Sunday, January 11, 2015

Growing a new year

I was going to complain about how friggin’ ridiculously cold it is, and how the plants are sure to be all stressed out since just before this latest polar vortex the weather was, frankly, quite balmy, and a lot of trees and shrubs were starting to push. To push means that they’re buds were starting to swell, a sign that the plants might have been thinking it was spring. Not a good sign. Not at all.

But it’s a new year. 

One I want to approach with joy and gratitude, not complaints and whinging. So instead I’m going to talk about the things I am already grateful for and those I am looking forward to enjoying as they arrive.

I am grateful that I have a garden. It sounds so simple, but sometimes I forget wallow in the joy that my garden gives me. I worry about the weeding, and the holes, and the spaces that are unfilled, where I can’t yet afford all the plants I need. I forget to be amazed by the living things I already have, and the beauty they provide. I am grateful for the birds. Especially my hummingbirds make my soul want to shriek with pleasure. I should do so out loud.

I am grateful for the light, the sky, the sunsets and the clouds. I am grateful for the stars. I am grateful for the parsnips that I am still digging out of the garden, as well as the kale I am ignoring. I am grateful for the squirrels whose dedication to locating a way onto my feeders makes me believe I have yet to really try.

I am grateful that I have two strong legs that can carry me on a fast walk through the biting bitter air at a speed that will keep me warm, even if I don’t yet have the stamina to run. I am grateful that I have eyes with which to see my breath frost at dawn when the sky is painted strawberry pink and orange. I am grateful for ears that capture the songs I sing along to entirely out of key when I weed or walk or just sometimes sit in traffic.

I am grateful for the sea, and the fact that I live close enough to it to visit it everyday if I so chose to do so.

I am grateful for my husband who knows how to make me laugh and my father who taught me how to think.

I am grateful for a brain that drinks up knowledge and information wherever it can find it.

I am grateful that Plant-O-Rama is on Tuesday, January 27th at the Brooklyn Botanic garden and that my idols Ruth Clausen and Douglas Tallemy are both speaking. Doug is the man who made me understand how to really utilize native plants in an environment and was the soul who switched me from thinking native plants were ugly to lusting after and utilizing them in almost all my work. And Ruth is a perennial powerhouse on par with Alan Armitage who has just come out with her new, updated perennial manual, Essential Perennials, in time for the lecture. These are ‘do not miss people’ people.

I am grateful that the New York Botanic Garden’s 15th Annual Winter Lecture Series, features three lectures on three Frenchies I’m crazy about. First, they have Louis Benech coming to speak. Now call me crazy, but Louis’ book, Twelve French Gardens, was my go to book this year, and the one I recommended the most as a gift. It’s rare that I adore an entire book, but his was startlingly good, so I’m anxious to hear him speak. Next up, Alexandre De Vogüé is speaking about Vaux le Vicomte, the garden that dug into the Sun King’s brain and made him snatch up Le Notre for Versailles. Many think it’s a far superior garden and thus a lecture on it should be fabulous. I’ve actually never seen the garden, so this will be a rare treat. The only thing better would be a plane ticket to France. And finally Robert Mallet, the director of the Shamrock Collection in Normandy, the world's largest collection of hydrangeas, is speaking. Now as we all know, I’m a hydrangea junkie, so I have to go listen to him speak, and he also was a founder of the Courson Plant Fair, France’s answer to Chelsea, so I’m very interested in his point of view. All the lectures are on Thursdays between 10-11:30 and I’m off for the winter so that means I’ve got the time to go and take notes.

I’m also grateful that on March 5th, at the University of Connecticut, in Storrs, there’s the 20th Anniversary Perennial Plant Conference, where there are a number of people talking about all sorts of things I find interesting, from the best plants for bees, to plants and designs for a sensory garden.

To make 2015 more interesting I have bought two tickets for two full days at the Chelsea Garden Show this year. Now every year I threaten to fly to England for this show, but since it’s the busiest time of the year in the Hamptons, and since I don’t want to let anyone down, I have put off going for over 20 years. So this year, in the spirit of embracing joy, I’m doing it no matter what -- I just have to find an affordable flight.  And I’m grateful to a good friend, another toiler in the gardening industry, who encouraged me to go, knowing full well how irresponsible of a trip it actually is.

How can I leave in May, at the height of the gardening season here? What changed, you ask, to make me no longer worry about being too busy and missing important work?

Well as I’ve said, I’m trying to approach 2015 differently and the main way I’m going to do that is to make myself a priority. I’m finding it much harder to put ones wants and desires in the top position, but I’ve spent the last decade trying to make other people happy and in the process have lost some of my own joy. 

If I want to be grateful for the things in my life, I have to reach out and take them. I have to actively appreciate them, I have to engage to be able to celebrate.

So yes, I’m terrified of being stuck in traffic on the LIE and having a full fledged panic attack, as I am prone to do, while en route to the NY Botanic Garden to meet Louis -- but if I don’t go, I will not be living my joy will I?

 In this same spirit I’m going to try and make a locally picked bouquet every week, I’m going to finally finish my book, and I’m going to see how long I can be (mostly) vegan. Oh and I’m going to figure out where I can set up my easel so I can paint those bouquets I make. Sweet!

Paige Patterson has clippers in her car as she prowls around looking for anything to put into this week’s bouquet!