Archive for March, 2012

March 22, 2012

Go Big for Beauty

by Cynthia

Spring has come early to Tennessee. Winter was ambivalent this year, barely showing up, an unfortunate portent to a wicked summer. I spent the day weeding:  the peony bed, the perennial bed, and then the garden beds.  It’s the best kind of work, weeding. Mindless and repetitive, it leaves the imagination free to meander all sorts of places. While digging up crabgrass and dandelions in the peony bed, I was planning my summer adventures; perhaps a week at the beach with the family, maybe a writing workshop, or a fly fishing expedition with Tim at the White River in Arkansas. Luckily, I came out of my reverie just before whacking the tips off a little green furl of dinner plate dahlia poking its fingers up through the soil. Every Spring, the sight of green plants, wakened and stretching themselves toward the sun creates a small renewal in me. In that moment, the darkness of winter with its unrelenting grayness and its damp clammy chill vanishes. Like the peony and the dahlia, my hopeful heart is resurrected.

The appearance of green shoots and sprouting things, with their death defying acts of renewal, emboldens gardeners, both the novice and the expert. Each year I choose a new vegetable to plant, something I have never tasted before, convinced it will flourish. If the peony which I have completely neglected since cutting the last fat flower in September can reappear with such vigor, surely a vegetable that I lavish with attention all summer will thrive. This year’s pick is pineapple tomatillos. They are supposed to taste like just like a pineapple, and since my locavore tendencies preclude my buying pineapple at the grocery, I’ve got big hopes for this little veggie.

That furl of dahlia pushing its determined limbs up through the Tennessee clay reminds me to pay attention to things that are easily gotten, little bits of beauty around me that are either free or darn inexpensive. Things like the sounds of wind chimes floating around on the breeze, the smell of freshly turned earth, the wiggle-twist of earthworms doing their good garden labor, unpaid. The outrageous purple-ruby of the random redbud tree in the woods behind the garden makes me hungry for beauty everywhere. So I plant flowers in between the lettuces from seed heads that I pilfered while walking through the garden at the Biltmore Estate last fall: hollyhocks and strawflowers and black-eyed-susans.  I repaint the bedroom, plant petunias, and hang a glass globe from a shepherd’s crook in the garlic bed.

If Spring had a billboard it would read GO BIG FOR BEAUTY. Beauty is easily gotten if you aren’t focused on glamour. Forget about the plants in the seed catalogues. Yours won’t look like that anymore than you will look like the Victoria Secret model just because you cough up a small fortune for the underwear.  Your plants will look a bit more like you; slightly stooped and a bit ragged at the edges, but sturdy and useful. In a word, Beautiful.