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October 9, 2005

Busy, Busy, Busy

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We have been running like crazy the last few weeks, and there’s been no time to write. Any free time has been spent in the garden planting bulbs.

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Saturday evening, however, we enjoyed one of our last bonfires of the season. We toasted some marshmallows, listened to tunes and watched for the first stars of the evening. When Graham had had his fill of outside time, the two guys went inside to watch a Transformer movie while I stayed out to watch the fire die down.


I grabbed a book and curled up on the willow couch in front of the fire, relishing a bit of time to myself. It was a lovely night – brisk with the hint of the cold to come. Finally, around 9 p.m., I went in myself, knowing that Graham would be ready for bed soon.

I fell asleep on Graham’s bed and woke up around 5:30 a.m., still in my jeans and fleece pull over and still smelling like smoke. If it didn’t bother him, it didn’t bother me either, and I went back to sleep.

It was a quiet evening, but just what we all needed. Somehow, amidst our busy schedules of work, obligations, play dates and lessons, quiet moments can happen, if we let them.

Big on Bulbs

Between this weekend and last, I have dug in nearly 500 bulbs, and I have more than 100 left. When we look at the bulb catalogs each summer, we are bedazzled by what we see and forget how much work it is to put the bulbs in.

We think, “Oh, let’s put 200 daffodils in that bed to add spring color,” forgetting that means digging 200 holes to put each bulbs into. But come spring we’ll have forgotten the repetitive stress injuries in our wrists, the sore spots in the palms of our hands from the pressure of the trowel and the cold and tired knees as we behold a sea of cheerful yellow faces.

And it will all be worth it.

Videocast Two: Watch My Tips on Planting Bulbs

Other Tips to Consider When Planting/Purchasing Bulbs

Plant in masses. Make a statement by planting at least 100 or 200 bulbs in a bed.

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If you are planting daffodils, clump them in groups of 3, 5, 7 or 9 randomly around your bed to make them look natural. Tulips are more formal so they can be planted out in rows.

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Buy bulbs from a reputable firm. We purchase most of our bulbs from White Flower Farm.

Daffodils give you more for your money as they come back year after year and form large clumps. And deer leave them alone. Tulips make a lovely show the first year or two and then they peter out. That works, too, if you’re willing to consider them as annuals and dig them up and replace them every year.

Don’t forget less common bulbs such as snowdrops, fritallaria, allium or even smaller, species tulips which naturalize. My snowdrops typically begin blooming in mid-March, long before anything else is blooming.

Say it Ain’t So

This weekend I received my first seed catalog from Thompson & Morgan. This is like receiving a Christmas catalog in mid-July. I haven’t even put this garden put to bed yet, and somebody wants me to plan my garden for next year? Sheesh!

Mazel Tov! Mazel Tov!

A few weeks ago, I attended the wedding of my friend Dvora. She had started as a student volunteer with the Minnesota Historical Society when she was 14, went off to study in England after high school graduation and stayed in touch as she pursued her college education.

This summer, a matchmaker found her a partner in a young man named Mendel from Brooklyn, and the wedding was set for a few months following.

This was my first Jewish wedding, let alone a Hasidic one, and I was fascinated by the ceremony and celebrations that are so different from a traditional Christian one.

When my co-worker Wendy and I arrived at Landmark Center in St. Paul, we paid our respects to Dvora and her mother Chana. The bridal couple is treated as a king and queen on their wedding day, and Dvora was, indeed, seated on dais above everyone who approached her. She looked so lovely and happy.

Only the women were in attendance but soon Mendel and the men arrived. The women were asked to move to the left side of the room as the men took over the right-hand side. Mendel veiled Dvora, and then everyone left her and her parents alone for some time together.

The guests trickled down to Rice Park where the chuppa was waiting. Eventually, Dvora was led to the area by her parents, and she circled Mendel seven times underneath the chuppa. Then began the ceremony with blessings from many rabbis.

Following the service, Dvora and Mendel went off to have their first meal together as a married couple and to break the fast they had maintained all day. Wendy and I returned to Landmark Center to find our dinner table, seated with the other women. The tables for the men and women were separated by a large fabric wall.

Soon after we finished our salads, Mendel and Dvora appeared, and Mendel was spirited to his side of the room. The dancing began, lead by an amazing pianist on an electric keyboard who kept the room rocking.

Dvora was quickly encircled by concentric rings of women of all ages. As she would choose someone to dance with individually, the rings would break and reform with the movement never stopping. I thought, “This is how women have been dancing and celebrating for thousands of years.”

Because of the dividing curtain, we couldn’t see how the men were dancing, but at one point, the curtain parted somehow. I saw men on each others’ shoulders, dancing as we were.

Eventually the dancing stopped, and dinner was served. Our table was filled with interesting women who provided me with explanations for some of the rituals I didn’t understand.

And then the dancing began again and seemed determined to go on all night. Wendy and I managed another dance with Dvora before we made our good byes and headed home. It was well past 10 p.m. on a Monday night, and we had to go to work the next morning.

Attending this wedding was an event I am unlikely to experience again. It gave me insight into Dvora’s world and allowed me to experience her values and beliefs in way I hadn’t imagined.

The overall feeling I came away with was the joy that was felt by everyone dancing, and the modesty and dignity of those around me. I’ve been to some wedding receptions that have left me feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed by the behavior of the wedding party and guests.

At Dvora’s reception, there was no silly chicken dance, no raunchy garter fling or demeaning groping of the bride and her attendants by a blind folded groom. And there certainly wasn’t the impending feeling of doom in wondering who the drunken bridesmaid would go home with that night.

There was none of that icky stuff that night – just dignity and joy.

May Dvora and Mendel have a long and joyful life together.

Mazel Tov!

What I’m Reading

Just finished: “Locked Rooms” by Laurie R. King. The long-awaited sequel in the Mary Russell series. A pleasure, as always.

In the middle of: a shlocky romance I’m too embarrassed to even mention. Everybody needs a little brain candy now and then, right?

Next in the queue: “Pardonable Lies” by Jacqueline Winspear. The latest in the Maisie Dobbs series about a young female British detective following WWI.

Listening to: “Cuba,” an anthology of spicy Latin music.

Graham’s current favorite: “The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog” by Mo Willems. If you are lucky, some day maybe you can hear him read it to you, acting out all the parts. It’s a stitch.

The Mystery Plant

Last week’s plant was an “Alaska” Nasturtium blossom. Can you guess the plant this week?

Here’s What’s Blooming Now

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“My Favorite” mum – lavender, red and coral

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Morning glories
Nicotiana – all shapes, colors and sizes
Verbena bonariensis
Nasturtium “Peach Melba” and others
Russian sage
Hydrangea “Annabelle”
Alpine strawberry – and fruiting, too

Garden Chores for the Week

Finish planting bulbs.

Repot the amaryllis.

Vegetable Garden

We missed the big frost so even though I brought in any reddish tomatoes, there are still more on the vine.

Today’s Grahamism

Following Pont’s return home from the vet following his “snip snip”, “I’m going to give Pont a kiss to help him feel better.”

Sunday Dance Practice

Each Sunday my husband (when he is free) transports Graham to St. Paul for dance practice. This gives me a bit of peace and time to work in the garden. Here is what it looks like at Graham's practice:

Note: You can see all my videocasts at my Moblog site.

Posted by maasx003 at October 9, 2005 1:42 PM | Books | Family | Gardens | Videocast


This is the first year I've planted bulbs. I read that tulips WILL come back and make a good show year after year if you fertilize them in the spring. Have you found that fertilizing has that effect?

Posted by: Kasmira at October 11, 2005 2:49 PM

Your garden still looks spectacular! I love your patio area. Everybody is busy planting bulbs. I guess I should plant a few myself. I never plant tulips or daffs in my garden because I move plants around to much. I do love the small bulbs unders my deciduous shrubs and around my helebores and hosta though.

Posted by: Sandy at October 13, 2005 8:39 PM

Hi, Kasmira -

I have not found fertilizing to help big tulips, like the Darwins, in coming back year after year. Maybe other people have better luck than I do but the only tulips that I have that come back with any consistency are the smaller species tulips, like the Turkish.

That being said, I did plant 100 regular tulips today, knowing full well that they will peter out on me in a few years. What price beauty? (


Posted by: jackie at October 14, 2005 10:25 PM