Leonard Moorehead, the Urban Gardener: Garden Size Love Handles
Saturday, December 02, 2017
Leonard Moorehead, GoLocalProv Gardening Expert
Fresh air. Sunshine. Clean water. Open space. Purposeful movement. Gardeners know the impetus. We invented the calendar thousands of years ago for ever more refined horticulture. We worship in sacred groves, in Nordic lore the great tree of life is a complex web from root to leaf, Eden is Paradise. Gardeners are drawn to the original sources of our well-being. The best ingredient for garden success is the gardener. Fitness enables us and through action we are healthier, more peaceful people. Happily, there are garden choices for every one throughout their lives.
Together, let’s enjoy the garden before cold hardens the view. Clear away the clay pots. Empty their contents into the compost pile or directly into planting beds. Hose them clean. Shelter pots upside down in a dry place. Do your best not to stack too heavily. Over winter pruned back Mandeville, Lemon Verbena, in a frost free dry place such as the basement or corner of a closed garage. Pull up geraniums, shake the roots a bit, prune away deadwood and store in paper bags. Hang in a cool basement. A clothesline and office document clips is an easy way to suspend the bags. Suspension allows air circulation and prevents attractive homes for mice. Keep it simple, one bag of 2 or 3 plants at a time. Be safe away from furnaces, heaters, or appliances. Geraniums are tough plants. Most will survive through next spring when potted up and placed outdoors after danger of frost for late May bloom. Reserve a healthy blooming geranium for sunny window sills. Prune back to new growth and place on a protective saucer. Water when dry and give the pot a quarter turn twist each time.
Groom plants before bringing indoors. Carefully inspect pots for insects and remove slugs, earwigs or mice. I keep a rose scented geranium in the window for the winter. Scented geraniums are precious indeed. They emit welcome fragrance throughout the winter with minimal care. Their benign aroma simply makes any day better. Intrigued? Pineapple, nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemon varieties winter well in sunny rooms. Snip mature leaves and dry. The fragrance endures. My scented geraniums migrate from home to garden year after year. The mother plants provide plenty of cuttings to cure those late winter longings for spring.
Engage children in plant care. Fragrance creates enduring memory. Preserving scent in oils is a fun joint effort easily done at home. Apothecary is a glimpse into the past performed in the present. Orris root, unscented pure oils, cotton, small jars and vials are inexpensive supplies. The directions to explore endless and fascinating. Herbs and flowers from the garden are terrific sources of fragrance. Essential oils are intense and fun to make and collect. A quiet and loving activity is to extract fragrance from scented leaves and flowers. Capture a moment as brief as Lily of the Valley. Mix and match fragrances together.
My daughter and I walked into a college town boutique full of Indian cotton sheets, Kilim rugs and Buddha. We stalled before small vials of essential oils gathered from around the world. Together we sniffed familiar sage, rose, lavender, and rosemary, a host of citrus and more exotic tropical cinnamons. We mixed several essences into small cobalt blue glass spray jars, labeled them and left hand in hand, heart to heart, into one of those spring days we hope will never end. Several campuses and an ocean latter we have moved on. There is a cobalt blue spray jar at home, its faded and stained label a little torn. I have our recipe for whenever it runs low and mix a new elixir. There isn’t a moment in my life when I cannot spritz straight to the heart.
Aches and pains have come along the way. Those of us with back issues are particularly vigilant for opportunities to bend, lift, move and store without stress. Mindful of our bodies’ abilities and vulnerabilities, obstacles are overcome with thoughtful ingenuity. Long handled shovels with thick grips are a must. Grip hand tools before purchase for good grasp. Arthritic? Select ergonomic formed handles for comfortable and healing movement. Divide garden tasks into constant small parts for wide ranging hefts and stretches. Breath and move.
Mother and I made our customary stagger around the garden after a holiday feast. Ironically we stopped at the parsley, a bright green patch surrounded by shredded leaves. Like always, lots of fresh parsley mixed into thick creamy mashed potatoes was on the holiday table. We happily share a love for all things buttery. Together we strolled, arm in arm, to work off the delicacies. We talk about people dead and gone in other gardens. Grand children scaled up trees, others somersaulted on the lawn, and young men performed feats of strength.
She surprises me with a vignette. “My father kept a notebook in his pocket and a pencil. He’d stop walking and make algebraic calculations. Those are his math notebooks up in the attic”. We moved slowly, arithmetic is more my style, he died when I was a child. Add here, subtract there and that old remonstrance, “no fingers”. Hand held devices fell out of tree climber’s pockets. “I have his blue eyes, like your daughter’s”.
My friend Catherine wheeled her 102 year old mother around the garden. We paused at the asparagus. Grande meme mentioned, “I planted a bed of asparagus when I was 96. I am an optimist.” We all laughed, asparagus takes several years to produce a harvest. Shredded leaves and seaweed is 6-8 inches thick on the cut back asparagus bed, snug for the winter. There is a lot of good food certain for spring.
Fresh air. Sunshine. Clean water. Open space. Purposeful movement. Gardeners know the impetus. One and another, drawn. The best escape from handlebar waists? Create a garden with family and friends.
Leonard Moorehead is a life- long gardener. He practices organic-bio/dynamic gardening techniques in a side lot surrounded by city neighborhoods in Providence, RI. His adventures in composting, wood chips, manure, seaweed, hay and enormous amounts of leaves are minor distractions to the joy of cultivating the soil with flowers, herbs, vegetables, berries, and dwarf fruit tree.