My Florida Garden in Spring grows food for the soul
"What I know of the divine sciences and
I learned in woods and fields. I have no other masters
than the beeches and the oaks."
- Saint Bernard of Clairvaux - 1090-1153
Many of you saw my garden last swaddled up in old comforters, blankets, flannel sheets, old towels and anything else that came to hand in my hub Freezing in Florida, I have complaints. Then you may have visited again in February with My Florida Garden in Winter.
The past couple of days, while I've been out watering, transplanting, weeding -- all those tasks gardeners lose hours to, I've thought of you, my readers, and decided to invite you in for another look around.
Sure as the most certain sure .... plumb in the uprights,
well entreated, braced in the beams,
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,
I and this mystery we stand.
Clear and sweet is my soul .... and clear and sweet is all
that is not my soul,
Lack one lacks both .... and the unseen is proved by the seen
Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn.
To elaborate is no avail .... Learned and unlearned feel that it is so.
- Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, Line 40-
How's the weather? you ask
For a few weeks now the highs are in the nineties and lows in the high sixties or low seventies -- hot, humid but cool at night. I'm normally gone by this time of year so my neighbors delight in inquiring "hot enough for you?" and seem dreadfully disappointed to find me comfortable. I still don't use my air-conditioning.
How about those five months I spent in Africa on the Gulf of Benin barely north of the equator? or the three weeks in June in Rio? or the entire month of August in New Orleans? Contrary to the picture most people carry in their heads about Canada, those summer days in Manitoba can be every bit as hot and humid as anything Florida can offer. My visiting Florida friends complained about the heat in July in Alberta. Canadians can deal not only with the bitter cold of our winters, but with the searing heat of summer. We're tough. Excuse me while I adopt the appropriate muscle-popping pose.
In other words, I can handle it.
And I'm grateful to all that came together to allow me this experience -- my first summer in Florida; what an adventure! And a huge thank you to my husband, Jim.
So this year, I have not put everything away, turned my tomatoes over to my neighbor, transplanted all the potted plants to the ground, placed all the orchids into a tub of moss, put all the garden furniture in the garage, and finally abandoned all to the tender mercy of the elements. No, this year I stay.
Come and enjoy the garden
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have
into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos
to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast,
a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes
sense of our past, brings peace for today,
and creates a vision for tomorrow."
- Melody Beattie
The sun rises higher in the sky as the spring solstice nears, and the oak trees are in full leaf. The lanai is now too dark to house my ferns and as the summer rains near, they are better off outside. I have divided many of them, particularly the unruly Bostons -- what was once two ferns is now five, and taken root cuttings of others and started them in pots. To the right we see a "many fingered fern," a "lady Victoria fern," and an "Australian sword fern," all juveniles.
I divided the mother plants further into a number of clumps and replanted -- here are three hanging under the eaves of the house -- clearly happy, as they've tripled in size in a few weeks.
Herb Garden Flourishes
"Even before I could speak, I remember crawling through blueberry patches in the wild meadows on our hillsides.
I quickly discovered Nature was filled with Spirit; I never saw any separation between Spirit and Nature.
Much later I discovered our culture taught there was supposed to be some kind of separation -
that God, Spirit and Nature were supposed to be divided and different. However, at my early age it
seemed absolutely obvious that the church of the Earth was the greatest church of all; that the temple
of the forest was the supreme temple. When I went to the sanctuary of the mountain, I found Earth's
natural altar - Great Spirit's real shrine. Years later I discovered that this path of going into Nature,
bonding deeply with it, and seeing Spirit within Nature - God, Goddess, and Great Spirit - was
humanity's most ancient, most primordial path of spiritual cultivation and realization."
- John P. Milton, Sky Above, Earth Below
Anyone who followed the hubpages health contest noticed a huge number of articles dedicated to the goodness of herbs. My herb garden is geared to the culinary uses of herbs, as I love to cook (good and fresh foods) and love to eat. One of the best things about life in Florida is the abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits in season available at Farmers' Markets at all times.
Is anything more devine than the marriage of fresh, ripe tomatoes from the vine, still warm from the sun paired with minced garlic, dressed in fresh basil leaves and driggled with extra virgin olive oil? Ah -- nirvana.
Speaking of tomatoes
Food for the body
"Wherever you are is home
And the earth is paradise
Wherever you set your feet is holy land . . .
You don't live off it like a parasite.
You live in it, and it in you,
Or you don't survive.
And that is the only worship of God there is."
- Wilfred Pelletier and Ted Poole
We've eaten fresh cherry tomatoes since early April, but in the the heat of the last few weeks, the tomato vines have grown to ridiculous proportions. Although you can't see it here, they are very tall now, and I, at five foot, seven inch must reach up to touch the top.
I'm told that while the vines thrive in the summer heat, it becomes too hot for the plants to set blossoms (must be under 80 F at night for blossoms to set, and the fact the nights will be this warm is a little daunting to this Canuck about to live through the summer here) therefore no fruit.
Too hot for tomatoes -- now that's a new thought. Just like the other day when someone yelled at me to shut the door, I was letting all the cold air out. This really is new to someone who spent her life trying not to let the cold air in.
I must adapt.
The cucumbers are growing rapidly, flowering and beginning to set fruit, but their demand for water in this heat is amazing -- starting to wilt two or three times a day unless watered. Planted against the west wall of the house and receiving the hot afternoon sun, and with their roots in the raised bed of sandy soil to which compost has been added, a watering doesn't seem to last long. I hope the rainy season starts soon.
"God Almighty first planted a garden; and indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures."-- Francis Bacon, Viscount St Albans -- 1561 - 1626 Essays, no.46,'Of Gardens'
Gardening in the shade of the oaks
What I love most about this property are the towering live oaks in the backyard -- southern exposure -- that bathe my house and the yard in dappled shade. When the thermometer rises to the mid nineties on the west side of the property, the east side stays a good ten degrees lower. For most of the day, the shade of the trees and the ceiling fans are enough to keep the house comfortable and only on the hottest of days do we need to use air conditioning for the late afternoon hours when the sun strikes the west side of the house.
Much of my backyard is devoted to shade loving plants and I've tried to recreate the forest floor (albeit a more orderly version) with ferns and shrubs (but no strangler vines.)
The end result is a cool and peaceful escape from the heat of the sun.
Climate control by God. Thank you.
Here, one of my favorite poems as food for thought:
Earth Is Enough
"We men of Earth have here the stuff
Of Paradise - we have enough!
We need no other stones to build
The Temple of the Unfulfilled -
No other ivory for the doors -
No other marble for the floors -
No other cedar for the beam
And dome of man's immortal dream.
Here on the paths of every-day -
Here on the common human way
Is all the stuff the gods would take
To build a Heaven, to mold and make
New Edens. Ours is the stuff sublime
To build Eternity in time!"
- Edwin Markham
Another I enjoy:
"Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there." ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732
And now for one of my favorite of garden quotes, and I hope we all give this one the thoughts and consideration it deserves:
"A garden was the primitive prison, till man with Promethean felicity and boldness, luckily sinned himself out of it." ~Charles Lamb, 1830
Of course my garden grows flowers
"A certain day became a presence
to me; there it was, confronting me — a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic — or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.”
- Denise Levertov, Variation on a Theme by Rilke
(The Book of Hours, Book I, Poem
And that's how it happens -- eureka! the moment of understanding. I know this. Suddenly, everything begins to make sense as though a fog is lifted and life becomes clear, sometimes only for a moment, and other times a truth comes to us to carry us through the rest of our lives. All I know is this: these moments come more often in a garden than anywhere else.
"After a few hours of sweating with dirt all over me and insects buzzing around the upper half of my body, I may begin to get a sense of being in tune with nature. It's at these moments where I take note of a worm that is maneuvering its way out of the dirt or a butterfly that silently lands on a bush next to me. With subtlety and a total lack of self consciousness, I come out of myself, look around, marvel at the majesty of what I am experiencing and begin to take note that I have entered some type of altered state of consciousness."
- Fran Sorin, Exploring Spirituality
There are times when I am out there, caring for these green things -- children of God, like us -- watering, weeding, feeding, examining, when I realize I am happy. That's all, simply happy. I have no worries, no concerns -- somehow the bills will be paid; that agent will either like my book or she won't: who cares? It' s of no importance compared to the feeling of being one with God and tending to her children.
"Although weeding, cutting back, and transplanting are activities that
may seem repetitive and never-ending, when seen as a necessary and
integral part of the overall unfolding of the garden scheme, they become purposeful rather than boring. In fact, what may appear on the surface
to be tedious physical work may, in the actual doing, be spiritually
liberating. In taking time to contemplate the small — in observing the
details of our gardens — we can experience life on a manageable scale."
- Marilyn Barrett, Creating Eden: The Garden as a Healthy Space
Other My Florida Garden Hubs
- My Florida garden in winter
The winter is still much cooler than normal here in Florida, but my garden keeps me busy. Come visit a Florida garden in winter.
- My Pet Ferns -- dedicated to hubber Nan Mynatt
This hub is dedicated to my pet ferns, and to Nan Mynatt who wrote an excellent article on the history and science of earth's oldest plants, and inspired me to share my lovely ferns with the rest of you. Enjoy the photographs.
"I did however used to think, you know, in the woods walking,
and as a kid playing in the woods, there was a kind of
immanence there - that woods, a places of that order, had a
sense, a kind of presence, that you could feel; there was
something peculiarly, physically present, a feeling of place
almost conscious ... like God. It evoked that."
- Robert Creely, Robert Creely and the Genius
of the American Common Place (Tom Clark), p. 40
I start each day with a walk around my garden, a cup of coffee in my hand, still in my night wear, teeth yet unbrushed, hair yet uncombed. The birds greet me; the lizards scamper away from their pursuits afraid I've come to do them harm. A big, black racer snake leaves the walkway where he suns himself and becomes only one more rustle in the bush. This is my prayer: Oh God, that makes us all, let me be worthy to garden this one corner of your world for you.
"There are sacred moments in life when we experience
in rational and very direct ways that separation, the
boundary between ourselves and other people and
between ourselves and Nature, is illusion. Oneness is
reality. We can experience that stasis is illusory and
that reality is continual flux and change on very subtle
and also on gross levels of perception . . ."
- Charlene Spretnak
More by this Author
The shortest day of the year, and even in South Florida, dusk begins at 4 PM. But it's so lovely, the best time of the year. Celebrate Winter Solstice, Florida style with me.
The winter is still much cooler than normal here in Florida, but my garden keeps me busy. Come visit a Florida garden in winter.
Recently a New York Times editor asked if it was a reporter's job to challenge dubious assertions made by newsmakers they write about. You mean they don't already? Eegads -- silly man, the answer is YES.