Beyond The Clay – A Mother’s Song

Tiny clay-stained hands

Give a treasure made with greatest care.

The Treasure becomes a keeper of lost things: 

“What puzzle does this piece belong to?”

“What is this key I found used for?”

The Treasure decorates the countertop.

An integral piece of family culture, 

Collecting what is lost until time finds a place for all the lost things. 

Time passes and tiny hands grow. 

Pieces of our lives get lost in the busyness. 

Yet along the way we collect a moment, a milestone, a memory. 

Pieces that we can’t throw away so we place them

In our own heart-made collection of Treasures. 

Then within a blink those tiny hands are grown, 

And grown-up clay-stained hands give a new Treasure . 

Clay-stained hands patient to blend all the earthen parts,

Artistry healing the memory of jumbled clay:

Laughter shared around a night time table;

Days of exploring in a world of vast amazement;

Words spoken too quickly in adolescence days of angst;

Those words unspoken in parental insecurity. 

Now the new Treasure becomes a keeper of healthy things. 

In its mature beauty the new Treasure

Takes all the gathered pieces of lost days 

And redeems them in the mirror of human imperfection. 

Still the Treasure of childish hands continues to collect the lost pieces. 

Both are the Treasures of a life that is precious 

And a collection of history that blends together our truest Treasure

Called Family. 

25 Days of Burpee Advent Calendar – Day 5

Adventures in video-taping – sometimes you just lose your head. Or at least the top part of it. But the message isn’t cut out: Burpee has a great new seed in today’s Advent window. I’ll be planting them in my Crescent Garden Dylan planter in late winter. And today’s seeds are another AAS Winner!


The perfect gift for a anyone who loves plants. Twenty-days of new introduction seeds from Burpee Gardens in a beautiful calendar!
The perfect gift for a anyone who loves plants. Twenty-days of new introduction seeds from Burpee Gardens in a beautiful calendar!

A Year of Gardens – Day 16

Doesn’t matter if you are a republican or a democrat. Bleeding heart (dicentra) can  bring you joy in the shade garden. Blooms spring and sometimes again in the fall. 

The Importance of Being Ordinary

I could tell when I looked at his face that he was not happy. Now, my boss is a very kind man and has a voice that works like Valium on a hectic day. But when his clients aren’t happy, those of us who are his underlings will be greeted with a thin lipped smile rather than his big toothy grin. And then the interrogation begins. Mine began with a drive around the city to look at competitors’ annual color displays.

Spring Trials – California 2013

Spring Trials – California 2013

Downtown Chicago 2013

Downtown Chicago 2013

 But maybe I should back up a little to bring a little perspective:
            I. Am. A. Plant. Nerd.  You see, this post is not about my boss. He’s a hard-working man that cares deeply about making his clients happy. It’s about what I am learning through the landscaping world about life. I love plants that are unique and I love creating displays that march to a different drummer and stand out when the summer heat rages. One of the problems this summer was that we did not have summer heat rages. The other problem was that while I and my plant nerdiness love unique plants displays, a large majority of people are really most comfortable with annual color displays that are…. Ahem… ordinary.
I once said that I wanted my annual color to be Begonia-free and Alternathera-free zones. But as I drove around the city with my thin-lipped now not smiling so much boss, and I strove to look through his eyes at the landscapes around me, I saw that the look that our clients kept pointing to as “what we want to look like” was the very thing that I worked hard not to look like. And you know what? It did look good. Deep into our rainy, cool summer those Begonias and Alternathera were showing off like bratty sisters and grabbing the attention from everything around them. And COLEUS, that multi-named marvel of horticulture displays, was often the queen of the show. All my heat and drought-loving Scaevolea, Angelonia, and Cuphea Flamenco Samba barely even moved past being green and languished in the liquid coolness of this summer.
Then I think I finally got it – the lesson that has been tapping at the door of my conscious for so many years. I was remembering the comfort of home-made spaghetti, the consistently blooming iris that my grandmamma would share, and the comfort of the simple tunes in an ageless hymn. These are the ordinary things that make me feel safe, that stand the test of time and present themselves as reliable.
As the middle child of a very large family, I understand being ordinary. With a big sister who was a nationally ranked tennis player, brothers who were stand-outs in just about anything they did, and younger sisters who were stunningly attractive, I found comfort and place in being the ordinary sister who was consistently reliable to be there when needed but never garnered the meteoric attention of a superstar.
Yes, I wrote a book. It has received an ordinary amount of attention. But you know who love this book? The new gardeners who need the basic, ordinary instructions on how to do container gardening, who write me to say that this is the first time they have ever been successful in gardening.  And I wrote some songs. They were ordinary songs that never garnered much national attention. But what made the effort of writing these songs were the people who would come up to me and say, “I keep thinking of  (….. lines in a song) and it has encouraged or help me in this way”. Ordinary songs but reliable to be helpful when needed.  
In a society that has an almost fearful aversion to ordinary, I am finding that ordinary is a powerful emblem of its own. Jesus took 12 ordinary fishermen, ordinary tax collector, and ordinary people to build a church that covers all nations today. Being able to turn on the lights and turn up the heat in the morning is an ordinary delight that many of my winterstorm-weary friends have learned to appreciate. There is something in the ordinary that makes us feel safe, that is reliable, that does not wax and wane with the popular opinion, that begs me welcome it though my pride would defer to the unique. 

Yes, I will continue my lust for the unique and exotic plant. But I am learning to appreciate and embrace the ordinary in horticulture, and in doing so I find myself embracing the other ordinary around and within me.  Ironically, my company’s motto this year is “Be the Best in 2014”. At first I thought that by being earnest in my ordinariness, I would be negating the company motto. But ordinary is not average, nor is it not being the best. Ordinary is better because it is something you can count upon.