Friday, May 28, 2010


In less than a week, my zinnias sprouted.  Two pretty little rows of them.  In just a little more than a week, my bush beans sprouted!  I only got one spinach sprout so I am thinking I must've buried the seeds too deep or not deep enough or a bird ate them or who knows?  Life and death and seeds bursting forth into plants that provide us sustainence, shade, visual majesty and wonderful aromas are a really cool mystery.   But with one spinach sprout, I'm hoping maybe  enough eventually for one spinach salad?  I'm not an expert on how spinach grows...yet. So far, no pests to report and I have seen new growth on all my transplants, so I think that indicates the roots have taken hold.  I have an exciting plan for root watering the tomatoes.  In other watering news I'm just playing it by ear that I give them the right amount to drink.  I've got wave petunias in a container that seems to be doing quite well.  A few of my herbs like dryer soil so I hope not to overwhelm them.  I've been happy to see worms moving through the soil, so I think there is lots of hope for my summer veggies.  Cross your fingers and send your thoughts.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


The next morning was Sunday. I woke up early to start the planting. Realizing that in the dark I didn't dig as much as I should have, so I had to pick up the shovel and dig a bit more. The most difficult thing in this yard is that there are huge roots criss-crossing underneath the grass. Lucky for me, I found an large, inexpensive pruner at Marshalls (where i found my garden hat) for under $20. (They are usually about $50). This helped the process for sure.

Turns out-working in the morning is a way to avoid the mosquitoes, but you don't avoid the knats! (The lesser of two evils I guess.) I planned out my seed rows and set out the plants from the garden center. I pushed the tomato and bean cages as deeply into the ground as I could manage and watered everything. I transplanted most of my window herb garden into the ground along with a beautiful begonia that was a gift. By 10:30 am the garden was planted and now I just have to wait and see if it 'takes.' Maybe this is what women feel like when they are 'trying' to get pregnant.

Funny how curious the birds and the squirrels are about something new in the yard. I feel relatively territorial over my little seeds, and I find myself wondering if they are going to eat the little sprouts before they have time to grow. Well it's all up to nature now!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Practice continued...

A few weeks later, after I get my shoes and my hat, I venture to Johnson's Garden Center in Van Ness. Johnson's is a gorgeous friendly place, nestled between the Cathedral and Tenleytown and they have everything you need for your garden, and really just walking around the place is a pick-me up.

I obsess over what to plant and when to plant it, where, etc... I draw garden doodles on paper. I get more excited (as I tend to do) and decide that the garden should have more than just tomatoes.  I should dig a much larger ditch...

I leave Johnson's with plants (tomatoes, squash, lantana, wave petunias, basil, parsley, zucchini) 2 huge bags of Bumper Crop, wire cages, and seed packets for spinach, zinnias, and green beans.

Digging the next six feet of the garden is 'easier' in my new gardening shoes. I decided to dig in the evening, (thinking the work would be less taxing after the sun went down...ha...) then the bugs came out and ate me alive. After that it got dark so I couldn't tell grass from compost. Oh well-- I did it! After that I became ravenously hungry and once I landed on the couch I couldn't move for at least twelve hours.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Gearing up for the beginning of the internship, I start thinking about planting a garden of my own. I initially think I'll plant a few tomato plants. (You know you are in-experienced when you are asking someone to borrow a shovel, and then how much to dig? how big the stakes should be? How much compost? If I put seeds in the ground are plants really going to grow? It just seems like an impossible miracle!)

I spend 2 hours one afternoon (this is the time I was in flip-flops) digging a trench about 6'x2.' God Bless the ditch diggers is all I can say because that was the hardest work I've ever done. Ever.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

New shoes

"What should I wear on the first day of work?" (me on the telephone with the contact person at the National Arboretum.)

"Just wear whatever you usually wear to garden. But you are required to wear shoes with a closed-toe. You might want to wear a hat as well" (Good thing she said so...last time I was digging in the backyard, I was wearing flip-flops, and I got a sun burn.)

"Oh right," I think...whatever I 'usually' if there is a usually with me and gardening. I usually have a window herb garden, so I'm usually wearing my p.j.'s when I water the basil each morning...does that count?

Not wanting to seem too much like the novice I am, I thank her and hang up the phone. I began my search on the internet, looking at every type of shoe besides flip flops or heels. Eventually I go to Hudson Trail Outfitters, mostly because it's up the street and seems 'outdoorsy.' I try-on boots, mid-somethings, hiking shoes, water shoes, crocs, sneakers...I decide on Vasque trail running shoes. Very lightweight, lowtop green and gray sneaker type of thing. I splurge at this overpriced store since this is my new career and I'm envisioning a whole new group of 'write-offs.' I discuss my choice with the clerk who is wearing those bizarre hobbit-feet shoes with toes, and decide that I'm not probably going to be slopping through 8 inches of mud so I can get away with lowtop shoes instead of boots. I'm trying to avoid boots because they are obviously going to give me a terrible tan line. I'm scheming to figure a way to avoid a farmer's tan....(See, I already have my priorities straight, in case anyone is keeping track.)


Years ago...

"What will I do? Without a roommate, I can't afford the rent. I need a part-time job..." "Why not the botanical garden?" someone said..."I've never seen you light up the way you do when you talk about working at the garden..."someone else said.

Recently at an interview for Horticultural internship...

"I have never effectively mowed a lawn or used an edger. I know this is something I will have to do."

"You do know how to use a shovel, right? and a pruner? Hand tools?"


A few weeks later...

"Dear Laurie,

I am pleased to notify you that the panel selected you for the USNA Friendship Garden intern! Congratulations and welcome to the National Arboretum family!"
My final performance of the season with Washington Ballet closes Sunday May 23rd, the internship at the Arboretum begins Monday May 24th @8:30am. What timing!

It's possible that if my roommate had never moved out, I might not have ever applied to work at the Botanical Garden in Norfolk. It's possible that if things were easy and convenient, if I could perform as a ballerina forever, or if I were satisfied as an arts administrator, I may have never have applied for the Arboretum Internship here in Washington. It's possible that if it were comfortable for the little seeds to stay curled up warm in the soil, they might never go to the trouble of pushing their way towards the sun and the fresh air. Where would we be without the trials that refine us?

Here we go!!