Monday, March 25, 2013

One Interesting Thing (with a Giveaway!)

I was walking down the hall at work one day last week, and I heard someone's rapid footsteps gaining on me. "I'm not stalking you, Becky," came the voice from behind. I turned to find one of the executives talking to me. "Oh, I wouldn't think that anyway," I assured her. "I'm not that interesting."

She caught up to me, laughing. Then she rather forcefully disagreed, arguing that everyone is interesting in their own way. "I'm sure you could tell me something interesting about yourself," she insisted. As we walked down the steps, I felt the pressure of coughing up some fascinating tidbit. She kept saying, "Just one thing. There has to be something." Honestly, I could think of numerous responses, but one must be careful in selecting an answer. After all, if this was going to be the only thing she knew about me, I couldn't say something like, "I was given the 'Best Belcher' award in college," which is memorable, but perhaps a little horrifying (though true). So for a time, I was silent.

Finally, I said, "I grow corn in my vegetable garden." There. Two interesting things for the price of one. She was genuinely interested. But ultimately, it doesn't matter to me whether she was or not, and I like to think that has everything to do with the way that gardening has changed me.

I Grow Corn!
For far too long, I was ashamed of myself. I believed that by no longer being a professor, I was no longer important. I wallowed. I despaired. Like J. Alfred Prufrock, "I [had] seen the moment of my greatness flicker," and in short, I was dismayed. In trying to find another suitable job, I discovered that no one believed I had any useful skills or experience. So I despaired some more. And in the midst of my malaise (and utter boredom from sitting at home), I began to build a garden. I suddenly had vision and purpose. I felt optimistic--which is especially strange for me--each time I dropped another seed into the ground.

The things that happen in my garden are infinitely interesting, and that's what matters to me. Take, for example, the almost complete destruction of my bronze fennel. I couldn't determine what was eating it, but something definitely hungry was. I felt its loss acutely. I was frustrated. Then one morning at dawn, I tiptoed out to the garden, as I often do, just to see what had happened overnight. I found the fennel destroyer at the scene of the crime, but suddenly, I didn't care that he had been so ravenous. My fennel had transformed him.

Swallowtail Butterfly drying its wings on the fennel it ate

I can come out other mornings and discover that flowers I haven't seen in almost a year have come back for another visit. They're like old friends, falling easily back into conversation with you.

Welcome back, Kew Red Lavender!

And then there are those really exciting moments when I get to introduce new members to our family. This weekend, for example, thanks to yet another giddy online shopping spree at Brent and Becky's Bulbs, I welcomed home the Bishop of Llandaff (dahlia), Emily McKenzie (crocosmia), Robert Kent (canna), one of the seven dwarfs, Sneezy (dahlia), and (dare I say it?) Lucifer himself, luckily in the more pleasing form of another stunning crocosmia. How I ended up ordering so many plants with human or character names is beyond me. I didn't realize it until I started planting them, reading each tag as I opened the packages. I did, however, also manage to add a superba 'Rothschildiana' Gloriosa lily to my online basket. And now they are all additions--hopefully very productive ones--to my home.

Would many other people think I'm interesting because I planted corms, bulbs, and tubers this weekend?  And does it really matter? Somehow, by getting into the garden, I found my own intrinsic value. And that's when, I believe, you discover what you are meant to do in this life.

So, what about that giveaway, you ask? Well, I need some help. I planted a New Dawn rose in the recently-added garden. In anticipation of vigorous growth (again, my new-found optimism), I built a trellis for it this weekend. But I don't know how I feel about it in its present state.

The new garden with a late addition

Here's how you enter the giveaway. Leave a comment on this page, answering this question: what should I do with that new trellis? Should I leave it as-is? Stain it to match the fence? Stain it some other color? Let me know what you would do!

I will conduct a random drawing next Sunday (31 March), so Saturday, 30 March at midnight Orlando time will be the deadline for entries. I'll announce the winner in next week's post.

And the prize? I have a shop on Etsy where I sell my photographs and some garden gifts. My latest addition to the shop is going to be a set of stationery--8 note cards with my photographs. They are the standard size of 4" x 5.5". If you want to see any larger images of the cards, just visit my shop.

A set of 8 note cards for the winner
Anyone in the world (really, in the world) is eligible for this giveaway (except for family members, of course).


  1. Leave it the color that is, with a sealant, and plant Carolina Jessamine in it, so you'll have a big splash of yellow to contrast the red (which will probably make you think of the colors of that institution of ill-repute in Tallahassee), and also attract lots of butterflies, hummingbirds, and honeybees.


  2. Train some Confederate Jasmine to grow up it - we're leaving a beautiful healthy Confederate Jasmine vine behind when we move, and I'll miss those adorable white flowers trailing up the deck.

  3. I agree with Joe (at least on leaving the color like it is!), I like the contrast - it seems to make a bold statement of some sort...

  4. I say stain it another color, simply because I feel like it looks a little unfinished left as is. :) But, once you have something lovely growing on it, no one will even notice the color. They'll be too busy admiring your beautiful Jessamine or Jasmine!

  5. I think you want the rose to be the star, not the trellis. So I would either paint the trellis to match the fence, or paint it dark green to match the foliage. Planting a vine that blooms when the rose does not, as I believe others have suggested, is a good idea, too. Since I live in such a different climate, I can't recommend such a plant.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Ugh! I hit reply, and the comment got removed! So sorry, Kerry! Here's Kerry's comment:
      Love this post! It's so true how gardening gives us a sense of purpose outside of our careers. After grad school I entered into my career thinking that would be the end all, like ok, I've arrived, this is what I've been working for all these years. I have a good job, it's just not as satisfying as I imagined. But my garden is another story. I swear I could spend all day there and not worry about where I'm going, what is this leading to, blah, blah...Anyways sorry for the long-winded response.
      By the way, I would leave the trellis just as it is:)

    2. And so now I will retype my reply to Kerry:
      Thanks so much for your comment (and trellis suggestion). Not long-winded at all! Honestly, I could gush all day about gardening; it's something I have to check myself on. Gardening has that wonderful quality of keeping us in the present moment, even while giving us great hopes for the future. And for whatever reason, when I'm working in my garden, I feel pretty important!