Sow There! Garden voyeurism – quick and not dirty, March 29, 2019

Garden voyeurism – quick and not dirty | Sow There!


Camellias are beautiful when in full bloom. What a treat to have the blooming nearby, in someone else’s yard, where you can enjoy them without cleaning up. These flowers were glorious to see this week all around the yard at the Patrick Ranch Museum. (Heather Hacking — Contributed

March 28, 2019 at 3:30 am

One of my favorite things about early spring is being a garden voyeur.

I can drive by many lovely yards at 25 mph, gasp at the beauty of unbridled spring, and never need to clean up after fleeting beauty.

In some ways, spring flowers can be like confetti. It’s a lot of fun at midnight when 100,000 tiny pieces of paper are flying through the air. It’s an entirely different experience when you’re dragging the vacuum at 3 a.m.

Tulip trees, for example, are a real treat. They’re actually in the magnolia family, but everyone I know calls them tulip trees.

With a gray sky as a backdrop, you might literally gasp when you see the contrasting beauty of this pink bush in flower flame. For some reason, people who own “vintage” white houses with lots of bricka bracka love to plant a tulip tree prominently.

Yet, wait for one windy night and the tree soon looks like a prom queen who should have left the party when she could still find her shoes.

Those majestic magnolia/tulip blossoms make a mess on the sidewalk. You can slip and fall. Pink petals turns to brown mush. Someone who lives in that “vintage house,” might need to sweep the walkway to avoid a lawsuit.

I feel the same way about white camellias. When they bloom in bitter winter, it’s a sweet reminder that spring is on the way. The soft blooms are like cold-weather roses.

The large, shiny leaves are perfect for making leaf-shaped chocolate treats (Dip the leaves in chocolate, freeze on wax paper, then peel away the paper).

Raindrops on camellias are worth a pause. As each drop moves down the curved leaves, they catch the color from the nearby flowers. Look again the next day, the water may have turned the flowers brown and gunky.

Camellias also plop onto the ground, as big as a saucer, and are shorter lived than cookies left in the break room.

Of course, I have some glorious, messy short-timers in my own yard. The former renter at my house planted what I suspect is Virginia creeper. The vine has stretched about eight feet along the dingy metal fence. Last year I painstakingly tore out the tenacious ivy, and the Virginia creeper has wasted no time in taking up the empty space.

Over spring break, the Virginia creeper bloomed. It’s lovely. For weeks I watched the buds form and was filled with happy anticipation.

After one nasty night of hard rain and wind, the ground is littered with yellow blooms. They’re small flowers. If I’m careful, I won’t slip and fall.

I also have what I think is a mulberry tree. The shade from this gal is so worthwhile. I’m certain I have saved thousands of dollars in energy costs thanks to this tree. Yet, the leaves are tough and resist the leaf blower. Every once in a while, the tree needs to be trimmed with a chainsaw, otherwise those strong limbs will dent the rain gutters.

Yes, gardeners suffer from these beautiful inconveniences. I’d say it’s all worth the backache. The alternative is to choose low-maintenance plants you’d find in the planter box at a gas station. At a gas station you don’t find plant litter, you find cigarette butts and Slim Jim packaging.

Again, from a distance, I’m also enjoying other people’s weeds. Sour grass, a form of Oxalis known as yellow wood sorrel, brings back memories of childhood. My Auntie Jeanne always had the plant near her front yard — the place near the street where we were not supposed to play. My cousin and I learned that if you chew on the leaves, it has a tangy/sweet flavor.

Oxalis is mildly poisonous, but I survived sour grass nibbling with most of my wits intact.

These days I’m wise enough to know people walk their dogs and might stop to “smell” those flowers.

As with anything that grows too easily, wood sorrel will take over any territory left untended. You can drive by homes that are now filled with lovely yellow flowers. You can drive by, smile, and keep driving.

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