Garden club showdown

I like supporting local garden clubs rather than the giant Home Depot mass-produced plant department, and usually find a couple of interesting plants that I’ll manage to let wither in the sun by season’s end. I’m looking at you, lamium of cheerful yellow blooms.

I end up at the Driftwood Garden Club of Marblehead (say it with a heavy Down East accent, dahling) where plants are plentiful, artfully arranged, signs separate the annuals from the perennials, and hoards of helpful ladies who lunch are ready to answer questions about the best light and soil for the fanciest plants in Marblehead.

“I can’t believe they’re selling loosestrife,” a man tells me, clutching a bunch of pots. “It’s illegal because it’s invasive. Oh, this isn’t the illegal type,” he decides. I move away from him and the contagious plant.

Couples line cardboard boxes with their selections and $50, $60, $80 is exchanged. I have a heart-to-heart with myself (You’ll kill them. Don’t overdo it.) and buy some violets and the lamium, which a woman tells me nearly glows in the dark. I keep forgetting to venture out at night to see if it’s true.

On my way home, I stop at another plant sale in the more middle-class Salem. In a small church hallway, there’s a variety of greens–nothing in bloom yet–and admit it’s a bit of a sad scene after the fauna of the garden club in the neighboring town. I buy something because I feel bad, but for a dollar, it will probably outlive us all.

Also, these petite pink English daisies are now my favorite flower.

birdhouse and plants


Salem’s secret garden

Is there anything more enchanting than a secret garden? Well, yes. Coming upon Mr. Darcy in said secret garden. But let’s be realistic. This patch of flowers and pebbled trail is tucked away behind a church and historic home in Salem, often overlooked by tourists. Sometimes, I have it all to myself. See that red brick mansion in the background? That’s where Darcy and I live in my fantasy. We restore it to its former glory and stand gazing down upon the garden where we married, reliving the moment again and again. And then his sister saunters in and wants to play a sonata on that damn piano. Always with the piano! When will she get her own place?

These grand English-style gardens always call to mind the characters of Austen and Bronte. Can’t you just picture Jane Eyre sitting on this bench when Rochester sneaks up behind her in his creepy, romantic way?

This is where I like to sit and read about the stern yet tenderhearted men of yore. The shaded bench is better suited to courting lovers, but whatever. All I have is a book and the sunflowers before they turn brown and droop their heavy heads.

When I tire of reading, I look to the koi pond, confident that at any moment, Darcy will emerge, sopping wet in a blousy white shirt plastered to his beefy arms that he will use to lift me off the bench and into the pond for a romp.

Odd lots

+ At a midweek lunch, my co-workers and I debate Iggy’s vs. Clear Flour bread while sitting in a tiny park in Bay Village taking an extraordinary amount of time to eat egg sandwiches and smell the roses. Is this phlox? Are these mosaic benches from Marshalls?

+ At Otto’s for a slice, I can’t stop laughing when a child dissolves in tears when his slice comes with no cheese, as if his bike were stolen by a thug. I’d cry too, kid. Everything should have cheese, especially pizza.

+ For three days I wear my rain boots, anticipating a flood. Gorgeous days, of course. Today will be the pick of the weekend those same meteorologists said, so I pack my beach bag in foolish anticipation and wake up to what feels like the London soup. Instead, I plan to clean the basement, which does not promise the same fulfillment.

Yard sale finds

This week’s Marblehead haul included a crock for my birthday plant, a vintage box for stacking plants, and an amateur portrait of a very serious Bert. Rest assured, Bert will not be living in the garden, but nailed to the wall in the living room. Sorry, Bert.

I’d been hoping to score a planter at Brimfield, but the prices were high, especially for those stamped with a little number like this. Must be valuable, but I just wanted a solid, vintage-inspired container for my plant. This one was marked $30, but I talked him down to $15, getting it for $14 when I realized that’s all I had in my wallet. Whoops.

On the back of the Bert illustration was a handwritten note: “To Peter, Happy 4th Birthday and Happy St. Patrick’s Day.” I decided it was a keeper when I heard someone call out, “Peter, how much are you selling this for?” Sandy-haired Peter was now my age, the two of us children of the 70s. “You sure you want to sell it?” I asked. He seemed unfazed, and couldn’t remember if it was from his father or grandfather. For that, I asked if he’d sell it for $2 instead of $3. A man should know who drew and framed a portrait of Bert for him when he was four. But Bert, just so you know, I would have paid $5 for you.

Simple Pleasures

How inviting is this shop?

Simple Pleasures is about the size of an overgrown potting shed, but it’s packed to the rafters with tasteful selections of comfy cotton shirts, colorful accessories for the garden, scarves, and fun stuff to throw in your beach bag. It’s in the middle of nowhere in Providence—on a dead end near the highway, so you’d never know it. I wanted to sneak into the garden, settle myself into a chair, and read a book.

A groundhog goes to market

While I was cruising around town the other day, I spotted this this cute furry creature in a deserted parking lot, so I pulled in to investigate. A groundhog, I presume. I snapped a picture. When I told my friend Kim about it, she was like, “Yeah, real cute. That furry thing ate my tomatoes.” 

Kim has spent the summer cultivating a trio of tomato plants in containers. Almost ready to pick them, she decided to wait a few days for prime ripeness. When she went out to the yard ready to pluck, she noticed a tomato missing on one of the plants. Huh. Scanning the other plants, she saw that they had been ravaged. 

She had to admit it was kind of clever how even the groundhog had waited for optimal ripeness when selecting its produce. Makes you realize these animals have been down with the locavore movement long before humans.




Garden yard sale

Surprises abound at yard sales. One minute you’re contemplating a beat-up colander and the next minute you’re clutching a teddy bear that looks like the one you had when you were eight, ready to fork over your life savings. I love yard sales. And I especially love signs that are lovingly made, pointing you in the right direction to the house with the goods. Happening upon this sweet red sign nestled in the garden made me feel like I was on an adventure. Didn’t buy anything, but I appreciated the secret garden feel of the sale and the flowers that reached out across the sidewalk, begging to be appreciated. I appreciate you, flowers.


Plants gone wild

My container garden enjoys a lovely perch on my porch that affords the plants a view of my Watertown neighborhood. The tomato plants have grown like crazy creeping over the edge of their pots and the ledge, tempting passersby like women hiking up their skirts for a ride. Racy little plants. The first tiny green bulb has emerged and already I want to pluck it and eat it. But I’ll be a good gardener and get my tomatoes from the farmers’ market until then. 

My new basil plant has grown bushy and freakishly abundant (in the blue pot), and I see a quart of pesto in the future to be consumed all year. The cilantro (yellow container) has done its job too by multiplying into aromatic goodness; it’s hard now to eat fish without a little homemade cilantro sauce. It’s nice to be able to grocery shop on your porch.