Monday, July 7, 2008

Forget Me Not


I stand eye to eye with a Cosmos. It's fuzzed yellow center winks at me like a cyclops. Watching the pink petals sashay in the breeze, I realized that I've only grown Cosmos this tall twice in my life. Both times I've forsworn the nursery's plastic pots with seedlings neatly tucked inside and tossed a bunch of seeds on to the ground, hoping for the best, the best came.

Snip.

The spent blossom falls to the ground. I watch a bee skim over the Cosmos and bury itself in borage.

Snip.

The day is perfect for gardening, really. The bluest sky. The quiet neighborhood. A tiny blue butterfly drops down onto the Queen Anne's lace for the briefest second, before waving behind my morning glories and disappearing over the top of the house.

Snip.

The four foot stem is relieved of another tired bloom. I am deadheading. It is a practice I was taught years ago to keep flowers blooming and a garden looking nice. Despite the swelling pumpkin mounds and front lawn littered with makeshift cages to keep the deer from devouring the last of the runner beans, my front yard does look nice.

Snip.

My basket is full and this particular stand of Cosmos looks quite tidy. No flagging flowers. No tightening seed pods ready to spill their seeds into the soil and stop my garden from blooming. I want to save those seeds alright but . . . not yet. It's only just July. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Indian summers proliferate, I've got months of blooming ahead of me.

I gather my deadheaded daisies and head for the green waste bin on the other side of the yard. I dump the spent flowers in and close the lid. A movement from the butterfly garden stops me.

Perched atop a waving bunch of cosmos - the next on my hit list - is a small black and brown bird. The stem bends under its weight as it nuzzles its beak into the bare center of a former flower. Determinedly, it pries out one seed, then two and finally three before flitting away into our front yard tree.

My clippers hang at my side, feeling suddenly heavy. Once again, I'm faced with the realization that we need not work harder to open our hearts and yards to wildlife, to live in harmony with other species, to "be green." In fact, we can work less. We can let nature have her beautiful, tousled way with our gardens. We can put away the lawn mower and enjoy the flowers that spring up in its place, that entice bees to dine next to our picnic blanket. We can clear out ornamentals and let our children dig to their hearts content - connecting with nature at each ant uncovered, each earthworm excavated, and each "apple seed" planted.

It seems a difficult lesson to learn. That standards can be adjusted. That perfection is not necessary. That things don't have to be "pretty" by someone else's standards. I sit down under the maple tree, still and shaded, and watch wildlife use the garden we created for them. It wasn't that I hadn't learned the lesson, I realize. The bird hops back down to another flower, foraging for more seeds. I just needed a reminder.

9 comments:

abbie said...

I've never seen dead heading put into such beautiful words! Maybe I'll think differently as I dead head my petunias (over, and over, and over again).

eco 'burban mom said...

I have such garden envy, GB! Your yard sounds like a magazine cover!

Bobbi said...

Cosmos are one of my most prized flowers in the garden. They are so hardy and they keep blooming and blooming - provided you do the dead heading!

Joyce said...

I love watching birds balancing delicately to get those seeds. Hope your boys are digging lots of good deep holes!

The Purloined Letter said...

What a lovely post! Makes me want to be a deadheader myself--or at least learn the lessons vicariously.

Ana said...

Beautifully put. It's amazing what we'll do to strive for perfection, but in the end find that letting things remain in their natural state is exactly where "perfect" is.

Green Bean said...

Abbie: Why thank you. :)

EcoBurbs: It's only the butterfly garden that ended up looking so great. That has been so low maintenance - I tossed out a bunch of different seeds that are supposed to attract butterflies and added water. Weeds wiggle around in their midst but it all works.

Bobbi: Aren't Cosmos great!?! Some folks up the street had theirs go year round last year. I impatiently ripped mine out in October or November. Maybe I'll let them be this year and see what happens.

Joyce: You were my inspiration for hole digging. We're in the process of clearing a spot for them. I should have done that a year ago. Thanks for motivating me to do it now.

The Purloined Letter: Vicarous is good! :)

Ana: So true. We have a skewed idea of what "perfect" is.

Melinda said...

Beautiful! I learned such a lesson last year when I let a few radishes go to seed. I had no idea they'd turn into very large bushes, drawing all sorts of insects I'd never seen from near and far. Wow. I didn't have to plant extra flowers for them to come, just let it be a little more...

Green Bean said...

Melinda: I remember you mentioning letting radishes go to seed before. I learned from you and let mine go in the vegetable beds - the bees loved them and, viola, I had some flowers intermingled with my vegetables.

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