Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spoke too soon

Got two nice weeks of a poison ivy free work zone but alas today it emerged...my days of carefree weeding and pruning are done. Hello summer.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Arboretum in April

Columbine in Fern Valley Photo: LAM
Last week I started back at the National Arboretum.  This is my second term as a Horticultural Intern in the Friendship Garden. On my return, I was reminded of my worthy foes Poison Ivy and The Leaf Blower.   Lucky for me, I requested an April start date so that I am ahead of the game with the poison ivy, who hasn't emerged yet.  Better, I remember where it was last year, so at least I know where it might pop up.  The leaf blower bested me my on very first day, BUT in my defense, it had not been started since last November.  Since the first day back, I have been victorious over starting it myself in about three pulls. (Maybe be the end of the season I could get it in one pull!)

Sadly, I don't think the visitors who come to the Arboretum looking for peace and serenity much appreciate what I have gone through to become so skilled at leaf blowing. They seem to resent the noise and me-- even though I've managed to avoid getting dirt in their eyes and in my own... so far.

Bleeding Heart Photo: LAM

Cercis Canadensis Redbud Photo: LAM
The Friendship Garden looks very different in dormancy and re-emergence. It's fascinating to see exactly when the buds begin to open.   Bleeding Heart is a low growing, shade loving perennial that is in full bloom right now.  I missed this one last year because I started much later.  There are hundreds of types of Narcissus growing in the recently saved Boxwood collection.  Getting to see the first leaves of each grass pushing through the soil leaves me wide eyed as I understand how these plants begin .  As promised, there have been a few special days when the Redbud's flowers and leaves cling to the branch together and I can't help but want to knick-name this shrub, "the sweetheart of the lower canopy."

Magnolia Blossom Photo: LAM
On my very first day it was about 75 degrees and sunny. I visited the Holly Magnolia collection, where the trees were exploding with fragrant pink and white magnolia blossoms and at the same time, the ground was layered with soft petals. Someone was napping underneath one tree and it looked like a dream. The Dogwoods and the Azaleas are in all their glory on the hill in the Azalea Collection.  These blossoms always remind me that it only takes a few weeks of breathtaking beauty to make waiting a whole year, worth it.  In comparison, my second day of work was about 50 degrees and raining, so Spring is a real tease this year.  

I can't help but think about the circumstances of my first day last year.   How things have changed. How fast a year has flown by.  How lucky am I to get to return to this wonderful place a little more experienced and still excited about weeding? 
Magnolia Stellata Photo: LAM

All the usual suspects are back for the spring and soon there will be a string of new interns.  The lunchtime stories should abound.  It's a bit quiet now, but it's still early.

"Wisdom begins in Wonder" --Socrates

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Tidal Basin 2011 photo: Lam
Each year people from all over the world travel to the Nation's Capital to see the Cherry Blossoms.  This is an amazing phenomenon for a few reasons.  The first is that only God knows when the flowers will actually appear. We can make general predictions, but like last year when the trees bloomed early, we can never be sure.  The ephemeral nature of the flowers is what makes it so special when the day you choose to venture downtown, ends up being a peak day.  Ephemeral or not, we plan picnics and parades, festivals and fanfare around the three week window when the trees tend to bloom.  We flock to the Tidal Basin for a glimpse of the trees blanketed in blossoms.  From afar they look like spring snow, with a pink warmth, almost floating on the branches before opening their parachutes and dancing through the air, the breeze's manifesto.

The Cherry Trees were a gift from Japan in 1912.  A relationship was forged during the time it took to acquire the trees and finally get them in the ground. (This wasn't easy. Check out:  Cherry Blossom Time Line.)

As history progresses we see this gift threatened as it becomes a representation of the heavier aspects of nature.  The Cherry Blossom Trees can been viewed as a tangible example of the seasonal waxing and waning of the human condition.  Each flower can represent a separate piece of our condition: generosity and graciousness, fear and necessity, pride, pain, regret, forgiveness, perseverance, glory.  When we look at the long relationship between Japan and the United States, we can never forget that it only took a moment to nearly destroy each other, and it took years in the re-paving.  Now-- a natural disaster, not a human one, has damaged Japan and challenged us to deepen our friendship and forge ahead.

photo: Lam

Japan's real gift to us is a reminder that time does heal most wounds, that love does cover a multitude of wrongs. we can be reconciled to one another, and best of all beauty can continue to emerge.   Lucky for those of us close to DC, this reminder emerges each year as a ring of Flowering Cherries that have endured and blossomed, been grafted, reborn and remained for 99 years.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Cornus Florida,  NC State Photo: L. Metzger
Recently I completed an East Coast tour of education possibilities for broadening my horticultural horizons.  Each program boasted a personable faculty, a rich curriculum, state-of-the-art facilities, acres of greenhouses and gardens.  In addition to seeing the cities, I got to experience the emerging spring in each one and I am full of excitement for the next phase. I can think of ten reasons and a thousand scenarios that make each school a perfect fit, so it's not surprising that I don't know where to go yet.

NC State photo: L.Metzger
This must have been what it was like for normal undergrads to visit schools, seeing if they clicked, getting goodie bags with free t-shirts and being invited to lunch.  A far cry from the soul-sucking process of auditioning to become an undergraduate ballet major.

As usually, the most adventurous and entertaining part of this journey has nothing to do with plants and occurred on the drive home from North Carolina.

It all started when I stopped for a coffee at Starbucks and again got sucked in by the fanciful marketing schemes of what I like to call Starbucks Music.  If you know me, you know that frequently I need to learn lessons two or three times before I really get the idea.  My strong will has served me well in professional arenas, but in my personal life, I'd say it's made me a bit of a thick-skulled, slow learner. As I ordered, I saw a CD.  I was sure this CD would not fall into the category of the typically lame, sleepy Starbucks music.  So, I purchased it.

Little did I know, that once I commenced driving, the combination of the caffeine and the music would turn my foot into a piece of lead and cause me to day dream so fully that I would forget myself...I'm looking around, appreciating the budding trees, scanning the horizon for hawks, thinking about the highs and lows of the last three months, smiling-- because this IS a good CD--- 

All of a sudden,  I check my rear view and see a State Trooper behind me (tailgating if you want to get specific.)  I figure he is annoyed because I'm in the left lane, rubber necking so, I move over. ...And then he moves over...and then he turns his lights on. I can't imagine why he is pulling me over... He asks me for my license and registration. He doesn't ask for my proof of insurance, so I figure that I'm in the clear.  But then he asks why I'm driving so fast.  I respond with an expression similar to the one you might have when you realize that "red-light district" does not mean "artsy part of town."

I still figure he'll just give me a warning...But then he says, "I clocked you at 95mph." Apparently that is too fast to even be assigned a fine in North Carolina... You can imagine the rest. I did not get off with just a warning.

And so I'm sticking to my original story:  stopping at Starbucks mid-road trip, un-caffeinated and bored with your music selection never amounts to any good.  It's easy to get sucked in by their menagerie of colorful merchandise.  Stay strong.  Step away from the coffee counter.  After that, keep your eyes peeled for Dodge Chargers.  They aren't just Chevy Malibus anymore.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lots of things grow in spring

Let's take a break for a minute from the plants and focus on the other things that grow in spring...For example: popping up all over are opportunities to lend a hand, raise money and use all your pent up groggy winter energy doing something that is exponentially positive.  Here are a few:

In VA beach around St. Patty's day is the Shamrock Marathon and 1/2 marathon.  They let you pick a charity and run for it.  Best part though is that they are sponsored by Yeungling (the best beer in America) Eventually I'd like to try to run it just to get a green shirt that says "Yeungling" and then get to drink beer at the finish line!

  Near Philadelphia in May there is a 6K run (the average distance African women walk each day to get water) to raise money for clean drinking water in Africa ( it's put on by my dear friend and fellow ballerina, Kristin Scott's non-profit COMEUNITY)

Add caption

Locally, there is the Greater DC Cares Servathon on April 16th, where we'll be out beautifying local parks and schools for the day. 

Another local opportunity is happening all around us here in DC and probably in your city too.  Ours is called Street Sense.  It's a newspaper sold and sometimes written by the homeless. Its a opportunity for the homeless to start earning money to help them put their lives together. In addition it's a good read.  Now that it's getting warmer, it's easier to stop for a chat and buy a paper from one of the friendly Street Sense vendors. 

Look out for AVON, JDIFL and Komen 3 Day for the cure Breast Cancer Walks.  Shout out to my Aunt Peggy for being a survivor!
 Beware that Heart Disease is the biggest killer of women and the American Heart Association has taken an initiative to get everyone walking for that.

In addition there is the walk to raise money to find a cure for Angelman's Syndrome, a genetic disorder affecting 1 in 12,000 to 20,000 people.  It's is close to my heart because my dear little friend Mark has it. You can join us for the walk here on May 21st. (http://www.angelman.org/MetzgersforMark/)

These are just the ones I know about.  So, even if you don't have a green thumb, you can grow something--you can stretch yourself and help the world grow a little this spring by getting involved in one of these activities that are sure to be fun or good exercise or both.