Been a long time in the garden: Wine, Women and Song

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Was taken to a few wineries in September for my 41st birthday. Here I am shoveling some very delicious Willamette Valley grapes in my face. Thank goodness for friends and their cameras.

A few months have passed since I last blogged. With a blogoversary on the horizon I think it’s time for me to begin again. This time of year is always very busy for me with all of my indoor gardening and seed work. I have plenty to share so stay tuned.IMG_5477

Cooking has continued to play an important role in my life. As a gift, my combined wedding anniversary and birthday gift from my husband was an amazing meal at Castagna.

I could write a book about that incredible meal but instead I’ll recommend that you read about the chef and go there yourself. It was an incredible dining experience and one I’ll never forget.

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LuLu and Quincy loved to chase one another in the willow arbor.

Mid September our little buddy Quincy went missing one Friday night. He wasn’t with us for long, and we miss him dearly. I refuse to give up hope and continue to search for him. Luckily our county has a wonderful system for lost animals and I receive daily notifications.

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Gardener, garden writer and designer Kate Bryant enjoying a bit of salmon fishing.

Dad took two of my friends and I salmon fishing back in September. It was a quick trip but we all had a wonderful time with lots of laughs and great food. We may not have caught anything, but a boat of fishermen did offer us a free fish to take home.

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During September I also visited Sarracenia Northwest for their Open House. This is a beautifully fun story and I promise to write more about it in an upcoming post.  IMG_5814

The tomatoes kept coming this year and they kept me busy. As a matter of fact I finished up eating them just a few days ago. I was a bit shocked to have ripe tomatoes from the garden on November 1.

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With a tromboncino squash I was gifted I made homemade gnocchi with butter and sage sauce. It was a great idea for a little garden writing group that I’ve helped to start just to get me to write more. I want to write more. I really do.
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I decided to purchase my first fancy apron after catering for a small party. This was a lovely reward after having succeeded with all of those fundraiser dinners this summer. As difficult as that work was, I do miss entertaining and making menus. Am taking the holidays off too because I cannot afford to feed as many people as I used to so taking a holiday will be a nice break.IMG_6783

To thank friends who offered to help me this summer after my last surgery I hosted a pizza party. I avoided making Italian-style pizza for a very long time, but I feel comfortable with it now. IMG_6057

As I stated a few months ago, I was yearning to return to school. I did. I am taking one class right now and am loving plant ID in the horticulture department at Clackamas Community College.

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There have been the garden visits to friends’ green realms with more meals and laughs. I am a big fan of Felony Flats Botanical Garden and its head gardeners Eric and Robert.

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Petunia exserta.

In addition to school and a new part-time job (more on that in my next post), I’m beginning to take care of my seed shop again and have been collecting, accepting by mail from friends, and shopping online again for things I’d like to grow. As I rip out the garden, I am looking for new growing spaces while considering the possibilities.

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White alpine strawberry.

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Pelargonium peltatum, the species from Cistus Nursery.

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Lastly, I also hosted the Fall Garden Blogger Plant Swap. It’s kind of like Fight Club so I won’t go on and on about it, but if you’re a blogger and you live nearby, let me know. The primarily requirement is that you be a blogger. IMG_6183

LuLu has been my new little furry rock since Quincy disappeared. She’s taken up as my stalker where my little old lady Macavity left off when she passed away last year.

Here she is loving up Maurice but we all know she’s just letting him know who’s in charge. She’s a bossy pants, piglet. In addition to climbing the walls and my pant legs, she’s almost always underfoot. I adore her and her youthful kitten energy.IMG_6246 Luckily LuLu goes out a little bit, but she’s not going to be allowed to be an outdoor cat. Here she is helping me to collect tomatoes. IMG_6264She also helps me with my botanical studies. Here she is letting me know that DOGWOODS bore her.
IMG_6859So welcome back! Welcome to indoor gardening and there’s more to come. I promise!

Book Review: Into the Garden with Charles (by Clyde Phillip Wachsberger)

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Into the Garden with Charles by Clyde Phillip Wachsberger, 2012, First Farrar, Straus and Giroux Edition, 209 pages.

Into the Garden with Charles is a love story written by a man who finds love during the middle of his life after having given up his decades-long search. Resigned to spend his life alone, he purchases a small three-hundred-year-old house in Orient, Long Island after having fallen in love with the area and the community he finds there. He continues to commute between his apartment in New York City (where he still works) and his small country home on 1/3 of an acre until he gives up the apartment and moves permanently to Orient.

He begins to grow the garden he’d dreamed of having since he was a boy and works as a landscaper. He’s clearly happy to have reached this point, but he still longs to share his life with someone and is lonely.

“I began to grow around my loneliness the way a tree limb can grow through a chain-link fence, incorporating the sharp metal into its fiber without showing any outward signs of distress. I gardened my way into middle age, dog-earing nursery catalogues, circling seed packets I wanted to order, lusting after rare plants.” 

Then—as if by chance—he meets Charles. He’s a dining room captain and assistant maître d’ at the Carlyle Hotel who also just so happens to be an art collector with an interest in horticulture. Their touching story most certainly does not end there though, and as they grow together, their garden flourishes.

Wachsberger’s writing draws the reader in and you’re left feeling as if you’re part of his life as you watch anecdotes and their actions unfold into the overall narrative. He is a generous writer and it’s clear that he tenderly cared for every word in his memoir as I can only imagine he must have cared for every plant in his garden.

The story is also made brighter by how he tends to those he loves in his own life, but the memoir also hinges on his own self-care.

“…if I’d been going for regular checkups. I had never wanted to disappoint Charles. I had never wanted to bring any sadness into his life. My fear of doctors had resulted in this.”

I know that I for one felt as if I was right there during all of the life events he recounts. I rarely feel that way unless I’m experiencing the effects of a well-written memoir. When this book was over I put it down and felt an immense sense of loss. It wasn’t just because the story was over, but let’s just say that Wachsberger skillfully puts the garden to bed for us and as I shut the cover I felt as though the garden gate was permanently closed to me too.

“This moment: these tiny bits of white tossed this way and that by fate, or defying it; Charles’s rapt attention; his profile in shadow against sun-drenched salvia and verbenas; his lips parted in amazement; Rover curled sleeping at his feet—that will forever be the garden for me.”

Throughout the book we meet many characters in his life: family members, an opera singer, a varied cast of other fun people I wish I could have known, small town folks, NYC folks, and Rover the Dog. There is a long list of plants too, but I’ve left them out of this because in the end what the garden is about is people. That’s what Wachsberger so beautifully captures in Into the Garden with Charles. Gardens contain the unseen networks of memory we create over time between our relationships to the past, the present, and the future, but most of all, they’re very often an expression of our love for the lifecycle and beauty of the plant world, and for our own shared human experience.

This is a book I will recommend for many years with the hope that it will inspire others to live as Clyde lived and loved.

Clyde Phillip Wachsberger was an artist, gardener, writer, and retired professional set-designer (later becoming a landscaper in his retirement), but he was more importantly a man who clearly loved life and beauty a great deal and hoped to communicate this to us as humorously and as lovingly as he could in his memoir Into the Garden with Charles.

(A free copy of this book was provided to me by Farrar, Straus and Giroux not long after it was first published.)