The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Thursday, June 28, 2012


It seems as though road repair is in process in every single major traffic area around where we live.  And for better or worse, the state highway department has embarked on a monster project of widening for miles and miles a very major freeway in our immediate area, with the long-term goal of adding toll lanes, etcetera.   The effect has been, of course, to create whole areas of mountains-of-the-moon landscape, with the accompanying bridge and lane and exit closings, making for either a terrifying or exciting passage, depending on your point of view.  My view seems to be the one of terror, my husband’s that of ‘whee’.  It must be a man-woman thing.

Today we had to cross a newly-widened bridge, only partly completed, to go to an appointment, and out in this 104 degree heat we are ‘enjoying’ right now, were all these men in hard hats, accomplishing what to passers-by such as ourselves seems nigh on to impossible.

They work with traffic buzzing by them, and they are well aware that some of those drivers are driving faster than they should and with cell phones to their ears.  The workmen and the engineers who guide the workmen deal with complicated machinery, weather extremes of heat and cold, obvious constant physical discomfort, all the while carving the earth into some sort of order, and doing their jobs. 

One thinks, sometimes, why do they do it?  Why do they endure all that risk and effort and misery?  Well, some of the answers are obvious.  They must support themselves and perhaps families.  They signed up for the job and they must do it.  They like the challenges, at least some of the time.  And this work needs to be done and not everyone can do it, but they can.  As to any other motives, I can only theorize that after a particular project is complete, one or more or many of the men may come back and take a look and know they helped to create something unique, useful, and sometimes even beautiful. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012


We have a wonderful country.  It is, in many respects, a great place to live, an accepting place, a welcoming place, a bastion of freedom.  But … and there is always that other word … we are not a patient people. 

Now impatience can be a good thing on occasion.  Impatience led the colonists to push back against British tax laws, impatience led the settlers to head west, clear across to the Pacific.  Impatience has led us out of many a national problem.  “We can fix this,” we say collectively, and many times we can.  But something seems to have changed a bit in our national character.  For instance, we have all been affected by the economic catastrophe, or rather catastrophes, plural, that occurred because of irresponsible banks and lending institutions and investment houses.  It didn’t matter whether we had money in the market, or lost a job because of cut-backs, or simply found that everything from insurance to food to medical care to transportation started to cost a lot more. 
Collectively we are disappointed that the problems incurred through decades of error in judgment have not been solved in three-and-a-half years.   We want things to be like a child’s toy, ta-da, ta-da, ta-da, pop!  All done.

Our President has dealt with two wars, an escalating national debt, a bursting housing bubble caused by people who bought homes costing ten times their annual income financed by incompetent lenders, an immigration problem, a health care problem, and financial institutions who had started to believe they were playing by Las Vegas rules.  Oh, and he has dealt with concerns about national security, too.

Now, instead of being impatient enough to roll up our sleeves and figure out how the collective ‘we’ can fix this problem, some of us are so impatient we do not remember that the President managed to push through a stimulus program that saved the American automobile industry and a heck of a lot of jobs.  That he has been instrumental in winding down two wars.  That he has pushed for financial reform to prevent the kind of immoral financial abuse that nearly destroyed the world economy.  That he managed to orchestrate a health care reform that, if it is allowed to be implemented by the well-financed opposition, will help our society in innumerable ways, from health to finance; people won’t have to choose between medicine and food.  That he has proposed closing Guantanamo, pushed for the DREAM act and worked for immigration reform, tried to lower the deficit, only to meet a wall of Congressional resistance.

Have we become so addicted to fast food and fast news and fast entertainment and fast cars, that we have literally no attention span left?  That we really think that one individual, with no vote in Congress and limited powers, can solve all the problems that some of us created with greed and bad judgment?  Well, then, our problems won’t get fixed.   And if we continue to blame the President and shirk our own responsibilities, we will indeed get what we ‘deserve’.  But we may not like it very much.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Today is June 20, 2012, the summer solstice, the longest day of this year.  Summer begins this evening.  Every year I think there should be some sort of celebration on the solstices, the longest and the shortest days, but they always seems to catch me unprepared.  One doesn’t wake up one morning and decide to give a party.  Oh, I guess one could, but this year, that won’t be practical.  For one thing, my mate and best friend has plans to meet one of his oldest friends.  They try to do that once a month, to keep in touch.  They talk about all sorts of things and never have a loss for words.  You know, the sort of conversation one can have with an old friend.
 But getting back to the solstice, on this longest day of the year, we rose earlier than usual to avoid too much sun and heat and did some tasks outside that we wanted and needed to do.  The early morning was been cloudy and breezy, quite nice when one is moving busily around the yard and garden.  It is humid, of course,  because this is Texas in the summer.  Because I/we have a mild addiction to certain tropical plants such as plumbago capensis and ixora (one red, one yellow) as well as bougainvillea, plus there are always small pots of something or other we’ve potted up for some reason or other, there is always a need to water pots at least twice a week and today was one of the days to do that.  And there was lawn to be mowed.  And the birds felt their feeder should be filled.  Because we are no longer young, we like to do such things leisurely.  Then we sit and have our second cup of coffee and admire what there is to admire.  Certainly the blue plumbago and the ixoras are repaying us with blooms.  Certainly the various other potted projects seem to be happy. 

And we can leisurely discuss things we want to do in the future, mostly plants that need to be moved from one spot to another.   In fact, my dear companion and spouse has commented more than once that perhaps he should plant garden plants on wheels, the easier to move them around.  It’s a joke, of course, but the nice thing about him is that he loves to see plants thrive and understands that sometimes we have chosen the wrong place for them to do that.

Well, even though we won’t be having a party on this solstice, we are still having a lovely day.  And a long one.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


By ‘accident’, I don’t mean that how I garden is accidental.  Oh, sure, I try very hard to learn from experience, to read gardening books and articles, to pay attention to the plants and the requirements and all that.  The ‘accident’ comes in when I am unintentionally careless with beloved plants, and they are all beloved, and yet they survive anyway.  Or when I am unintentionally careless and I lose one.

In a world full of pain and strife, one must not care overmuch about the loss of even a cherished plant, or any other thing, actually.  But when a gardener is in the garden and realizes that through distraction or a combination of circumstances such as distraction, an unprecedented drought and perhaps a circumstance of personal illness, one simply manages to lose a particularly cherished plant one has had for a long time, it’s a sadness.  A minor sadness, but a sadness, all the same.

Last summer was horrific in this part of the country.  It was horrific in most of the country, actually.  Storms and heat and fire and loss.  And terrible events in too many parts of the world.  Here, we had less than three inches of rain for the months of June, July and August, combined.  And because our reservoirs were becoming depleted, we were on very strict watering allowance.  Between soaker hoses and handwatering from our rain barrels until they ran dry, and mulch and very limited sprinkler use, we managed to keep everything going.  Barely.  And there were a few losses.  The worst loss was a beautiful daylily named Cool It, white, fragrant, and ruffled, and so special to us.  We had moved it with us when we came to this home and had grown it for several years.  I kept intending to lift it and pot it and bring it to shade and closer attention.  But there were other concerns in addition to the weather, and by the time I could focus on the daylily, it had disappeared.  Sometimes daylilies, if they are very well established, will go dormant under stress of heat and drought and reappear.  I hoped all winter that this would happen, feeling with careful fingers for any sign of existence.  But it was gone.   My beloved mate reminded me that it isn’t what we lost, it is what we still have, that is important.  And this is, of course, true.

This year may be pretty tough, too.  But at least we got some rain in the spring, not enough but some.  And we grow really tough stuff for the most part.  So we are working hard to hydrate and mulch and strengthen our cherished plants.  But we learned a valuable lesson, something needful of reminding, to be vigilant.  We must be vigilant about each other, about our cat, Max, and about our home and garden space.  And about this world we share and those with whom we share it.

On the other hand, after much anguish, I think I have found a source for another Cool It, and it is promised to be sent to me in September.  So I am left with both education about what is most important, and hope.  Which is pretty much what gardening is all about.  That and gambling.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


We have very ordinary days.  We do tasks in the garden, or just stroll around it, looking at what is blooming or what needs to be harvested.  We mow the lawn.  We do laundry and shopping and house cleaning and cooking.  We take care of our cat and of each other.  We plan a lunch out or we get together with friends.  We watch a recorded movie or a favorite television program.  We pay the bills and tally up what’s left over and are grateful that there’s something left over. 

But all the while we are moving from task to task, from meal to meal, from blessing to blessing, we are mindful that half a world away a woman, someone's mother, is going to a market to try to find food for her family and may not return because of a terrorist’s agenda.  We think of our children and are very well aware that half a world away, some children may become horribly hurt and maimed or may die, lose their lives for a terrorist’s agenda.  An old person, who has already lived through a life of great difficulty, will lose the only thing they have, the rest of their life, because of an agenda.

We try to understand why, although there is no answer, that someone thinks their cause, whatever it is, will be forwarded by the taking of innocent lives. 

We try to be mindful every day, while we live an ordinary day, that half a world away there are so many, too many, people who are suffering and dying because they were born at a particular place in a particular time, and that they are as helpless as we are to make things for them be different, be better, be ordinary.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Well, we weren’t always cat people.  Au contraire, a neighbor’s cats kept messing with my flower beds and I thought them sinister creatures.  Then we moved to the countryside.  The area where we moved was, at that time, quite peaceful and bucolic, with fields with horses and cows, and then there was our little plot, flanked on three sides by empty fields, and with more empty areas, except for trees and a creek, behind us.  Ah, but unseen were many creatures.  Especially mice.  And mice are tiny and in cold weather can always find a way inside.   We had one hilarious episode, involving being wakened by the scratching of mice whose nest had gotten so heavy with progeny that it fell behind the wall of our linen closet and so of course the mice got anxious to get out.  In the middle of the night, my husband cut out an access, grabbed out the nest, and then chased the one remaining ambulatory creature into our daughter’s bedroom (it ran under her door) with a broom, so that our daughter, quite young then, awakened to see her father screeching like a banshee and flailing a broom at something she could not see.  And yet they, my daughter and her father, are friends to this day.

Well, anyway, shortly thereafter, a neighbor’s Siamese cat unexpectedly had kittens.  The mother was a Siamese, but the father was a visitor, so that the kittens had no sale value, but they had trapping value, as in our daughter’s heart (she was probably about seven at the time), and so she worked on the neighbor to get the promise of a kitten and worked on us to get approval, and the bottom line was that one day when the kittens were old enough, she brought home this gray and white little boy cat who was to be named Twinkle and who was to live with us for twenty years.  So much love there.

When this same daughter grew up and married, she acquired a succession of kitties.  The first was Susie, who was feminine and fluffy and liked to perch on a window sill, where she would then preen and fall off.  Next, I think, was Tigret, who simply walked up to us one day when we were arriving to visit our daughter, and who persuaded all of us she had to stay.  Tigret was the only cat I have met who smelled of flowers, always.  Then there were Gizmo and Leo.  Gizmo was so clever that if he saw a display of a cat running across a television monitor, he would then look behind the monitor for it.  Leo was just a resident gold and white lovebug.  Eventually, when our daughter, husband, and baby came to live with us while building a new home, Giz and Leo came, too.   This didn’t set well with our Twinkle, but eventually the cats came to an understanding. 

In time, life being as it is, our daughter moved a short distance away, sans husband, but with two small children.  Leo was gone by then, and so was our Twinkle, but Gizmo came to live out his time with us, because otherwise we were all afraid he would try to cross to many freeways to get back to home territory.

In their new home, our daughter acquired Zena and Gabby, and later Sabbath, a black foundling, and Norman joined the family.  Zena and Gabby and Norman lived out their lives with love, and now there is still Sabbath and also Charlie, the most mischievous and eccentric of all his predecessors.  And in our home we have our dear Max, eccentric in his own way.  But neither home has mice!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


There comes a time when one is gardening, that one realizes that gardening lessons are being taught by the garden, and it is time to ‘listen up’.

For instance, I love hostas.  I’ve seen plantings that were lush and gorgeous, and contrary to what some writers of articles may say, the flowers of hostas are just as lovely as the foliage, and much to be appreciated.  I’ve seen photos in those same articles and in catalogues and oh, my, how striking.  But not in my garden.  In my garden, the slugs and snails feast, no matter what I do.  I have applied diatomaceous earth, crushed pecan hulls, everything that is supposed to prevent snails and slugs, and still the holes in the leaves appear, still whole leaves disappear, still the plants fail to thrive.  So, in the midst of concerted effort to get an accumulation of too many plants in pots out of those pots and into the ground, this year we are potting up the hostas.  Simply took them out of the ground, shook the roots to get rid of any hidden pests and potted them up and voilĂ  – they are doing better. 

I came to this conclusion shortly after I rescued my beloved heuchera sanguinea, which is a lovely plant I prefer to the more modern heucheras with colored foliage.  Oh, I have nothing against many of the plants with colored foliage, it’s just they do not thrive for me.  The sanguinea, with perky green foliage, thrives and blooms and is quite tough, unless they are in the ground, where they, too, are salad for the same snails and slugs that enjoy hostas.   It should be noted that in the same bed where the heucheras and hostas were planted in the ground, ferns and calla lilies and an elephant ear and Japanese roof iris all live happily and unconsumed.  The heucheras are now thriving in their pots.  One plant was nibbled right down to the ground and indeed I thought it was lost, until one little leaf peeked through.  I immediately rescued it to a pot and am being rewarded by its courage and its determination.

If you pay attention to the plants, observe their reactions to microclimates and their responses to too much sun or not enough, too much water or not enough, everyone is much happier.  I seem to have to be frequently re-taught that while self-watering pots are very useful, particularly in a climate where the summers spend way too much time above the 100-degree mark, they are not useful for all plants.  It appears that fibrous begonias and those same hostas and heucheras are delighted with the self-watering pots, but those same pots can be death to daylilies and amaryllis.   We nearly lost a new daylily, which had thrived heartily all fall and winter and early spring, to such a pot.  And I knew better.  But when the yellow leaves came, I thought, ‘hmmm, thirsty.”  Finally the memory bulb lit and we stopped watering it, let it dry out a bit, then put it in the ground, with, thank goodness, a good root system even though the plant leaves were distressed and I had to cut them back.  Now it is putting out new growth and I go by to check it and give it an encouraging thought, as well as enough, but not too much, water and a little food.  And all my amaryllis are going to be moved out of plastic self-watering and into clay pots.  And all those clay pots are going out into a shady area where they’ll get lots of light and chance for growth.  And then we’ll wander around the garden, which is most glorious early in the ‘coolth’ of the morning, and see what else we may have been missing by not paying attention.