Monthly Archives: July 2015

The State of the Garden

Thistle

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

The state of the garden is, more or less, just grounds. After a great deal of planning, digging, planting, watering, and anticipation, we are pretty much back to what we had in the first place. A lot by the sea in an old growth forest that had always gone its own way and done what it wanted. I never meant to disturb that; I had only hoped to add a little color.

Sometimes it’s one step forward, two steps back…

After doing my research I put in plants that were both deer-resistant and drought-resistant. (There’s a reason they call it “resistant” rather than “proof.”) This year tested us on both fronts. A long dry spring followed by an exceptionally warm summer, by Pacific Northwest standards, and more Bambis than ever being born perhaps? I don’t know, but I do know that every spring they will be born, and something came along and one by one, beheaded all the blossoms and devoured most of the plants. A hillside of Lupine, Wallflower, Wild Rose, Coneflower and Iceland Poppy.

Our theory is that, as with humans, taste is acquired. The Bambis have no idea yet what the deer ones like to eat and don’t like to eat. And my watering daily in this exceptionally warm climate to help new plantings get established only succeeded in establishing noxious weeds.

It’s like Risky Business around here, with thistles having a hay day.

You might say the state of the grounds now is primarily thistle. Prickly, like the jumping cholla cactus that leaps onto you as you brush by in the desert. Invasive, capable of growing to great height, with roots that extend deep in the soil and spread wide. Break a root trying to pull a thistle plant up, and multiple new thistle plants are likely to sprout.

Who knew all the trouble one could get into on a half-acre lot? If only I had left it alone….

But to be fair, the deer ones are allowing me some plants for which I am grateful: rhododendron, lavender, rosemary, and Shasta daisy. “Why, it is going to be a standing ovation of Shasta daisy along the fence!” I’ve been heard to exclaim.

And that is what I like most about gardening: the eternal optimism.

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Rhoda and I

Give me an open shelf and I immediately go into display mode. From the pragmatic to the aesthetic–whether we’re talking everyday dishes or a collection of shells–in my mind they occupy the same sacred space. A well-arranged shelf is like music to me. Where did this come from?

Ah yes, Rhoda.

Not since The Mouseketeers had I been so enamored with a television show. From 1974 to 1978, for the life of the show, I didn’t sit there with my ears on but I was hooked. Rhoda was at first a backstory of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and later a spin-off. She had all the right ingredients and captured my imagination in a way that Mary hadn’t. Unlike Mary, Rhoda wasn’t perfect. She had issues. She had verve. And Rhoda was a window dresser. Having moved from Minneapolis back to NYC at the start of her own show, Rhoda called out, “New York, this is your last chance.”

I was working as Communications Editor for G. Fox & Co., a large department store at the time in Hartford, Connecticut. My first gig out of college, editor of in-house publications. Unlike Mary, who was tied to her desk, I had the freedom to roam between departments with paper & pen and camera, attending events, getting stories, and becoming acquainted with both employees and management. And in all the world of G. Fox & Co., I considered the Visual Merchandising team the most creative bunch—far more creative than my department, or even advertising.

Inspired by my new arty friends, the window dressers, I rented a trendy loft space in a beautiful old building enjoying a renaissance at the time near Union Station in Hartford—an area undergoing a major effort in urban renewal. My high- ceilinged, light-flooded space was a blank canvas for all that I would do. A massive store window, if you will. I think I got as far as rolling in a wooden spool for a table, my first piece of furniture ever, to start my life around.

Rhoda married Joe. Then love bumped me off course too, and the next thing I knew I quit my job, left Hartford, lost my security deposit and first month’s rent on that loft, left my first piece of furniture behind, flew to St. Thomas USVI for a couple of years, and… we won’t go into it.

Let’s just say I should have stayed, kept writing, and set my stage. Two things that make me immeasurably happy.

Rhoda’s marriage to Joe fell apart too. The ratings plunged. Joe was the owner of a wrecking company, and my ex-husband might as well have been too. In any case we pulled ourselves up through design, Rhoda and I.

“What is design but the creation of orderliness?” states Mary Douglas Drysdale.

Today my blue & whites are in a hutch. Like things together, that seems to work.

Bookcase 3

A major bookcase is color- blocked like a Mondrian painting. When I’m watching a game and my attention wanders, it is most likely up to the books.

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In the master bath, a shell collection sits on pine shelves that once held Costco-sized spices, sea salt, pepper mill, olive oil and vinegars in a kitchen in Pennsylvania.

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In the kitchen today, much of what was once hidden in upper cabinets is now out. Stainless steel kitchen shelves hold all our white every day china and clear glasses. The idea is that what is used frequently, doesn’t get dusty. And as cooks in prepping we experience extraordinary head and shoulder space.

Live with what you use and what you love. And get rid of the rest.

Yep, I can see Rhoda winking at that.

 

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