Tag Archives: Flowers

Courage at Twilight: Flower Garden

Field grass had grown up through the thick ice plant groundcover in the front flower bed. Dad had sprayed with a product that avowed “kills grass, not flowers,” which did not kill the grass and did kill the flowers, just not the plants.  He had spent hours poking at the grass with a long weeding tool, from a seated position.  But he finally gave up.  “Rog, I have made a decision.  I want to dig all the ice plants out.”  I began to dig in the dense matt.  “Make sure to shake out the soil,” Dad instructed.  I did so (and would have done so), tossing the dirtless plant clumps in his direction.  I did not look as I tossed them, and was confident I was not hitting him with the clumps, but did toss them in the vicinity of his feet, where the remnant soil filled his shoes.  “Roger’s revenge,” I quipped playfully.  “Did you know you dig with your left foot?” Mom asked randomly.  No, I did not know.  I am fairly confident my long life of garden digging has been ambidextrous (or as the local newspaper recently headlined, “amphibious”), but for some reason my left boot liked this job.  Dad had stumbled out with all his hand tools, but sat in his chair talking to me as I strained at the earthy tangles.  Several times he enthused, “I’m enjoying just visiting and watching you work.”  As long as he is happy, I am happy.  Using a leaf rake, he pulled the clumps together and lifted them into the garbage can, which I had positioned near his chair.  The filled bags were very heavy, and the wheeled can, with four filled ice-plant bags, felt full of rocks.  After two hours, we had an 8×9 open space, penned in by old bushes, with soft sandy soil, an empty pretty, space.  “I like it just like that,” Mom insisted.  “I don’t want any more bushes that you have to take care of.”  But Dad and I really wanted to decorate the space with new flowering plants.  We took ten-year-old Amy to the nursery, and carefully selected the plants based on tolerance of full sun and low water, plant height, and especially color and beauty of flower.  The empty space is now decorated with beautiful flowering plants, seen by every car that passes—a thousand a day, easily—and every person that walks by.  They all know: That’s Nelson’s yard; look how nice he has made it.  “You did a big job today, Rogie.  I didn’t think we would even start this job, let alone finish.”  Truth be told, neither did I.  Both my back and my attitude held out.  We finished at dusk, and I felt too tired to cook, so out came the leftover whole-wheat lasagna Sarah sent over days before, with canned corn and peas, warmed in the microwave.  Remembering the ravenous mule deer roving the neighborhood, I ventured into the dark and chill to grate Irish Spring bar soap on and around the plants.  Though we like seeing the deer, having our plants eaten overnight would have made us very sad.  But the next morning, the plants were intact and happily boasting their blossoms.

(Pictured above: Dad’s ice plants, before the non-killing spray killed them.)

(Pictured below: our new flower garden, before and after.)

(The string is not to keep out the deer, which would easily step over it, but rather the neighborhood children congregating at the corner bus stop who always traipse through.)

Courage at Twilight: Popcorn Popping on the Pear Tree

I grew up singing “Primary” songs in the Church’s Sunday classes for children.  A perennial favorite still is a springtime song celebrating blossoming fruit trees: “Popcorn Popping.”  The song has nothing to do with Jesus or the Church, but helps keep the children entertained and orderly: the lyrics and catchy tune never fail to rouse children’s enthusiasm to sing.

I looked out the window, and what did I see?

Popcorn popping on the apricot tree!

Spring has brought me such a nice surprise:

Popcorn popping right before my eyes.

Eye can take an armful and make a treat:

A popcorn ball that will smell so sweet.

It wasn’t really so, but it seemed to be:

Popcorn popping on the apricot tree.

The popcorn is popping on Dad’s ornamental pear trees, in full white-blossom bloom.  Strangely, though, as pretty a sight as they provide, the blooms smell more like putrescence than popcorn or perfume.  So, I admire the flowers from a distance.  Large limbs have occasionally broken away from the trunks, unable to support their own weight, leaving great gaping scars which we painted over to help heal.  Dad has trimmed and shaped the trees to better bear their bulk and to provide a more pleasing garden architecture.  In a short week, the delicate popcorn blossoms will fall and float away, and the glossy green leaves will take the summer show.  In the fall, the leaves will turn a million hues of rusty purple red, perfect for pressing.  But tonight, a late wet snow is falling.

Pictured: Mom’s and Dad’s ornamental pear trees in bloom.

Courage at Twilight: Pumpkins on the Porch

Dad suggested we bring home Café Rio for dinner.  I suggested we pick up some pumpkins on the way.  He protested that it was too early in the season, that they would just rot if we bought them now.  I countered that if we bought them in a month they would have sat at the store for that month instead of prettily on their porch, and opined that the pumpkins would not rot until after the first hard freeze.  He conceded the point.  I parked at Lowes in a handicapped stall with direct line-of-sight to the pumpkin boxes, holding the pumpkins up one by one for Mom and Dad to give me the thumbs up or down for each.  We left with four: traditional orange, wrinkled red, white with cream cycle splotches, and a deep green with skin lobed like a brain.  At Café Rio, I stood Mom’s four-footed cane in the line.  Mom and Dad sat at a table near the menu so I could explain their dinner options.  The lady ahead of us moved the cane with her as the long line progressed, to keep our spot.  Mom chose the roast beef burrito, and Dad the roast beef salad.  Mom hinted she would like a tres leches for dessert, and Dad entreated for a key lime pie (diabetes be damned).  “I’m worn out just from sitting there waiting,” Dad sighed as we walked slowly to the car.  He had forgotten his cane, and so leaned on my shoulder instead.  Back at home, Mom and I arranged the pumpkins festively on the front porch before settling into TexMex and Netflix.

Poppies in Winter

When I moved five years ago, I decided to keep a beautiful centerpiece on my kitchen table, in all seasons, from fall maple leaves to spring daffodils to summer poppies.  They have brought cheer and color to my little dining room.  These silk and plastic decorations, from the dollar store, never fade in the dark or the cold.  The poppies are my favorite, and sit on my table still in late winter.  Their vase is a papier machet bottle made by my sister in elementary school.  Admiring them both from my sofa, I decided they deserved a poem.

Poppies in Winter

my poppies are plastic, yet
they huddle so prettily
on my dinner table with a real sun-
fire brilliance in summer

     I smell their perfume, I
fancy

my poppies stand in a bunched bouquet
in a narrow neck of glass glazed
with mottled patches of rust and brown,
earth of paper and glue

since grade school arts and crafts the bottle
has hid on a closet shelf until becoming
soil for my poppies:
sun-fire scarlet in winter

 

Roger Baker is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human heart.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.