp-bark-damage-front-of-house
Its buds.
fp-in-front-of-house-bark-damage

The FPs along the driveway are alive. I noticed that there is one growing much slower than the rest. Are its roots hitting rocks? It also has bark damage from over a year ago.

stunted-fp-first-day-of-spring-bark-damage
The runt.
stunted-fp

Here is one we planted last Fall. It was pretty mature to begin with and had a huge heavy root ball. We broke it during transplant, but it, too has survived the winter.

fp-broken-root-ball-first-day-of-spring-09

The Weeping willows have survived.

And this one, the little Willow–the tiny one we planted 18 months ago which barely grew–and then we transplanted last Fall to make room for the new ones–it appears to be alive as well. We thought it was dead last Fall. Could it really have survived?!? Look at the profusion of buds. Wow!

willow-we-took-for-dead-2

willow-we-took-for-dead

The new Willows–much larger–but only planted last Fall.

weeping-willow-2

Here are three more in back–a Birch and two pines. They are alive. I’m so happy!! I love Birch trees. I hope to put in more this year.

birch-2

birch-1

This is not a tree, but they are coming alive–Day Lilies.

day-lilies

My quest this week–find and buy 3 Forsynthia and 1 Magnolia.

Have you done an accounting of your garden? Are your trees coming alive today–this first day of Spring?

A Canvas Cleared by Steel

Like Brooms of Steel
The Snow and Wind
Had swept the Winter Street —
The House was hooked
The Sun sent out
Faint Deputies of Heat —
Where rode the Bird
The Silence tied
His ample — plodding Steed
The Apple in the Cellar snug
Was all the one that played.

Emily Dickinson

March 19, 2009
1 Day to Spring
Forecast: 49 degrees and showers

Here is where my garden begins–the front of the house. (Southern Exposure) I can envision a little fence around the perimeter with some kind of climbing vine–maybe honeysuckle (?) growing over and making the yard a more private space. The piano sits in front of the big window, and I would like to be able to see outside–the two areas communicating to one another. There is a flowering plum there now.
plan-c1
planter-d1
planter-c1
The “Rock Heap”. If only these basalt rocks were gold–we’d be RICH. Instead, we harvest them for walls. The driveway is in a circle so we can get trailers turned around. Because of that, my husband has had to move this wall with the tractor, as we were running into it when hauling horses. That is where the “heap” look came from, and we need to rearrange them this Spring to make it look more tidy. Oh, we also need to bark and felt around it. And, there is another problem–we forgot to lay pipe down before we had the asphalt poured, so there is no way to get a sprinkler over to it. Hmmmm…..
planter-b2
One of two planters with Day Lilies.

planter-day-lilies1

The planters which will go out on the front patio. (Thyme)
thyme1
The front patio my husband and I put it in the first summer. We took a break from finishing the basement and did this project in a weekend. We were getting tired of DIRT.
planter-e1
Eastern Exposure–side of house–EYE SORE. Look at all the things we need to cover up over there–and soften the rigidity of angles. I’m thinking Forsynthia–and Magnolia.
side-of-house-f1
forsynthia
magnolia
magnolia-close-up
This is the back patio and where we really want to go WILD!! We want this space to be private and profuse.
looking-out-to-patio-planter-a1
planter-a1
planter-a-continued1
And last, the little tulip I found growing in the yard refuse. We purchased a house, land, and a hole. And, filling up the hole or, really, CRATER, was much more difficult than we imagined. Neighbors brought their yard waste over and dumped it that first summer. The next Spring I found this beautiful friend growing in it. I hiked down and dug it up and brought it back to the house. I can’t wait to see if it comes up this Spring!! I’m really looking forward to seeing it again.
1-tulip-surviving
Is there something in your garden that you’re looking most forward to?

Emily’s Garden of Possibilities

I dwell in Possibility–
A fairer House than Prose–
More numerous of Windows–
Superior–for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars–
Impregnable of Eye–
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky–

Of Visitors–the fairest–
For Occupation–This–
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise–

Emily Dickinson J 657

I’m starting this blog in honor of Spring, flowers, Nature–and Emily Dickinson. I’ve ordered two books which should arrive any day which I want to use as inspiration as I plant my own garden on our fourteen acre “ranch”. Emily Dickinson’s Gardens, by Marta McDowell

The Gardens of Emily Dickinson, by Judith Farr & Louise Carter

Anyone who would like to join in this discussion of creating a poetic place to “be”–is surely welcome.

My hope for myself is to explore Dickinson’s poetry and life through this process. I’d also like to incorporate many of her flowers and symbols into my own space. I admire her–her individuality and courage to see and speak the world in her unique way–I want my garden to be a reminder of this.

I’m starting from scratch. When we purchased our home, it didn’t have a single tree, flower or shrub. I have a completely blank slate.

These are my plantings to date:

2 Day Lilies–planted in planters in July of ’07 (right when we arrived)Emily thought these flowers symbolized her, but I didn’t know that until recently.
4 bushes of Thyme
2 Weeping Willows (actually 4, but 2 died)
1 Weeping Birch
1 Tall Birch
7 Flowering Plums
3 Flowering Cherries (one was trampled by one of the horses and is now dead)
3 Poplars
3 Pine trees (can’t remember their names–will check the tags)
I’ve also planted annuals, but they’re gone–well, except for the ones that burrowed underneath the bricks–the Petunias–they came up again last year all on their own.
And last, Tomatoes–because I love fresh tomatoes.

What’s in your garden? What’s going to be new in your garden this year?