In the Garden Lately
I’ve been spending as much time as possible in my garden.
The dogs love being outside, too. During the week Jude goes with Matthias to his shop and Charlie stays home with me until I need to leave for my job at the library.
Mostly they alternate napping in the sun and the shade until a squirrel needs chasing.
Mostly I putter.
The beginning of gardening season always starts with flurry of projects. This year we extended a couple of the raised beds and finally got around to creating a path from one patio to the other.
We start chatting about a project and then suddenly it’s off to the hardware store for supplies.
It’s amazing how a small project can make a big impact.
Like my window planters. They bring me so much joy. Especially glimpsing the flowers from inside. It gives me a little thrill of excitement each time and invites me outside again. Not that I need much urging.
Outside my goal is to fill up more and more of the space with flowers (and herbs and vegetables and fruits). Just being outside, surrounded by plants, is good for my spirit. When I’m not puttering I often find myself stilled in a sort of meditation. It’s unintentional. When I write in my journal in the garden I can’t get more than a sentence or two on the page before I’m drawn away to the plants. Sometimes tending. Sometimes just observing. Just being.
Soaking it all up.
And of course, there’s inspiration everywhere I look. I want to paint so many plants. Familiar friends I’ve painted again and again, and new ones, too.
I don’t like painting outside, but I often work in my sketchbooks in the garden and this week I took my paints out to mix some colors.
It was raining when I painted the columbine*, conveniently removing distraction for a time.
When it’s nice, I find it hard to be inside. And yet, just knowing what’s on the other side of the door, what’s just beyond the window, gives me peace.
A garden means something different to each gardener. Our relationships with these places we tend are so personal. Sometimes it’s hard to fully articulate. My garden is a sanctuary. An inspiration. It’s sustenance for my imagination and for my body.
This week I harvested and preserved some herbs. A huge bunch of lemon balm for tea. In the middle of winter the flavor will be like sunshine. (Drying herbs like lemon balm and mint is easy. Simply hang a bunch upside down in a dry place out of the sun. When it’s completely dry strip the leaves off the stems and store in a jar).
This year I’m making a point of harvesting and preserving as much as possible. Herbs to take me through the winter. Dried, frozen, or in the case of these chive flowers, infused in vinegar.
It’s a nice addition to salad dressing. I stretched last year’s jar to last until just a couple weeks ago. (Infusing vinegar with herbs is also easy. Fill a jar with your herbs and then pour in vinegar to cover, making sure to remove as many air bubbles as possible. I used white wine vinegar for these chives. Last year I infused apple cider vinegar with calendula flowers and mint leaves and have been using the result as a hair rinse. After a couple weeks strain out the herbs and your vinegar is ready to use).
I wish I could preserve the flowers, the breezes and the sunshine, too. And I guess that’s what I do with my art. Capture the magic and joy of my garden on paper.
On a nice day in April I spent an afternoon breaking in a new sketchbook (it’s this Strathmore 400 Series Softcover Journal). I thought the tan pages would work well with colored pencil.
I was right.
Since then I’ve fallen in love with my creamy Prismacolors. Layering and blending, laying them thick on the page. All but one page in this new sketchbook was done outside (that one was done on a rainy day; I ran out to bring a bit of garden up to my studio).
And so, yes, I am preserving the garden. Perhaps paging through this sketchbook on a snowy day will bring back the feeling of sunshine on my back, of a chorus of birdsong and the smell of just open roses.