I made it to the Spring Fling, and although we’ve only met for dinner, I have two observations. My blogging friends are great fun, and when there are over 30 of us in one place, we are LOUD. We had a rousing Mexican dinner at Matt’s El Rancho. I kept wondering who Matt was, but I forgot to ask.
I got in early this morning and headed straight to Whole Foods Market. You see what my priorities are. Their flagship store is located in the center of Austin, and it is fabulous. I even got some of the dairy free truffles I love so much. After eating lunch in the Whole Foods deli, I went for a drive around the city. It is very beautiful right now. I would estimate that Austin is one month ahead of us in Oklahoma. Everything is so green. The irises are nearly bloomed out, and they have roses.
After finding the hotel (which I passed four times,) I went to the Zilker Botanical Garden. I toured the Japanese Garden, the rose garden, and the Green (as in sustainable Texas plants) Garden. I also walked through the Prehistoric Garden, but it really wasn’t my thing.
Giant metal statues of dinosaurs scare me.
Koi pond at Zilker Botanical Gardens
I felt the peace of the Japanese Garden seeping into my bones after the jolting plane rides. Both flights went through the same thunderstorms which rolled through Austin and Dallas today. Lots of bouncing around up in the air. Again, not my thing.
I’m tired. I got up at 4:00 a.m., so I’m going to sign off for the night, but I wanted you to have some photos from the first day.
And one of my children is sick. Why is it when a mother tries to leave town, she or one of the children usually gets sick? The Diva has been listless for days, but still attending school. This morning, I made her stay home, and she fainted, hitting her head, and jamming her finger and knee. The Diva faints when she’s really sick or badly hurt. Now, the poor thing is both.
When, she passed out, I was at my mother’s house. Mom is better, but still needs help. I picked up some prescriptions for her. Thinking the Diva was safe at home without me, I stayed and talked with my aunt and uncle who traveled from Missouri to perform some household repairs. My cell phone rang, and I couldn’t get to it in time. When Mom’s phone rang moments later, I knew there was a problem.
Several cases of mononucleosis have been diagnosed at the grade school level, but I don’t know about the Diva’s school. I vacillate between thinking it is mono and hoping instead, it’s just a minor virus. All morning I’ve debated about taking her to the doctor. I did last time, and it was a sinus infection. She doesn’t want to go, and she’s taller than I am.
Sheesh . . . now, I will feel divided in Austin. I always feel this way when I leave town, which isn’t often, and yet . . .
After talking over going to the doctor with the Diva (she is fifteen after all,) she pinned her large emerald eyes on me and said “Mom, I’ll be fine. Dad will take care of me.”
My heart seized with love for this daughter of mine, who knows how important it is for me to go. She has a writer’s conference at school tomorrow, and she informed me she can’t miss it. It helps too to know HH will care for her and the others while I’m away. They understand my writer’s heart, and have given me wings to fly.
In the city, everything is coming up green, but further north and rural, we see mostly purple and gray. No school-box Crayola Spring Green or Fern for us. Native Oklahoma redbuds (Cercis canadensis) dot the countryside with color where they stand against charcoal gray, scrub oaks. The oaks don’t trust our warm weather. They’ve been fooled before.
As I write, dark gray storm clouds gather overhead, and raindrops splatter outside my open windows. We had fierce storms last night that spawned nighttime tornadoes (the most dangerous kind) at 1:00 a.m. They danced all around my house, one coming within three tenths of a mile. Another hit part of Edmond causing damage, but no one was hurt.
I was asleep and heard nothing until the one land-line telephone we still own rang downstairs. HH and I woke and discovered we’d lost power. Losing electricity isn’t unusual where we live. With the storms raging outside, I knew if someone was calling at 2:00 a.m., there must be a tornado nearby. We grabbed our travel television and went to the car in the garage to see what we could see. The tornado had passed us by. We are finally investing in a weather radio. HH is buying one today.
More severe weather is expected this afternoon and evening. Does it worry me? Nah. I’m a lifetime Oklahoman. I have my own “fraidy hole.” Like everyone else in the state, I watch the weather for sport this time of year. Handsome meteorologists, possessing enough stage presence for Shakespeare, use HD doppler radar and human storm chasers to spot lowering wall clouds and twisters. You can even get live, streaming, storm information if you so desire. In the spring, weather is big news and big business for our local stations.
You might think the gray landscape is depressing, but it isn’t. Those redbuds hold promise, for when their purple blossoms appear, I know spring is truly here. Maybe, the state’s pioneers thought so too. The redbud is Oklahoma’s state tree, but according to Gene Curtis of the Tulsa World, the resolution met with controversy in 1937. Some of the women’s gardening clubs believed the redbud was the tree on which Judas Iscariot hanged himself. After research by Dr. G. F. Gray, of Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University,) it was decided that the Oklahoma redbud was not the same tree, only a distant relative.
The purple blooms of Redbuds dot the rural Oklahoma landscape.
The most common variety of redbud is our native species. The cultivar ‘Oklahoma,’ distinctive for its glossy and thick, leathery leaves, was developed from plants discovered in the Arbuckle Mountains. Those leaves make it ideal for planting in sunny dry sites.
Note: I wrote this post on March 31, but I didn’t want to publish two posts in one day. The storms I wrote about happened on March 30. We’re due for more severe weather on Thursday. Ah, spring in Oklahoma, can you hear it roar?
For the months of February and March, the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club read Second Nature, by Michael Pollan. The book details Pollan’s attempts to grow a garden on the old dairy farm he and his wife purchased in Connecticut in 1983. When, at the beginning of his enterprise, Pollan quoted Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, I thought, “uh-oh.” In college, I, too, was heavily influenced by Walden, and tried Thoreau’s method of gardening without much success. It should be noted that Thoreau’s bean field wasn’t very successful either. At first, Pollan is a sympathetic protagonist against the various critters who want his tasty vegetables for themselves. I laughed aloud when he wouldn’t fence his garden against a marauding woodchuck. When the woodchuck nearly drives him to firebombing its burrow, he realizes he must revise some of his gardening ideals. In the process, he discovers that, at Walden, Thoreau wasn’t so much gardening as he was engaging with nature.
Second Nature was copyrighted in 1991, so I found the information on roses, although amusing and accurate for its time, quite dated. Since the late 90s, rose hybridizers and developers have moved away from pursuing only the Hybrid Tea form. More and more, they are working to create roses with great bloom, easy care and disease resistance. Pollan’s foray into antique varieties resembled my own, and I also once believed that old roses were simply better. However, after much time and investment, I can no longer agree that antique roses are especially hardier and disease resistant as a group. Old roses come from any different classes, something which Pollan touches upon in Second Nature. Some classes are more disease resistant and hardier than others. I wonder how his rose garden has fared over the last seventeen years. It would make interesting reading.
My favorite chapter was “Planting a Tree,” in which Pollan discusses the great tree movements of England and America, including their political and sociological denouements. On the American side, this is where John Muir, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thoreau became statesman for the preservation of forests and wild places. Pollan acknowledges their contributions and expounds upon them.
Someone said novice gardeners start out planting annuals for instant gratification. Once they get a little experience under their belts, they move on to perennials and shrubs. Finally, they put down roots and think about planting trees. Trees are an investment in the future. Pollan, like all of us, isn’t sure what that future may be, but he did plant a tree, a Norway maple . He wrote:
To embark on a project that would outlast me, to plant a tree whose crown would never shade me but my children or, more likely, the children of strangers? Tree planting is always a utopian enterprise, it seems to me, a wager on a future the planter doesn’t necessarily expect to see.
This is a wager we should all take; novice or experienced gardeners, we shouldn’t wait. After going to a good nursery, be brave and ask for help in choosing the best tree for your little plot of land. (One note: I try to go to nurseries early in the morning when they aren’t as busy. As with doctors, I’ve found I get much better service when the experts aren’t frazzled.)
It takes years to realize the growth of a tree, so I would purchase the largest specimen I could afford. Once the dollar amount is announced, we should close our eyes, take a deep, cleansing breath and plunk our money down on the counter as an investment in the future. It’s an easy way to go green.
I wrote an article in the March issue of Oklahoma Gardener. I know, it’s late in the month, but I kept forgetting to tell you. It’s a profile on Sister Barbara Joseph’s garden at her pantry for the homeless of Oklahoma City. This is a photo which didn’t make it into the magazine. In fact, I didn’t submit it.
When I can, I volunteer on Fridays at the pantry, and you can guess where I help. Several of us work in the garden, keeping it watered, fertilized and trimmed. However, my friend, Katie, is the creative force behind the photo below.
If you live in Oklahoma, you might consider subscribing to Oklahoma Gardener because it has great photos and information particular to our region. In the March issue, Steve Owens, owner of Bustani Plant Farm in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and former host of the Oklahoma Gardening television program, wrote a plant profile. So did Russell Studebaker, longtime columnist for The Tulsa World.
Although this magazine is part of a larger publication effort including other states, much of the content is specific to Oklahoma. For example, on pages eight through eleven, a regional report breaks up the state into four areas, and experts from those areas tell us what to plant, and when and where.
I want to point out that Oklahoma Gardener is not paying me for this endorsement of their regional magazine. They do pay me for my articles though.
If all goes well, I have a cover story on crapemyrtles coming out in July. I interviewed Dr. Carl Whitcomb, from Stillwater, who developed some of the best new crapemyrtle varieties on the market.
I didn’t think anyone would ever tag me for a meme, but my Red Dirt Sister, Brenda, proved me wrong. Here are ten random things about me that you don’t already know:
1. After college, I dyed my hair the lightest shade of blonde by using 40 volume peroxide. I wanted to be glamorous, and I thought this was the way. People told me I looked like Madonna. Looking back at the photos, all I can say is that they weren’t telling the truth. I looked tired and old, and I was only twenty-six.
2. I met HH when I was fifteen, and he was twenty-four. I was his sister’s best friend, and he barely noticed me, but I noticed him. I thought he was the handsomest and kindest person I ever met. Years, later, when I was twenty-seven, we re-met, and the rest is history. I guess he liked that blonde hair.
3. Ever since I was nineteen, I dreamed of living in a log cabin on a lake. When HH and I married, I got that very dream. We live on 7.5 acres, and my back door faces my garden and the spring-fed lake behind it. God knew my dream, and this was how He answered me.
4. Before I moved out to the country twenty years ago, I had never been on a farm or even an acreage larger than one acre. I thought I was moving to Country Home or Country Living not realizing that those magazines are not produced in the countryside. They are citified fantasies. I actually live in Dogpatch or Deliverance. Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell.
5. I am a pinball wizard. My best friend, Aimee, reminded me of that one. HH bought us a wonderful pinball machine. When I’m not ferrying kids to activities, gardening or computing, I’m playing pinball. I pace myself because I don’t want to beat the machine just yet.
6. I grew up in a pool hall, which explains my pinball expertise. I also play a mean game of pool and held a cue stick once I could reach the table. Pool sharks, card sharks, con men, hired hit men and even one rapist were people I saw everyday. I kid you not. Thank God, the rapist never bothered me. We only found out his aberration when we saw him on the front page of The Oklahoman one day. He was quite famous, and his reign of terror lasted for over two years stretching from Dallas to Oklahoma City. Thinking about it still gives me the chills.
7. I love being a mother. I waited until I was 30 to have children. I wished I’d started sooner. I would have had more.
8. My mother says a I’m a great writer. Oh, and a wonderful gardener. Thanks Mom.
9. My eyes crossed as a child. I had three surgeries at four, eleven and twelve to correct the problem. I did years of eye therapy. Now, they only cross when I’m too tired, but I don’t have any depth perception. That makes driving an adventure. On each car, I memorize where the bumper is so I can back out of parking spaces. So, Mary Ann are you still brave enough to ride with me at the Spring Fling?
10. When I turned 40, I changed and became a lot less stiff, emotionally. My body is stiff. My soul is flexible. I gained a sense of humor and quit worrying about what others thought about me.