Yes, a good rain has finally managed to reach us--not enough to flatten the bushes, but enough to bring everything to renewed life with astonishing speed. The despondent Japanese eggplant seems to have pumped out a flower overnight; the tardy tomatoes suggest ripening, perhaps in January; the guys in pots express a vibrant joy that no hose or watering can ever gives them; and, incredibly, the brown stubble of lumpy lawn has sent up an inch of grass (tufts, but they're green) overnight!
And things are finally verdant enough to start showing you some pictures.
Here we see the faint imprint of those hours spent drooling over garden design articles: Climbing up fence is morning glory "Grandpa Ott" (heirloom I grew from seed), in pot of ivy is mignonette (supposedly mad-fragrant, actually has a slight scent like a long-empty perfume bottle), and in between is Another Purply Thing whose name I forget; I bought 3 in a feeble attempt to plant "drifts" instead of lone stragglers, but one died. But there's a sort of lavender, horizontal/vertical thing happening here, no? (Whoever Grandpa Ott was--a short-lived and purplish-hued patriarch of some sort?--I bless him, because these are the first morning glories I have ever germinated successfully, despite trying every germination strategy (soaking, nicking, sanding) short of tap-dancing on the damn seeds.)
Here is the magnificent cranberry bush viburnum, a native American shrub with delusions of treehood. This year, it covered itself in lacy white flowercaps in spring, and here is the fall show--gorgeous ruby berries, allegedly a feast for birds (although our chief bird populations , starlings and sparrows, prefer curbside junk food crumbs).
In the background is a partial rear view of the CrazyStable. In this view, and the one that follows, you will see how important it is to guide your eye to its most appealing aspects, and avert them, like a chivalrous lover, from the wrinkles, scars, and deformities. You can see the fan light in our simple brick "extension" (or "mud room" or "garden room"), a rare elegant touch in this place that seems to have been built plain. Don't gaze above it at the rusty fire escape, a relic of a long-ago effort to win a certificate of occupancy as a dreary and overcrowded boarding house.
Here, the same viburnum branches (and rose "Katy Road Pink," a variety found wild in Texas that likes to grow tall) screen our view of our neighbor to the rear, a hulking day care center encased in mud-brick-red vinyl siding; if you looked down, you would also note how well they conceal the compost pit. I tried one of those clever black bins, but its design (a screen down below, to "aereate" the stuff and keep it off the ground) proved my suspicions correct: Worms cannot jump or stand atop one another's shoulders to breach a gap of several inches between earth and a tasty skyscraper of leaves and kitchen scraps. Wormless, the stuff remained as incorruptible as a medieval saint; I ditched the bin and went back to the pit. All composting books could be summarized as follows: Put stuff on the ground, and it rots.
And then there are places where there's no place for the eye to turn but inward, to the imagination. Here is the garth, a medieval word I just learned on my last visit to the Cloisters: It's an enclosed garden, as in a monastery. Right now, it's a vestigial chunk of driveway with cracked cement and garbage cans, but I envision a garth just as soon as two middle-aged people with no budget and bad backs can figure out how to break up the concrete without requiring vertebral reconstruction.
The driveway gate was erected to keep the world out, or at least discourage its incursions. The Stable bestrides the pathways of countless schoolkids, soccer players, shoppers from a nearby commercial strip and others, many of whom would simply drift into our garden to pursue activities such as pot-tossing, flower-pulling, hangover-sleeping-off, bladder relieving, etc. Since invocation of the "social contract" had proved inadequate, we invested in these big gates, which shut from inside with a satisfying clang. But surprise! from within, they had produced a cozy garth-like space, an intimate cul-de-sac. I have already pried up the concrete in a small patch and put in yellow cherry tomatoes, a hyacinth bean vine, and lavender, all of which are flourishing. Who knows what will happen once we lift the cement lid off the earth and expose it to more glorious rain?
May He come down like rain upon the mown grass,
Like showers that water the earth.
In his days may the righteous flourish,
And abundance of peace till the moon is no more.
Psalm 72: 6-7