The Writers Guild special interest group was recently given the prompt “How Does Your Garden Grow?” and, as always, about half the group chose to address it. We had such fun seeing how five different writers approached the same topic and thought our BOLLI readers might enjoy seeing their efforts as well.
I) How Does Your Garden Grow? By Katherine Wangh
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockleshells
And pretty maids all in a row.
“Au contraire! Au contraire!”
Picking a spider out of her hair,
“None of my silver bells will grow in a row!
(to say nothing of my cockleshells and pretty maids!)
What do I know from gardens?
A hole is to dig
‘Til you sweat like a pig,
A hose is to water
Like a dutiful daughter,
Mulch is to mix
In the gulch with some sticks,
Fertilizer is to throw
If the plant is to grow,
A plant is to plant
While your back screams, ‘I can’t!’
Feet get all muddy,
Face gets all ruddy,
Brain gets all dizzy
Till you need something fizzy…
How does my garden grow?
My interests? Music, art, language, psychology, nature, science, travel. My professions? Teaching preschool and working with children/young adults as a psycho-analytically trained therapist. Married to scientist Larry for nearly 50 years! Now enjoying grandchildren, singing in the Concord Women’s Chorus, curating my father’s artistic legacy, writing, and even–gardening!
II) Contrary Mary by Steve Goldfinger
Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow?
Silver bells, damn, why did I ever plant them? I know, it was a song my mother sang:
White coral bells upon a slender stalk,
Lilies of the valley line my garden walk.
Planted just a few of them to line the walk. But the damn things just kept spreading and spreading. Overgrew everything. My petunia bed. My stand of Viagras. And, worst of all, my fentanyl patch. Shit, that’s where the money was.
And cockleshells. Do you know how hard it is to get cockleshells? Czechoslovakia was my main supplier, but then those bastards jacked up the price. Can you imagine? $7.80 for a single cockleshell! Oh, you could get a cockle for $3.00 and then buy a shell for $2.50. But how to put them together? And the $2.50 shell is plastic, not the real thing. So now I have to search the web for cheap cockleshells. Like there’s not enough to do.
And the pretty maids all in a row? Pretty maids indeed. Gotta tell you, it was one helluva row. Never saw such fighting. Thought I was doing a nice thing by opening my garden for the annual outing of the wenches from the village brothel. Before I knew it, they were tearing up the petunias and stuffing them into each others bosoms. Stomping on my lilies of the valley. Throwing cockleshells all over the place. Mud everywhere. One cockle separated from its shell and hit me in the eye.
Since joining BOLLI two years ago, after a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring new ventures. He has been active in both the Writers Guild and CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre).
III) Gardening in Maine by Maxine Weintraub
During those wonderful years we lived in Maine, we would move upstairs to the front guest bedroom during the month of April. The peepers’ nightly concert was not to be missed. The slow rolling sound of the ocean would come in from the half-open windows, and they would sing their song from the small pond at the side of the house. The full moon would light the ocean like the sun shining on a vast meadow. And that was the good news. The moles declared war on the back lawn. The chipmunks were everywhere, with an underground network of tunnels that would make the New York City subway system pale. And I would spend hours weeding and turning over the flower beds. My back was killing me! But, it was the start of the long awaited gardening season.
The first year in Maine was a vicious black fly spring, and I gardened down by the road, resplendent in haute couture protective gear. Yellow sweat pants and an orange sweatshirt. My socks were pulled up over the sweat pant bottoms, and I wore a purple, green, and pink designer scarf a la Jackie Onassis wrapped over my head and around my neck. Topped it off with a straw hat and wrapped the entire package in mosquito netting. Voila! Who cared? It was early in the day, and we didn’t know anyone in town. Later that spring, I spoke on the phone with a local merchant, giving him my address for a delivery. He burst out laughing. “My God, don’t tell me–you’re that lady in The Outfit!”
So that is how our first summer in Maine started as I returned to the land! On a grand scale. Bigger is better, so a landscaping friend arrived with fairly heavy equipment and turned over a plot–a large living room sized plot–at the bottom of the driveway. Full sun.
The knees could bend back then, and after days of putting down cow manure mixed with peat and pulling left over weeds, I still had enough energy left to shop for a king’s ransom worth of seedlings. Peppers, herb, tomatoes, cukes, summer squash. And marigolds to keep out the varmints. So naive. I didn’t pay much attention to the large hole that bordered one corner of the garden. Construction detritus perhaps. I was in my element and filthy, exhausted, and mosquito bite covered, I survived a day well spent and trudged back to the house for a long hot shower and a cold gin and tonic, collapsing on the porch swing.
Early the next morning I walked—stiffly–down the driveway to view the results of my labor. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair. Hubris. Gone Gone! Every last seedling was gone. One word. Woodchuck. Living, obviously, in that big hold adjacent to the garden. Duh. Well, what do you do about those miserable buggers? That is easy, I was told. Buy a .22–only thing that will work. Right. A .22 going off across the street from the Bush summer home. I didn’t think so.
I let the garden go. Put cukes in pots on the porch. They got mildew. Planted day lilies at the bottom of the driveway.
Round One: Woodchuck
Maxine has been taking writing classes with both Betsy Campbell and Marjorie Roemer since joining BOLLI three years ago and was a founding co-chair of our current Writers Guild group. She also served as the editor of the current BOLLI Journal. In her spare time, she mines her closet for unique outfits.
IV) How Does My Garden Grow? by Margie Arons-Barron
How does my garden grow? Better you should ask Peter Rabbit. Or Brer Rabbit, Roger Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, or Predator Bunny. They devour my garden. Indiscriminately. They relish young shoots, but the foundation for their food pyramid comprises hostas, lilies, and azaleas of any age. Whatever the varmints can’t reach on the azaleas, the deer will top off. Most exasperating is the bunnies’ predilection for roses.
You’d think the thorns would deter them. But they don’t. Hybrid teas. David Austins. Floribundas. Doesn’t matter. And they amplify damage they inflict chomping on leaves by bracing themselves on lower branches, breaking them and leaving them, slain victims on the battlefield.
And war it is. We’ve tried predator pee, which has the side effect of attracting coyotes. Enviro-friendly Repels-All, made of dried blood, egg solids and garlic oil. Liquid Fence, and granular Rabbit Scram, bought in 25-pound drums. The white-tails hesitated, then signaled, “Bring it on.” Our most recent effort is Nature’s Mace. Encouraged by the name, we’re into our second drum, the company’s liquid concentrate our back-up weapon.
We’ve tried solar-powered motion detectors, which emit blue light and sounds to scare off the long-eared beasts. Neighborhood dogs hold back, but not Thumper. This year we’ve planted a Maginot line of perennial geraniums, whose odor repels rabbits. We’re in wait-and-see mode.
We’ve tried garlic, but never found it discouraged garden pests. Take my many attempts to grow tomatoes in pots on our deck. The squirrels and chipmunks would take a bite from each of several tomatoes and leave the others with gaping wounds. A friend suggested garlic cloves in the sprinkling can would help. After evening watering, garlic cloves would cover the soil. By morning, the pieces would be flung across the deck, and the tomatoes would be chewed. Next strategy? Garlic powder. No more luck. The back of the house smelled like marinara sauce all summer. By autumn, the cost of the yield averaged $17 per tomato.
For years, the rabbits’ evening itinerary had them checking in around five o’clock for hors d’oeuvres and appetizers. I’d be standing at my kitchen window aggravated by their audacity. By end of summer, some are large enough to put saddles on. Sometimes I grab a spray bottle of repellent, run out to my deck and chase after them. “Take that, you little bastards,” I scream. They disappear into the neighbor’s yard but return within minutes. I’m mortified to think the neighbors overhear me haranguing the herd.
I gaze at my garden and admire what’s left of it, the begonias, rhododendron, peonies and daisies. But, wait, who’s that rustling the leaves of young lilies? Not again. I look to the right. I look to the left. Which weapon to choose?
This time I head for my office, looking in the closet for my old Rolodex. Goldman. Governor. Greater Boston Legal Services. Ah, there it is. Gun Owners Action League. 508-393-5333. Maybe this will be the ultimate solution.
After her long career as an editorial and political news director, Margie shifted her focus to writing memoir and even fiction when arriving at BOLLI two years ago. She has taken Marjorie Roemer’s memoir classes, Betsy Campbell’s fiction courses, and Sue Wurster’s nonfiction course as well. She is also a member of the BOLLI Journal staff and still keeps her hand in politics and issues of the day on her blog which you can reach by clicking here: marjoriearonsbarron.com
V) The Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden by Lydia Bogar
I could talk about the Shasta daisies and blue elephant Hosta from my mother’s garden or the invading poison ivy army that is marching up the ban and into my yard, threatening my health and sanity. But instead, I will seek the serenity found at the magnificent wonder of a garden that will last forever: The Doctor Seuss Sculpture Garden in Springfield honoring Ted Geisel formerly of Sumner Street, Springfield.
The Garden is tucked amidst three deckers, pavement, and a dozen examples of American architecture–a free attraction with free parking–surrounded by the library, two churches, and four museums.
The concept of the Garden was hatched over thirty years ago as cautiously as Horton’s egg. With blessings and money from her mother, Audrey Geisel, California sculptor Lark Gray Dimond-Cates dedicated six years of her life to creating the garden’s amazing bronze characters which honor her stepfather.
When entering the garden, The Good Doctor can be found sitting at an old school desk, with his famous Cat standing beside him, looking at an oversized edition of Oh, The Places You’ll Go! The Grinch peers around the corner as Gertrude McFuzz looks on from above. For the Good Doctor’s hands on this statue, Lark used a cast of Ted Geisel’s hands that had been made several years before his death in 1991. A work of love and great respect. A chair–accessible to children of all ages–stands in front of the book.
A stack of ten turtles, Yertel and his friends, bask in a side garden. And in the center of the Memorial is Thidwick, Thing One, Thing Two, Sam I Am, Sally and the kids from Whoville. A ramp in the middle of this cluster of characters makes it possible for handicapped children to touch Horton’s curly tail.
When leaving the garden, the Lorax–perched on a bronze stump– reaches out his arm to say goodbye to a child his own size.
On a rainy Sunday, the boys and I added another happy memory to our dozens of visits to the land of Seuss. Brady is 14 and Henry is 9. We’ve been coming here for over ten years, in sunshine and snow, to seek the smiles and share the wisdom of Ted Geisel.
My grandsons seem to have grown out of this wondrous place, for now, but I never will.
Since her arrival upon the BOLLI scene two years ago, Lydia has been a regular contributor to our BOLLI Matters blog for which she now serves as co-editor. She has also taken Marjorie Roemer’s memoir and Sue Wurster’s nonfiction writing courses.
For more information about the garden, click here: www.springfieldmuseums.org
Over the summer, the Writers Guild meets on Thursdays. On June 7 and June 14, we will meet at 12:30 to accommodate BOLLI’s upcoming seminars. After that, we’ll meet at 10:30. The group is always open to new participants, and we are always happy to see “drop ins” who come to try us out. We are a low-key and supportive bunch, so check out our prompts on the weekly Bulletin, try your hand at a brief piece of writing, and come share the results with us!