Friday, August 14, 2009


I am thrilled to welcome a "follower" to my blog. And no less, a distinguished and appropriately named visitor than my new friend, Peaches.

In my garden, I have a lovely little peach tree, a dwarf that I bought several years ago after researching a story for the magazine about orchards and fruit. I was amused then to learn that the reason early settlers grew apple tree orchards (and thus the huge popularity of Johnny Apple Seed) was because they were making an alcoholic mash, a hard cider, to wash down and abet their daily trials and tribulations. Of which, they had many, since they couldn't run off to Whole Foods for sushi if they didn't feel like cooking.

My peach tree, which grows just about two and a half feet tall, delivered the first year that I planted it. Its stout, little branches heroically supported two enormous peaches at the end of the growing season. I picked one before it was ripe, because we were going on vacation, and left the other on the branch. I put the fruit in the car and we packed off to Rhode Island. That peach got toasty warm on the back deck. And in the parking lot before boarding the ferry to Block Island, the four of us each took bites, passing the fruit around. It was deliriously delicious. I can't ever remember a peach that tasted so good, not before or ever since.

When we got home, the other peach had ripened and some back yard critter thief had taken more than enough bites that we couldn't have any ourselves.

The next year was the year that the gypsy moths invaded. An army of them marched up the peach tree's slender trunk. Their soft, clingy bodies made everyone shudder with horror, and the usual live- and let-live principles of a mindful gardener were abandoned. Over the fence the neighbors discussed and planned the coming apocalypse for the invaders. But by the time, we got down to reading the label about the horrific chemicals and toxins that we were aiming to set loose into our backyard havens, the gypsy moth mass had defoliated my peach tree.

No peaches came that year.

And fortunately, we neighbors came to our senses and we abandoned our plans to permethiate with pesticide our gardens. The gypsy moths naturally met their demise in the beaks of a host of hungry birds, and nature's natural boom and bust came and went. But still the next year, the remaining few warriors of the gypsy moth contingent ascended the peach tree and once again rendered it fruitless.

This year, its tiny peaches dropped early. I don't know why or what offended it. Perhaps it was storing up energy to fend off the expected assault. But for whatever the reason, my peach tree, though peachless, is looking ever so robust. And the gardener, ever hopeful, looks to next year. So welcome Peaches to my blog. The Putterer

P.S. The picture above is a dahlia and has nothing to do with peaches. It is just a fabulous photo masterfully created by my daughter, P, and taken just a week or so ago in my garden.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Bumblebee Bumbles into My Ear

Nothing gives me greater pleasure than welcoming the visitors that come to my garden. Perhaps they aren't even visitors, a few might be calling this place home. Witness the bumblebee that my daughter P photographed as it sipped nectar from one of my Phlox Veronicas. I've had many bumblebees this summer. They arrived in early spring and multiplied in late April when the azaleas bloomed. One even gently whispered to me in my ear one day. I was sitting in my chair completely relaxed. Enough so that if a bumblebee should happen to fly into my ear that I wouldn't even flinch. The one that did just for a fleeting second tickled and tumbled around there in a manner so gentle I felt he'd come by to thank me for making him such a lovely place to find his daily feast.

This weekend, I finally had the time to do the yard work after three weeks of neglect. I mowed and clipped and weed-wacked until my wacker ran itself out of plastic string. The heat started to build and I just couldn't get to the back yard garden. But there it all looks relatively fine. I stopped in there yesterday morning before work and watered and yanked out a few weeds. We've started harvesting our tomatoes. The first one came last week. And I've since pulled about half a dozen more. They are absolutely delicious and fortunately did not suffer this horrible tomato blight that is plaguing the Northeast. The garden that I planted close to Cherie's yard is making a fine first-year attempt, but I bet by its second season, it will do the job that I planted it to do. The mosquitoes, little ornery guys, are in full force. Five of them to a leg. It's quite annoying. The little sweet peppers have grown so large, that they pulled the entire plant over. And sadly, the lettuce that I planted two weeks ago refused to come in. It must have known that we still had hot, nasty days to come. I'll plant another row in a week or so. The Putterer

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My Lovely Ladies

Everyone knows that nurturing a garden is far easier than nurturing children, or children that are clamoring to be adults, anyway. Put a plant in soil and usually it will just grow. There are no subtleties, no nuances, few worries and almost certain success for both the gardener and the plant.

Children, on the other hand, on first blush, seem easy. They are sweet and beautiful to look at. They love you unconditionally. But then over time, complexities evolve. Keeping them safe. Guiding them to do right and make healthy choices. Protecting them from overzealous teachers and other authoritarians. Letting out the leash only to have to reel it back in. Being their friend and then abruptly turning authority figure and jailer. Hypocrisy. Anger. Frustration. Betrayal. Conflict. Disappointment.

And yet incredibly, none of it matters in the main. The sweet smile, the one you've recognized since the moment you first held them, melts your soul. The fierce love that you have for them cripples any attempt to remain angry. There's no flower in the world to compete.

Maybe instead, I can find some parental wisdom to draw upon in the soil. There, perhaps, in the dirt is the grit, the determination and all the micro-ingredients for the infinite worries and precautions that it takes to master the art and science of planting a child on this earth.