The easy gifts are the ones I knowingly cultivated. Like radishes. I’ve been having radishes all week. I have discovered that they taste really good sliced up on sandwiches. I can’t eat raw onion but radishes make a nice alternative — a little crunch and a little bite. And of course knowing they came from my garden makes them even tastier. And lettuce. I’ve been able to start picking that too. Eating freshly picked lettuce has got to be one of the simplest and most satisfying joys of life.
And the herbs. The culinary sage burst into bloom this week. I have a few non-culinary salvias in the garden and theyhave wonderful purple flowers. The culinary sage was small and newly planted in the herb spiral last year and it grew and got bushy and sage-y. For some reason I didn’t expect it would have flowers. So when I saw all the buds last week I didn’t really think much about them. When the little purple flowers opened this week, what a delightful surprise!
And of course there are the flowers I’ve planted through the years and have cared for and watched grow. And what a happy gift it is when they thrive and burst into bloom. When they are in my front garden like the yellow sedum, right next to the public sidewalk, it is a gift for me and my neighbors and I hope they make everyone else smile as much as they do me.The garden also provides good exercise. As I was bending and stretching over the veggie beds this afternoon I thought, I could do a video called “yoga for gardeners.” This move would be called “pulling weeds,” and this one “straddling the veggies” and don’t forget “reaching up the trellis.” Oh and, “slapping the mosquito biting me through the back of my shirt.” Gardening also makes me appreciate how good a cold glass of water is. And then there is the pleasure of sitting in the shade and resting. Ahhh.
There are other more indirect gifts the garden gives too. Birds like to visit and sing beautiful songs. When I am out working in the garden I generally end up having a brief chat with a neighbor or neighborhood kids who love to stop and watch and ask what I am doing. There are also butterflies. And butterfly caterpillars. The pussytoes I have planted in my garden are a host plant for painted lady butterflies and right now there are little caterpillars cocooning in the leaves. I usually have dragonflies visit my garden but this year they are the size of small birds and it is such a pleasure to watch them in all their various shimmering colors, zig-zagging around the garden hunting for their supper. Though I must admit it is a bit disconcerting to be bent over a garden bed and have one of them zoom right by your head!
These are all gifts that are easy to recognize. There are lots of others that go by unlooked for or misunderstood. Foryears I pulled our milkweed having no idea what it was. I hadn’t planted it and it was growing in flower beds with flowers I had planted so I figured it was some hardy weed. But then two years ago I saw a picture of milkweed and realized, oh my goodness! I’ve been pulling it up! So last year when a few milkweed sprouts came up I left them alone and they gifted me with beautiful flowers that left a lot of seed behind. This year I have milkweed coming up all over the place. I’ve had to pull some of it out because it came up too close to other plants or in the middle of a pathway, but for the most part I’ve left it alone. Will the monarch butterflies find it? I hope so!
This year under Bossy my apple tree in my front garden, a delicate looking plant sprung up. I left it alone, watching to see what it might be. As it got bigger I thought, huh, those leaves look like columbine, but I didn’t plant any, haven’t had any in the garden for about four years since the rabbits ate it. Well sure enough, it did turn out to be columbine and it has lovely dark purple flowers. I have no idea where it came from but I am grateful for the gift.Ever since we put in Amy Pond, I’ve been a bit obsessive over it, worried about the fish and worried about whether mosquitoes are breeding in it. Early in the week I looked in and didn’t see any fish. I stood and watched for five minutes and no fish. I’m sure me and my shadow hovering over the pond was not very encouraging to the fish to come out and see what was up! I figured something must have eaten them. Oh well, at least they are cheap. It’s a good thing I didn’t rush to the fish store that night because the next day when I looked in on Amy Pond all three fish were darting about. But, there were what were clearly eggs of some kind floating on the surface of the pond. They were kind of biggish and round and tended to cluster together. Stupid fish, I thought, you are supposed to eat mosquito eggs. I grabbed the net and swished out as many as I could.
A couple days later it dawned on me that I have no idea what mosquito eggs look like and I had best look it up, verify those were mosquito eggs I swished out. I finally remembered to look it up this afternoon. And guess what? They weren’t mosquito eggs. I am not entirely sure what kind of eggs they were, but evidence points to the possibility that they were frog eggs. Of course I ran out to the pond to see if there were still any in there, hoping that I might have missed somein my overzealous swishing. Nope. Nothing. I was much too thorough. And now I am kicking myself for being so quick to make assumptions and destroy the very thing that I had wanted a pond for in the first place. Now I have no way of knowing if they really were frog eggs. And I am hoping against all hope that I missed a few and that maybe in a week or two I’ll walk out and look into Amy Pond and see a few tiny tadpoles.
That would be a gift I don’t deserve given what I did. But along with being so generous with its gifts, the garden is also forgiving. After all, look how many years I pulled out milkweed before I finally learned what it was. Even if they were frog eggs and even if I did kill them all, there is the possibility that next year the garden might give me that particular gift again. And if she does, it is a gift I will be extra grateful for.