Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Old Ladies and Gardening

My thoughts wandered to my aged aunts (long gone) and how I always thought they were incredibly old.  They were much older than my parents because dad was the youngest of seven children.

I remember how the women all looked like they had bowed legs and how all old ladies bent over in that unflattering way when gardening.  They all wore summer house dresses made of white muslin printed with lavender flowers and rolled down nylons around their ankles worn with their lace up black shoes.  They always had on an apron with pockets.  All my aunts had white hair (surprise) and it was either in a chignon or rolled tightly into a long curl thing.  I say curl thing because it was a single roll from ear to ear and held in place with hairpins and a hairnet. I realized this week; they were probably younger than I am today.  I pondered this and whether I should consider a chignon.  Heaven help me if I bend over my flowers and have bowed legs – JUST MAKE THE VISION STOP!

Speaking of old, there’s a flower catalog I particularly enjoy called “Old House Gardens – Heirloom Bulbs”.

1604 Heirloom
Call me sentimental but I like having plants in my gardens with a long history of survival.  They may not all be flashy in today’s sense of gardening but they are certainly hardy with a touch of pioneer gentility thrown in for good measure.

Accustomed to driving to our nearest nursery or big box outlet store, we grab bulbs and plants as if they were grown on the blacktop the day before.  Truth is many heirlooms were saved only because someone abandoned an old home site and no one had bulldozed the site.  There was a time when if it wasn’t new, it wasn’t valued.  Fortunately in recent years, plant and seed savers have rescued many of these plants and some are now plentiful enough for sales.

For the most part (but not entirely) these heirloom plants are extremely hardy and have proved this by enduring neglect, harsh conditions and almost extinction.  What this means is if you plant them in the right hardiness zone and according to needs, they will out live you and many future generations.

Because some of them are rare or as yet in short supply, some varieties may be expensive.  Another source is other gardeners.  If a fellow gardener says, “Do you want a start?” the answer should be a quick, ”Yes!”  But only “yes” if you actually do plan to plant and care for the gift.  I think we all know someone who seeks a start and then lets it languish in the garage until it’s beyond hope.

Gift certificates for all things heirloom gardening can be great Christmas presents for gardeners.  They can choose from long (almost eternal) lasting daffodils to “must be dug every fall” dahlias and gladiolas.   Or, a daylily breakthrough in the 1800s and a Thomas Jefferson’s hybridized plant.  Books such as “Flora Illustrata” or “Gerard’s Herbal” are full of beautiful illustrations and historical data.

Excuse me now as I seek a muslin housedress with lavender flowers to cover my bowed legs as I bend down and hope my chignon doesn’t fall out of my sunbonnet while pulling weeds.  

Visualization = not always a good thing. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Nature's Christmas

No, there's no deep meaning to this article - it's only about using natural (or nature's) supply of things for decorating your home for the holidays.

I've been a pinecone lover all my life.  First:  they smell good.  Second:  they are so wonderfully other world looking.  Third:  they can be used for decorating.  Yeah!  Add to pinecones, holly, twigs, leaves, nuts and feathers.  

If you're a gardener, you will have found loose feathers lightly laying on the ground.  I can never pass one of these beauties without picking it up and tucking it into a decoration.  I do suggest cleaning the feathers if you bring them inside because they can harbor insects and disease.  Gently wash in "Mr. Clean" and lay flat to dry on a paper towel.   

I made a giant pinecone wreath long ago and it lasted for years which is good because it took F.O.R.E.V.E.R to make.  I still use the glittered pinecones granddaughter, Katherine, gifted me one year.  

Market Alley Wines
I tucked holly and silvered hydrangea flowers into the table vases at my daughter's wine shop ( or see her Pinterest and Facebook pages) for Christmas decorations.  Holly will dry and still look lovely week after week.  The berries may drop so I never leave them on the branches for the sake of pets, children and staining.

Branches add depth and design to arrangements and if you're a glitter freak (admit it if you cannot leave a project alone until there's glitter somewhere) just coat in Elmer's glue and dip in the sparkly stuff for a winter wonderland.  

Nuts are a natural for decorating.  I made little winter people one year using nuts for the head.  Twenty years later I still have them - alas in a baggie and not on the tree because they are so past their prime but I'm too sentimental to throw them away.  I know:  the kids will not even be able to put them on the hayrack one day.

Soooo:  I thought I'd check out Pinterest in an effort to find a few pictures of pinecone crafts for this article and there were so many I finally decided I needed to get my pinecone mojo working with my crafting granddaughter, Grace.  Bring on the glue and glitter - grandma is on a binge!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Writers Paradise

Writers are a mixed bag of personalities, driving forces, history and outcomes.  Really good writers take us to places we can only visit in our minds.  They paint pictures so vivid and expressive we are transported into a situation as if we lived there.  John Sloan of Galva was a transporter and more.  He not only painted the pictures through his writing but in the process he made us better for having experienced his thoughts as our own.  Today John passed away after a long difficult battle with cancer.  He leaves behind a loving family, multitudes of friends, readers and fans.

In his much too short life, we can say his music soothed, his writing inspired, and his example helped make us better human beings.  But perhaps his mirror of God’s love is his most valued legacy.  When people say, “There’s a new angel in Heaven” in John’s case we know it’s true.  A musical, lyrical, compassionate angel – what more could we wish for John if we couldn’t keep him longer.

As with all our community, I’m sending love and prayers for John’s wife, Megan, sons Colin and Patrick and their families.  May God continue to comfort you with his presence; a God John served with valor. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dead Gardeners Society

 A local nursery had an advertisement offering to dig a hole and plant a tree for a certain price.  Not unusual except they offer to mix human cremated ashes into the hole first.   They call it “Tree Planting and Cremation Burial Service.”    It’s called a “green option” and as a marketing incentive to the bereaved, they state, “As the tree develops, the roots grow through and around the ashes.  The Nutrients from the ashes are absorbed into the branches and leaves of the tree and becomes a living reflection of the loved one.”  (Does anyone besides me hear organ music in the background as they read this?)

To qualify for this green burial, the body cannot have had formaldehyde-based or microbe-inhibiting chemicals prior to cremation.  FYI: actual cremains are more than ashes and include some larger pieces but I’ll use “ashes” alternately with “cremains”. 

For cemeteries allowing “natural” burial of cremains, there may be rules you want to investigate before making your pre-death tree planting burial decisions. Planting a tree and ashes on your private property may involve local regulations.  Although natural burial is gaining popularity, cemetery managers and regulators base their decisions on their knowledge of the process, their biases, imaginations, spiritual beliefs, the desire to consider new options and if they want to let go of the larger fees for traditional burials.

As the funeral industry is finding out, cremation is becoming more popular. It can be less expensive and take less space.  If there’s a new idea gaining popularity, then there’s a new buck to be made.  You can be as over-the-top environmentally friendly for cremains as you have the money to spend.

Burying or burning remains is many thousands of years old and was originally necessitated by disease and mass death.  Some religions have specifics for which method must be used.   The choices are not us vs. funeral home directors, regulators, and cemetery boards.  It’s finding out the facts and then working with these entities to find a solution for your choices.

No, you cannot infringe your ashes on others.  Sounds basic but you know there’s the one person who wants to throw ashes off the top of a skyscraper and let them float down over unsuspecting citizens.  Asking that your ashes be buried with the roots of a new tree on your own land, as a tree gift to a cemetery or park or as a part of a reforestation project are possibilities but only if it’s allowed in the way everyone agrees.

Once you come to the idea of wanting to have a natural burial in the roots of a tree, you need to do the following:

Find out where this could be accomplished.  Talking to your funeral director and/or cemetery manager of choice is a good first step.  Understanding the local regulations is another.

If your community doesn’t have a natural burial space, now is the time to work to make this happen. 

Get your family and friends on board - especially the executor of your estate.  They need to make the immediate decisions after your death to insure your burial meets your desires.  They also need to know the mechanics have already been considered and problems solved so you aren’t thrusting an impossible idea upon them during a time of bereavement.    

If you’re planted with a tree on your property, understand one day that property may belong to strangers making “visiting the site of grandma remains” impossible.  There’s the possibility the tree will die or be removed; will this be an emotional deal breaker? 

Natural burial of ashes under trees can be a gardener’s full circle of gardening tasks.  It can be the simple unselfish last task before putting away your trowel for the last time.  Is the time right for this kind of practice?  Only if you’ve investigated, solved the mechanics and made sure everyone knows of your wishes.  Go forth and fertilize!  (Did I really say that?  Sorry.)