I have been planted here in an old house on a standard city-sized lot that’s nearly on the shores of the Salish Sea for nearly ever. I wish I got out more. I’d love to explore grand, quirky, and historical landscapes, but travel funds always seem to get consumed by more practical matters. See: old house.
No shade on remarkable gardens near and far, but my heart belongs to my plot. But before you call sour grapes (more on that in a bit), I am constantly traveling in time in my garden, weighing the past, assessing the current growing season, and planning for the next. And waiting—so much waiting.
Merriam-Webster defines waiting as staying in place expectantly, looking forward for what’s to come. Sound familiar? I planted the seeds of ‘Heavenly Blue’ morning glory last May, tending the young vines indoors until the weather settled into a reliably warm spell. Spring is damp and chilly up here in the far Northwest corner of the county. All summer, I waited in vain for those sky-blue blooms to appear. One more disappointment on a long list of garden discouragements in the 2022 growing season.
Wait can also be used as an interjection or startlement, as in: WAIT, what do you mean I have to dig out my raspberries just as they’re producing their first good crop. Apparently, I, or rather my berries (over identification with my plants is not uncommon) contracted bushy dwarf disease, a virus spread via pollen that causes ripe fruit to crumble rather than hold itself together in a characteristic hollow cone of delicious drupes.
Likewise, the blueberries did their best but ended up defeated, with shriveled berries chastising me for my lack of attention (read: irrigation). I don’t want to talk about the strawberries, but I’m sure the birds and bunnies could attest to their sweetness.
We need to talk about the grape. ‘Booskop Glory’ is a staggering beauty with vibrant coral, scarlet, and burgundy fall foliage. Typically, in a warm summer like the one we just had, the fruit is deeply flavorful and heady. However, if you’ve planted the vigorous vine over a pergola that requires hauling out a ladder to effectively train and thin summer growth, you can expect powdery mildew to turn the foliage crispy and brown, the grapes mouth-puckering sour—again this year, just like last year, and the one before that.
I planted my food-forward back garden nearly 10 years ago, shortly after the publication of my book advising Pacific Northwest gardeners on how to grow bountiful, healthy, and delicious food. So clearly, you can add imposter syndrome to my list of summer maladies.
Sometimes I like the idea of a plant more than I actually like the plant. Along with alllll the berries, I knew I wanted a fig tree. I planted a ‘Lattarula’ fig, also known as the Italian honey fig—as a writer who loves language, I’m a sucker for a beautiful named anything with the word “honey”. A good fig recommended for Pacific Northwest growing conditions, ‘Lattarula’ has grown vigorously, maybe even a bit too much so, reliably producing one if not two crops a year. I have no doubt the crows have enjoyed the bounty, but I’ve always found the plump fruits to be a bit bland and insipid, certainly not worth getting that ladder out to prune and harvest. The fig is coming out this fall.
As with so much in the garden—and life—the reality of my edible paradise fell tremendously shy of the vision in my head. So I’m revising my plans — looking for disease-resistant raspberry plants, replacing the blueberries, and once again trying to devise a way to harvest the strawberries before resident wildlife have their fill.
Waiting can also mean in service to. Don’t get me wrong, I love my garden with my whole heart, but we’re going through a rough patch. A garden can be a relentless task master, or it can foster a sense of reciprocal tending. We’re working things out and have agreed to keep on keeping on.
Those morning glories I planted in early summer in anticipation of a “glorious” display throughout the growing season? The first bloom appeared on the last day of September, a balm and a benediction to a strange growing season. And well worth the wait.