Tag Archives: gardening

The War for the Figs — Who Will Win?

I had gone outside and started tying the first of fifty or so shiny gold ribbons on the fig tree when a mockingbird landed on IMG_0190the nearby split-rail fence and started, well, mocking me, as though I were a fool who credited him with less than a birdbrain. I tried to scare him off by duplicating the sound of a shotgun blast, but that came out as a soft pop of air and failed to ruffle even one feather.

He continued to taunt me. I paid him no mind as I moved from one branch to another cutting and tying on streamers. It wasn’t until a blue jay settled into a high bough, cursing, that the idea came to me to curl the ribbons so they might dangle and dance on a breezy day or appear as snakes on a calm one.

Sadly, neither of these threatens a blue jay which loves bright shiny objects. Already she was probably planning to feather her next nest with them, a nest that would be built long after she and her family and friends had eaten the figs and the leaves had fallen and been raked.

I am willing to share, but I have my limits. Several years before an arborist came to prune the tree, three herding dogs barking from the windows of the man cave and long silver streamers twirling under the leaves discouraged wild life from eating the fruit hanging from the lower branches.

This year I had not even gone through a spool of gold before a squirrel leaped from the roof of the house onto a branch opposite the blue jay. That is when I understood two things –these animals, which were not made to mix, no longer feared the barks that came from within our home, and they had formed an alliance to shoo me from this goddess of all fig trees.

Just last year my 89-year-old Gene had made a short video in his backyard of a fox and raccoon eating leftover spaghetti from the same bowl. It was a scene from the peaceable kingdom. No one made a fuss. Especially not Gene, who prefers the food prepared by The Golden Corral to his own.

But I can’t say there will any quiet here for the next three weeks. Maybe if I channeled my Native American ancestors, I would waive ownership of the tree and give into these greedy critters, which will soon be drunk from the sugar fermenting in their tiny brains. But since I, too, have a passion for figs — plain, broiled with prosciutto and cheese or preserved. I won’t.

It’s time to let the dogs out.

The Birds, the Bees and Clematis. A Story that Takes a Sexy Turn.

ClematisI wouldn’t tell what follows if my late stepfather had been the least bit shy or embarrassed about it, but I can still recall the day he laid back in his recliner, told me this true story as tears streamed from his Paul Newman baby blues and laughter deepened his always prominent dimples. He had hardly said two words before my mother started laughing and tearing up.  She knew what was coming.

First, you need to know that before my mother and stepfather downsized to a condo, both were gardeners.  On temperate days, the exceptions being my stepfather’s golf on dry Tuesdays, their standing dates on Fridays, and Sundays when they attended the Southern Baptist Church where they met and were fixed up on a date by a deacon, they worked in their yard.

In addition to taking care of the tedious chores of cutting grass, weeding, edging and raking, they tended huge flowers beds of heirloom azaleas, roses bushes, hydrangeas, and assorted annuals and perennials, both low-growing and climbing.  When they were done and had showered off the muck and dirt, the two would sit out in the backyard and sip iced tea, enjoying their own private paradise, one they sorely missed after their move.

They took care to make sure their front yard was beautiful, too, with beds of neatly trimmed boxwoods along the front walk and tall pines ringed by azaleas.  On anything else rising from the ground – a trellis, a light pole, a mailbox, they grew clematis.  Neither my mother nor stepfather were interested in the mini-versions.  They loved the huge showy blossoms of white or purple that could be seen by anyone passing down the street.  The bigger the clematis bloom, the more awed they were by nature and God’s hand in it.

One day on the golf course at Ocean View as my stepfather hit a round with old friends from his youth and others from his church, the talk turned to yard work.  I wasn’t there, but I imagine there was grumbling by some who’d prefer to spend less time on the grass at home and more on that at the course, but eventually the conversation turned to the growing season and how flora of all kinds were flourishing – squash plants spreading like octopi, dahlias stalks breaking ground, hydrangeas clumps taking on tinges of blues and pinks.

And it was during this talk that my dear stepfather, picturing the dazzling clematis abloom on the mailbox, said,  “You’re not kidding.  You should see the beautiful clitoris I have at home!”

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