October 6th, 2007
Cultivating Friendship in the Garden

oxblood lilies Zanthan Gardens
2007-10-06. Oxblood lilies sit in glasses of water on the kitchen windowsill waiting to get replanted.

Before I met the Austin Garden Bloggers I didn’t have any gardening friends. For years my gardening has been a solitary pursuit. The only person I knew who shared my passion was AJM’s mom, and she lives in England. AJM admires the garden and will pitch in with big projects like cutting up tree limbs but in his spare time he’d rather be training for triathlons or programming or cooking.

The community I found among garden bloggers has been very encouraging. Kathy Purdy of Cold Climate Gardening and bill of prairie point were among the first people to leave comments on my blog and we’ve maintained a dialog across our blogs for years. Last week (as most of you already know), I had the privilege finally to meet Kathy in the flesh, reconnect with some of the other Austin Garden Bloggers and meet the latest addition to our informal club. Maybe coming down off all the excitement of last week’s socializing contributed in part to the grumpiness in my previous post. Annie of the Transplantable Rose, intuitive that she is, might have sensed it because she volunteered to help me out in the garden yesterday.

I’ve never had anyone garden with me before. I’m hoping Annie, who brought her garden fork, wasn’t too disappointed when I relegated her to the position of under-gardener. I was just so pleased to have someone to talk to while I was working that I would have been happy she done nothing but sit in a chair and keep me company. Instead she handed me tools and buckets as I gingerly made my way through the stump garden trying not to step on any plants and teased bulbs out of holes filled with rock, clay as hard as adobe, and tree roots. And she wrote down the harvesting stats. After four hours, we had dug up only two clumps of about 150 bulbs (60 of which were too tiny to flower). This is not particularly faster or slower than I work alone; however, it was a lot more fun.

You might reckon that we were easily distracted by:
1. conversation
2. my difficulty in keeping on task
3. my temporarily losing the map which shows where each clump is planted
4. my inability to finish a thought without interrupting myself with five other thoughts
5. a break for cake and coffee

And you’d be right on all counts.

PS. Annie, thanks for the chocolate cookies. They were yummy.

by M Sinclair Stevens

8 Responses to post “Cultivating Friendship in the Garden”

  1. From bill:

    I feel the same way about the friendships that have been forged through our blogs. You and Kathy helped me to define what my blog became. On my own i am not sure I would have dreamed that anyone would read a gardening blog.

  2. From Annie in Austin:

    M, I didn’t think you were grumpy – I thought your view of the task was realistic, and it was a pleasure to keep you company while you lifted and divided the bulbs.

    I planted some of the Oxblood lilies you shared, but the ground was too hard in the place I want to try growing on the smallest ones. I soaked the area, let it sit overnight and hope to add compost and plant bulbs tomorrow.

    It was pretty funny to find the map had turned itself into a glider and sailed under the range.


  3. From Vero, France:

    When my daughters were at home, I was gardening on a regular basis, at least to keep the garden clean. But they did not share my interest in gardening, so it was not much fun. When they left, I kept gardening to a minimum (no annual flowers, just the perenials that were already there), because I needed a break, and because there was really nobody to share the gardening with. Since July, I’ve been gardening a lot again, because of the gardens I saw in Sweden, and because of the gardening blogs on Internet. OK, I won’t meet most of you, since I’m in France, but it is really motivating to share experiences and pictures. It is one the reasons that made me start a blog too. Now I have friends to talk to about the garden, it makes a great difference !
    Have a nice Sunday all!

    How great to hear from someone all the way in France. I agree that gardeners I’ve found via the internet have been very motivating and encouraging. — mss

  4. From Carol:

    I am envious of your fun afternoon with some “real” gardening help from another true gardener. Now that I think about it, I usually garden alone, too. I have people around me who enjoy gardening, but they always want me to come and help them and tell them what to do.

    I’m also looking at your blooming oxblood lilies and wondering why mine are so slow to take off. I think I need to give them a lot more water.

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  5. From Bonnie in Austin:

    I look forward to another chance when the Austin garden bloggers get together as I missed the last opportunity when I was out of town. It would be so much fun to meet the people behind the online personalities!

  6. From firefly (maine):

    The more I see of the oxblood lilies, the more tempted I am to get some. The photo on this post is lovely — minimalist and elegant. If they are not hardy in Zone 5, would they do all right planted in containers for summer and lifted in fall?

    I could try sending you some next summer to try. They grow in the winter and spring, sleep over summer, and bloom in the fall. So you’d have to put the bulbs in pots somewhere where they could bake in the heat but not water them all summer, then soak them hard around Labor Day and see if you can force them into bloom. — mss

    You’re certainly not alone in being cranky and tired in the garden, either. At this rate I’ll have to find plants that thrive on the sound of cussing rather than gentle conversation!

  7. From Yolanda Elizabet:

    MSS I’m glad that you have discovered the joys of gardening together and to share your garden successes and failures with other gardeners either in real life or on the internet.

    A few years ago I started a garden club because, like you, I wanted to share my garden hopes and dreams with other gardeners. We have a lot of fun as we visit each others gardens and also many open gardens, garden fairs, nurseries etc. together. We also swap seeds, bulbs, cuttings and plants. It’s so nice to talk with other people who share our love for gardening. 🙂

    Yes it is. I have belonged to the Iris Society and the Pond Society but I don’t find the same camaraderie in these more formal organizations. Like many writers, perhaps, I’m a bit shy. The nice thing about the garden bloggers is that I get a chance to “know” them through their words and pictures before I actually meet them. This helps put me at ease. — mss

  8. From Pam:

    I am so envious of the oxblood lilies too – they are just gorgeous, even sitting in those glasses of water, waiting patiently to be planted. And geez! Annie shows up with chocolate cookies. All of this makes me think that I should move to Austin!

    I have one or two gardening friends here – but we are all so busy that we generally don’t spend time together – gardening. Which is a shame now that I read your post. Most of my gardening is alone – except for when my brother visits (and I give him tasks that I’ve been avoiding) or my mother, who is an absolutely stellar weeder.

    I’ll keep you in mind for next year’s give-away. They should grow where you garden, I think. If not in the ground, then maybe in a pot. — mss