Sep 4, 2005

Digging In The Dirt

Flowerbeds. I've got a few. The current ones are mostly inherited ones, so they're pretty well established, and all I have to do is either clean them up or repair them. A few I have installed in the past year, and there are more to come. MANY more.

That's my thing, you see. Well, one of them. I have a lot of things. Too many, if you ask me, but that's neither here nor there. Flowerbeds. There's something magical about planting a little onion-shaped bulb and getting to watch it turn dirt and water and sun into a towering red gladiola, or sticking a bundle of roots and sticks into the ground and watching it turn into a bush full of brilliant yellow King Midas roses.

I got this love from my father, the man who could plant an axe handle in the ground and make it grow a hickory tree. That love he planted in me by his actions, by his careful work in the yard and his gardens and his roses, and like a bulb in the winter ground that same love of the earth lay in me dormant, waiting only for the right combination of circumstances for it to spring into growth. Which it did, with a fierceness only Nature could rival.

Winter seems to be approaching; stealthily, and not so much in a hurry, but approaching nonetheless. Last night it dipped below 70 degrees, and I thought for sure, upon seeing that fact this morning that I should have frozen to death in my bed, but no. And in light of this sudden cold snap I took it upon myself to go out and do a little gardening, since I am going to skip cutting the yard this weekend for fear of killing more of it.

It wasn't too hot outside by mid-morning, so I gathered up my few tools--a shovel, and clippers because I had a certain weed to remove from the beds, and my little hand-spade. When my mother and father first built this house they left plenty of room for flower beds, and they scattered red spider lily bulbs in places all throughout them. I can remember many a year as a little boy in school bringing my teachers big clusters of them, wrapped carefully in a wet paper towel, and that wrapped in cellophane or foil.

The thing with these lilies is that they get out of hand pretty fast. If they have a good year, a single bulb will produce a flower and greenery to build up energy for the next season as well as a second bulb, called a daughter. You see where this is going. If you have a few good years you get an exponential growth of bulbs--one, then two, then four, then eight, sixteen, thirty-two. And if you're in my mother's flowerbeds you do so well that the bulbs in the middle get so crowded that they start to pop up out of the ground from the pressures on all sides, and you have to force your little rootlets down past a dozen or so competing sisters of yours for nourishment.

And then along comes me with my shovel, intent on digging up a few bulbs to spread around the other beds. I know of two patches underneath my old bedroom window, patches that I return to year after year, carefully thinning them, leaving a few behind, well spread out so they can grow comfortably, and I take the extras to new beds here and there. This morning's first patch produced ten nice-sized bulbs, which I moved to a distant new bed. I returned to the second patch and realised that each preceeding year the first patch has always had enough to go around, and usually the summer heat has driven me mad so I never really get to the second patch to thin it.

With a little trepidation I cleared the cypress mulch away, and my gentle clawing at the mulch to move it unearthed two good-size bulbs. I knew this was going to be bad. I could just see dozens of tiny white stem ends pushing at the earth, so I took the spade, backed up away from the outermost bulb, and pressed it into the ground. I pushed gently down, then forward, and lifted one spadefull of earth, probably half a cubic foot, then started gently prodding and poking to make the earth fall away so I could winkle out a few bulbs. Well, that little patch produced a few daughters for me to transplant. Eighty-five, to be exact. I say 'eighty-five,' there was still a good dozen or more when I left in borderline terror; I ran out of room to put all the volunteers, so I'd be willing to say that this little one foot patch of earth was supporting a full hundred bulbs.

Yeah, I reacted the same way.

So I spent my morning wandering around in something of a stunned fuge, stopping here and there to put down bulbs and more bulbs. I filled my mother's new flowerbed with them, and put some under the tree, and I think I even ate a few on a hamburger, sliced real thin just to get rid of some of them, and I still have about 40.

Mom-in-law, you've got some planting to do. See you this afternoon.


Vulgar Wizard said...

Ooooooooooo! Go plant some under my magnolia tree behind the new house!!!!!!

Tee hee hee.

Irrelephant said...

I've only got about three left. Three THOUSAND.

George said...

You could send a few up this way. I LOVE those things and you can't get them here.

Irrelephant said...

George, I promise next time I make the mistake of sticking spade in earth and turn up a few jillion I'll send you all you'd like. *S*