The Garden Here in the Time of COVID-19

Today, spring rain falls on the tiny patio outside the window where I sat so much during recovery – my spot for early morning tea. Last month I watched the rosemary bloom sky blue and eager hummingbirds visit. Beneath it, pink blossoms of thyme crowded the pavers. Planted three years ago, the clematis finally produced white flowers against the trellis. The old rose is huge and full of budded promise.

A pot of Apricot Beauty tulips, one bulb planted years ago on the bluff, produced three welcome flowers. I can see lily spears emerging from another pot, and the hollyhock from last year looks strong. A bundle of forget-me-nots – tagalongs from Alaska – fills a pot. Bags of potting soil and compost clutter the space now – spring cleanup and planting underway.

Theoretically. But this year, like everything else gardening is different. An old and dear friend, wrote that “it’s hard to match the exuberance of my outside spaces with the interior obsession with pandemic news.” That’s true.

At the garden center, with limited opening and strict rules, I bought compost and soil and pumpkin seeds – and sweet pea seeds (quickly, as we are one person at a time inside the building). You can wander the plants outdoors, staying apart from other masked people, but I came home feeling a little sad, the springtime enthusiasm seems muted, wary, gardeners stopping to chat a thing of the past. Employees looked windblown and exhausted. Plants limited. Something grim tinges everything with so much sad and awful news circling the planet.

So far, my sweet peas seeds and cannellini beans haven’t germinated. I’ve attempted to prepare the pumpkin patch from last year (it’s still lumpy with unbuilt planting mounds). Eager for their color, I bought a couple of tiny calibrachoa, destined for containers, at the grocery store on my weekly shop.

But exuberance? Thanks only to perennials (my friend has a perennial garden I bet). The sturdy, old and beautiful trees and shrubs left by the gardener of 30 years ago – the crab apple, rhododendron, and lilac – all burst forth undiminished. I greet the newer perennials with gratitude – the scraggly rose bushes, gift from a gardener on my morning walk, now fill their space, a California poppy rescued from the garden center (the one blossom such an unusual pink) has become a sizeable clump. Lavender, nepeta, and geranium, return and push aside the yellowing leaves of daffodils and tulips.

And on a self-seeded foxglove, gift from a bird, six sturdy stems head skyward. Out back, a grocery-store-purchased compact delphinium I never managed to repot, neglected all winter, reappeared with new healthy foliage – a rebirth I don’t deserve.

And in a cheerful quarantine garden activity, Sweet B and I are beginning a project. Each week we plan to send each other a little painting on a watercolor postcard of a flower from our gardens – adding words about the flower on the back of the card. We’re in early stages, but it’s a thrill to get mail from her. (On FaceTime recently, she advised me that I might want to add some figures to my paintings and they wouldn’t be so plain.)

It inspires to make a record of garden bloom – maybe specially in this pandemic year.



10 thoughts on “The Garden Here in the Time of COVID-19

  1. “So plain” — I love it! What a lovely tradition of post cards you have with your grandchildren. When I first travelled abroad, to Scandinavia in the 70’s, I was struck by the artistry everywhere— a single lovely blossom in a simple glass on the table in a cheap restaurant, an elegantly designed handle on a door. It felt to me, with my traveler eyes, as if the Swedes and Finns really had incorporated artistry into daily life. And you have, too.

    • Thank you Bonny for kind words – I do love it that you think that – always a goal. We do spend so much time in daily life – welcome back to the west coast!

  2. You have inspired me to reach out to my nieces’ children to become pen pals. What an unusual thing it is to experience old-fashioned mail. It is so sweet to get a letter from them and create responses that might include a photo of long ago(of their mother’s as children.) a pandemic bonus!

    Sent from my iPhone


    • That’s a great idea Jane! I really hope you do that. I have come to love the USPS in this time – mail carriers delivering in all conditions – now including virus! And Click ‘n Ship a wonderful invention – no trips to PO!

  3. Katy, your posts inspire and warm my heart. I haven’t commented recently but I am a constant reader. Our McKenzie River home gives us so many native blooms — the dogwood are just finishing. They light the dark forest on the opposite, North facing bank with their greenish white candelabra blossoms. One by one the deciduous trees have unfurled and finally, a couple days ago the Oregon Ash opened its delicate filigree of leaves . I’ve been reading Robin Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, chapter by chapter, slowly. I think that is what we are doing, you with your writing and painting and we as we respond to you,” Hands joined by grass, can we bend our heads together and make a braid to honor the earth?”

    • How totally lovely and wonderful! Thank you Susan and for your description of your riverside home welcoming spring! Ps. We are really in awe of Heather Cox Richardson!

  4. Well, that Sweet B has style and pizazz, that’s for sure. After spending so many Aprils in Alaska, I have found the spring here in Portland to be exuberant indeed, despite the circumstances of our being here. The flower cards are a great idea. You’re lucky to have an enthusiastic and very creative correspondent. xoxo

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