Spring Musing 1.2

I will sleep well tonight.

Christine C. Cantrell Ph.D. - Spring Musings 1.2: Emma's Pink Rose

Emma’s Pink Rose

Christine C. Cantrell Ph.D. - Spring Musings 1.2: Oak Leaf Hydrangea

Oak Leaf Hydrangea

I am physically exhausted, aching muscles, just out of a soothing Epsom salts’ bath. I dug up two bushes and replanted each where the other was. One was a large Oak Leaf Hydrangea, with wide reaching roots just under the grass, and the other was a Japanese Pieris, which did poorly over the second bitter cold winter in a row. The Oak Leaf Hydrangea has showy big leaves and large groups of flowers that mostly are magenta in color, though they change over time. The Mountain Laurel is 1/4 the size of the Hydrangea, and had only a few lantern like flowers grouped together like grapes, last year. I don’t know if it has the energy to bloom this year. We will see soon.

Japanese Piers

Christine C. Cantrell Ph.D. - Spring Musings 1.2: Japanese Piers

Japanese Piers

Digging in the dirt, by shovel or trowel or by hand, keeps me connected with the rich soil that has been built up over the last 25 years at this property. Berkley is basically all clay, right on the surface of my neighborhood, as the top soil was sold to Roseland Cemetery on Woodward Avenue, when this subdivision was started in the mid 1940s. My house and yard has had several owners before we arrived 11 years ago. One of the best for the soil was an elderly woman Emma Goldman, who was German, and had moved here from her family farm in Minnesota when she was 90 in 1990. She lived in this house for 10 years, finally moving into a nursing home for her final 2 years of life. While she was here, she had manure plowed into the backyard, which was all gardens. She was known around this block, for her tomatoes. She had steel cages that stand 6′ tall that held up her monstrous tomato plants. Most of my neighbors have several of those cages that they got when Emma left the property. Over the years, we have cajoled one neighbor into giving us a couple of them for our tomatoes. They are solid steel and will last 100 more years, for sure!

Christine C. Cantrell Ph.D. - Spring Musings 1.2: Emma's White Peoni's

Emma’s White Peoni’s

I garden naturally, meaning I do not use any pesticides on my property. Early on, I would find signs of Emma’s vegetable farm. Lettuce growing in this corner, onions reappearing in that one. I found Johnny Jump Ups (tiny pansies) growing up near the back of the house in grass. The neighbors had tried to take all of Emma’s pink peonies after she moved out, but only a tiny bit of the root needs to survive for the plant to regenerate itself, so I continue to have those 3 plants on the north side of the house. And I’ve tried to transplant them to the backyard twice! They don’t like to be moved in the spring, as the roots more easily dry out and the transplant dies. In the fall, I seem to leave that shred of root behind, increasing my peonies overall.

Emma’s Pink Rose

Christine C. Cantrell Ph.D. - Spring Musings 1.2: Emma's Pink Rose

Emma’s Pink Rose

I think of Emma as I see her sweet pink rose bush bloom. She planted it along the fence and over the years decided to hack it down. Tom, my neighbor, decided to encourage it’s growth on his side of the fence, and it still is there. Unlike modern hybrids that have been genetically improved to bloom continuously, this rose bush blooms usually around June 1. And if it’s a hot day, those lightly scented, multi-petaled, light pink roses she brought from the Minnesota farm, last only a day. But what an amazingly fragrant day it is!

In the far back corner of the yard which is now a compost pile behind a small shed we installed a few years back, more roses from Emma’s hand continue to grow. One old fashioned white one, and another old style deep red one. Those, too, I have moved around the yard, as I reconfigure the gardens and add bushes and trees, stepping stones and more perennials. Still, in that back corner, every year, a white rose and a red rose bloom, reminding me of Emma.

Christine C. Cantrell Ph.D. - Spring Musings 1.2:

Christine C. Cantrell Ph.D. – Spring Musings 1.2

I love being able to participate in the handiwork that Emma started 25 years ago. I give her a smile to heaven when I notice one of her roses or vegetables popping up. I never knew her, but she was a solid woman with long braids wrapped around her head, who worked the earth. No, she didn’t just work the earth. She created the rich soil that I now easily grow almost anything. Her 10 years of plowed in manure have given me a gift that most in my neighborhood do not have: A good foot of rich humus over the clay base of the back yard. So, when I dig into the dirt, I remember Emma. I am tired, but exhilarated. Another day, another flower. Emma’s spirit continues to bless this garden.

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