the welcome mat is out
WE’VE GOT THE WELCOME MAT OUT this week at A Way to Garden and our Urgent Garden Question Forums next door, and everybody in the family here is doing his or her part. Even a species of frog I’ve never seen before, which I take as a good omen. An even better omen: Anne Raver’s generous piece in The New York Times today. Bet you want to read the back story on this one.
The saying “Be careful what you wish for,” came to mind more than once in the three weeks since the email from Anne, with whom I started my garden-writing career when we worked at Newsday newspaper in Long Island nearly 20 years ago. The journey from that email to today’s Times article has been something like a season of “Survivor,” particularly the photo-shoot day.
When I heard from Anne, I’d been busy getting ready for June 14, my first Garden Conservancy Open Day of the year, with a large reception for the Conservancy scheduled here that same evening. But she suggested coming 10 days earlier…only 4 or 5 days after her email…way ahead of the day we’d targeted to have it “all together” (if a garden can ever be “all together”), and way too soon for me to get it done without extra hands. The to-do list (see photo, bottom of page) was just too long: 18 size-XL lilacs had just gone by and needed deadheading, to name just one task. Friends Kelly and Christy pitched in to help me and Susan, who works here part of every week, to edge and mow and mulch in frenzied fashion. The day before Anne’s visit they even brought bagels and cream cheese, to get us motivated.
Cream cheese is apparently what got the Gray Tree Frog all interested in us, instead of hiding camouflaged on the bark of trees like he’s supposed to do. He actually hopped into our workforce breakfast gathering, sat on the platter of bagels and trimmings awhile, then proceeded to observe (not help in the cleanup, mind you) from a vantage point on the doormat. Jack the Demon Cat did not help much, either: too hot, he said, too humid.
Anyhow, interview day with Anne was pleasant and relaxed…but a few days later, when photographer Stewart Cairns arrived, near-record early heat and humidity had set in, with one violent storm down and apparently many to go. The plants, and Miss Margaret, were pretty far gone, more prostrate than upright. So much for all that garden-grooming a few days prior.
Just ten minutes after he pulled in the driveway with his photo gear, big surprise: A Biblical storm came upon us. Any sense of order, botanical or personal, was quickly lost. Hair and clothing plastered to face and body, makeup running downhill (along with rivulets of water and mulch from beds into lawns). Where was Martha’s amazing wizard stylist Eva Scrivo when I needed her?
There have been many other chapters in these last wild weeks, such as:
Finding out I needed to get a new server that could survive possible traffic such as the New York Times is inclined to send one’s way, for instance, and the subsequent migration and debugging;
Three more violent electrical storms (meaning no computer, and no phone for all or part of various days…hard to do said migration and debugging without electricity, fyi);
Crackling, arc-ing electricity emanating from one very expensive (turned-off) surge protector in my living room as I sat stranded on the night of my birthday last Tuesday, in lieu of the more traditional candles on a cake;
Three total driveway washouts (the last time I just left it piled up downhill, and it may stay that way forever more);
Oh, yeah, and the craziest storm of all started precisely 7 minutes into the Garden Conservancy reception last Saturday night. Into my tiny “guest house” about 80 of us quickly huddled, bringing new meaning to the line “shelter from the storm.” As if on cue, the roof started leaking…lights flickered several times (but stayed on!)…but who cared: I had enough food and booze to last us several days, and so eat and drink we did.
I expect welcoming all of you new faces will be something like that evening: We’ll be crowded, and I may prove a little slower in serving you than the kind of hostess I like to be. But hopefully you feel happy here, despite the inevitable loose ends The Times can cause with all its influence, all its readers.
However this last segment in “Survivor: A Way to Garden” goes, thanks for visiting today, when I hope the forecast is for fairer weather in all our corners of the garden world. Enjoy your time with us, and be sure to come back soon. Many good days lie ahead (and probably a few more bumpy ones, truth be told).
The good and the bad, the blossoms and the blights: gardening at its essential best.