Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Measure of Small Things

"Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future."

 - David Mitchell Cloud Atlas



I stand on my porch and watch, waiting, partially hidden. Cars speed by, eyes forward, hands gripping the wheel. They rarely slow as they near the turn and seem blind to the cascade of blue tumbling down the porch column and into the hollies. I imagine they see my garden as I see sports statistics, a confusing array of digits betrayed into a meaningless blob by the angles and lines that form the numbers. 

I did not have to let the clematis grow. It would have been easier to rip it from the hard soil and simply let the  shrubs fill the space. The pocket of soil between the porch and walkway is heavy and dry, the soil rolling into  a ball before crumbling at the edges. Rich with foliage every spring, the vine hung like kindling by summer, so many small twigs and desiccated leaves to remind me of my folly. Water poured at its base ran in rivulets towards the hollies and onto the walkway, if it was even poured at all and I began to wonder why I refused to let it die. Its beauty was that of youth, ephemeral and seductive, but quickly turned hard, like a bitter wife with nothing to offer.     

It was a small thing to build the compost dam that held the water and to tell myself that the effort wouldn't be wasted. Supple green shoots shot from the base, twining around the older canes and onto the support netting. It was an even smaller thought to add the soaker hose, a quick bing in the daily chorus that occupies my brain. 

A car slows briefly and I see the drivers gaze stop at the clematis. I want to knock on her window and explain that my garden is a gift of beauty, requiring nothing more than a glance, but I don't. I stand frozen, watching as she drives away. It would have been easy to dig up the clematis, heave it into the trash with my other plant failures, and ignore my role in its death. I do not owe my neighborhood flowers but it is all I can offer.  


'President' clematis

Clematis grow best in moist, rich soil with morning sun and afternoon shade. These pictures make the flowers look purple because of the lighting, but they are actually a very intense blue. A mason bee house is hung above the clematis. Mason bees are stingless native bees that can pollinate more plants than honey bees.

65 comments:

  1. A beautiful and thought-provoking post Tammy! I love reading your blog because your posts are consistently wonderful!

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    1. Awww, thanks! I really needed to hear that! :o)

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  2. Great work to you!!!! Your efforts and commitment have helped beauty grow and boy is that clematis ever beautiful!!!! OUTSTANDING!!! I would stop to have a look as well!! Such a touching post!

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    1. I'm too stubborn to let my plants die if I can do anything to help them live. It seemed that since I planted the clematis there, I owed it everything I had. I have a ridiculous sense of obligation to my plants. It's almost like they're people to me. :o)

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  3. Wow, now THAT is LOVELY!!!!!! A traffic stopper for sure :-) So glad you did not give up on it!

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  4. A beautiful clematis. I'm glad you let it grow. I'm sure some drivers appreciate that beauty as they drive by.

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    1. I hope so! I enjoy coming home to it, for sure!

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  5. Gorgeous!! I simply love clematis, but have 3 reluctant flowerers in my own garden, not enough sunshine, especially the last couple of years when 'summer' has been a bit of a 'what's that?' here in Britain....Yours is simply stunning, I never get flowers down at the base, how do you get that? Oh, yes, a sure traffic stopper he is :-)

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    1. What you're seeing as the base is actually about 18 inches from the base, which is hidden by the hollies. That spot gets bright morning sun, which it loves. I think that helps the flower formation.

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  6. Well, your TLC seems to have paid off, as that is a stunning looking Clematis. I've only recently become a convert to them, but now can't seem to get enough and am constantly looking out for new varieties. I love your little bee and bug houses.

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    1. Clematis are a wonderful addiction!I have several more. The mason bee house is full of bees. When I bought the house I also bought a container of cocoons and I stuck them in the holes.

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  7. I certainly could not drive by your house without slowing down to admire its beauty....it is gorgeous. A little TLC sure did go a LONG way.
    Good Morning Mr. President!!

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    1. I like to think her name is Madame President!

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  8. Your Clematis is beautiful. Thought I lost both of mine but was is already blooming on my shrub for last year. The other I think might be there as I see a little start there. Will give it a little growth and see if it's a Clematis or a weed. :)
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. Clematis are much tougher than they appear. I've had clematis that I thought were dead grow and bloom like crazy. They only look delicate. :o)

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  9. Tammy, interesting thoughts! We live together: plants and people, clematis and you. I'm sure it is grateful to you keep him in his place, decorating your nice home.
    I have the same "President" but it's just sprouting its leaves now.

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    1. Once it blooms, you will be in love! The flowers are wonderful. :o)

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  10. Beautiful! I have tried growing Clematis without success... I don't think it would have anything to do with our Zone 1B (Canada) climate though ;) Cheers~

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    1. 1B? Ouch!!! What vines grow well for you?

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  11. Beautiful clematis. I bet more people drive by there and look than you think. And I bet some people make a point to drive by often, just to see the beauty you have created.

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    1. I hope so! Someone told me after I put out the colorful birdhouses on my patio that they walked by just to see them. I about fell over I was so surprised. :o)

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  12. Beautiful clematis Tammy! I have a dark purple clematis out the front. The support is too short for it and every year it flops and sags. This year I am determined to do better and give it the support it needs.

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    1. I have a monster clematis in the front on the other side of the porch from Madame President that flops, too. I need to screw in some eye bolts and cable wire for it to climb on but haven't done it yet. That's a project for next year after we have the house paint freshened up.

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  13. A little thoughtful care, a compost dam to hold the water, and you are rewarded so very richly. I would stop my car, I would get out and I would tell you that you have the most beautiful clematis that can be grown!

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    1. It's amazing how well plants respond when you give them what they need. I would love it if you stopped your car!

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  14. I will say that 'The President' is doing much better in your garden than in mine where, despite ample water, it stumbles its way upward. Finally one or two flowers will open and I'll have to be satisfied. Not quite sure what his problem is.

    People really ought to slow down and enjoy your beautiful garden, Tammy.

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    1. I think clematis want moist, well draining soil and afternoon shade. How's that for oxymoronic? If it's well draining, then how does it stay moist? I pruned it a lot less this year than in the past and it really paid off.

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  15. Your clematis is truly breathtaking! I can't believe more folks don't slow down to look...their loss!

    Have you been able to attract any orchard bees yet? I'm becoming more and more fascinated by the variety of solitary bees and wasps that I'm finding around...once I took the time to watch for them.

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    1. Thanks! When I bought the mason bee house, I also bought a container of bee cocoons. I stuck them in the holes and they did the rest. I've seen them in the garden and they're all over their little house. Check out the blog on my sidebar called Our Native Bees. That's where I bought them from.

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  16. That clematis would make anyone stop and gasp. It is lovely! And it seems to really enjoy that particular spot.

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    1. After quite of bit of tweaking, it's finally a very happy camper. :o)

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  18. Yep, it's a winner! I'm back on track with two healthy Clematis plants, and they're fortified with wire barriers to keep the rabbits OUT. I think that was part of my problem in the past--the bunnies nibbled the bottoms of the plants before they had a chance to get going. Both are flowering like crazy now. Fingers crossed. Your purple Clematis is stunning!

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    1. Thanks! Bunnies are the worst! So cute but so destructive! I hope your cages work.

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  19. Wow, that is a stunning Clematis. I have one on the west side of my house along the driveway, it's a Jackman and looks pretty nice, but I like the color of yours better.

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    1. It's a really dark purpley blue - very intense. :o)

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  20. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

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  21. I would be one of the drivers who would slooowww down just to stare as long as I could at your clematis :) It's so hard to capture the real life blue-ish magic of this clematis isn't it, but you've done a great job. So glad you hung on and the clematis rewarded your faith.

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    1. It seemed that if the clematis wasn't giving up, I shouldn't either. :o)

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  22. What a beautiful quote! And what a beautiful clematis. I also have "The President," and he's one of my favorites, although I think his big bloom time has passed and there are just a few sporadic blooms left. Happy Bloom Day!

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    1. I love that quote, too. My neighbor was telling me yesterday that she waits for my clematis to bloom every spring. I had no idea! :o) Made me feel so good!

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  23. I'm glad you didn't turn your back to that clematis, it's such a beautiful sight and to be honest I'm always watching out of the windows at gardens and plants while driving... I guess it will end in a bad way for me, one day or another...

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    1. LOL!! Crashing a car because you were looking at a garden might not be considered a very good excuse to the insurance company but it makes perfect sense to me.

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  24. That clematis would stop me in my tracks :) The can of dehydrated water is hilarious!

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    1. Thanks! That can cracks me up, too. I want to get a can and stick it in my classroom to fool my students. ;o)

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  25. I'm the last house on a dead end street so I don't get too many drive bys but I did take special care to feed and mulch all my clems early this year. All indications seem to point to a big payoff when they start blooming next month. Sometimes all it takes is a little extra time.

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    1. My clematis are divas and they are one of the few plants I have begun pampering. You're right about the payoff being worth the extra effort. :o)

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  26. Hi Tammy, your clematis looks stunning! I've got several and I do try hard but for one reason or another, they always take so long to become established and grow, it just doesn't come easily to me but I keep trying. I can resonate with your sheer determinism to not let plants die, that's one of the main reasons I become overwhelmed with things to do in the garden, trying to take care of all the plants I can see, especially as many are new or just getting established. If I sowed it, planted it or in any way looked after it, then I will continue to take care of it until I or it dies.

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    1. Your last sentence is so funny. I have such a sense of obligation to my plants. It can actually be a bit tortuous a times. I have to rip out a rose soon that is spreading black spot around my garden and I just hate to do it. It's so happy and beautiful where it is.

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  27. Hi Tammy....Your Clematis is just breathtaking!! I would certainly stop to look at it...but then, we are gardeners and we appreciate this beauty and the work and commitment it takes to have a beautiful garden. I love Clematis and since I never know which kind I have regarding when to prune them, I just decided not to prune them and they do great!

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    1. If it works, then keep doing it! I have some clematis that die completely to the ground every winter, which makes them the easiest to prune. :o)

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  28. Tammy, that clematis is a thing of beauty. I'm sure you and your family appreciate it so much and it's an added bonus that passerbys get a glimpse too. You never know who is looking and how much they appreciate your efforts. I once had someone stop and tell me how much they looked forward to watching what was blooming in my garden. I had no idea this person existed but they had been watching my efforts for several years. Gardens have an amazing ability to reach out and grab people :)

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    1. My neighbor just told me yesterday that she waits for my clematis to bloom every spring. I had no idea! Most of the people in my neighborhood seem so apathetic so her comments were really validating.

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  29. That's a treat to the eye. Maybe the drivers are ashamed; whenever I see beauties in the gardens, I want to stop and ask the owner about the plants (both while walking or driving), but often time just to shy and nervous to do such things (why often, all the time unless the owner smiles and I realize that it's a friendly person to start a chat). Thanks for your pond-advice. I am reading them now; if I have any more questions, I will come bugging like your 12 year old students ;-).

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    1. My pond has gone belly-up, which is the subject of my next post. If you have a sunny spot for yours, you won't have the problems I did. All my tadpoles died. :(

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  30. So gorgeous! Your effort certainly was not wasted. I've always been fond of clematis and all flowering vines and lianas.

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    1. Thanks!! I love anything that twines, vines, and flowers, too.

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  31. Beautiful clematis and I love the mason house above it...great idea.

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  32. I like to think more folks than not will notice your garden-they just don't let to let us know they are noticing. lol It's a lovely clematis. I would certainly notice it!

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  33. Very neato! Love the quote and the Mason Bee House :-D Some of my "blue" photos come out "purple" too. Strange.

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  34. I've just bought clematis Cezanne lovely flowers.

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  35. I would stare at your clematis in awe. It is beautiful. I've been known to stop and tell gardeners how much I enjoy their plantings!

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  36. Hmm, well this is inspiring me now as I have 'President' which I call one of my 'rescue plants' - bought 3 years ago from a cheap and nasty DIY chain who seem to be told to do their best to kill their plants. It has never flowered or really done much at all and I thought I had pulled it out - but lo and behold it is shooting up again. I will give it some tomato feed this afternoon and see if I can ressurect it.

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