chocolate is a verb

colors, flavors, whims and other growing things

Tag Archives: garden

found poem: bestiary

found poem © j.i. kleinberg

found poem: a visceral fragrance

found poem © j.i. kleinberg ~ a visceral fragrance
found poem © j.i. kleinberg

found poem: such a profound effect

found poem: my yard

found poem: warmth

found poem: the garden

found poem: ask the garden

found poem: imagine

with summer comes

purple allium…the industry of hymenoptera

The mason bees, which were busy in the early spring, are sealed into their private residences for the year, but now, as the day warms, a quiet air force works the garden, squadrons with clear targets and little crossover.

Purple allium bobs on long stems under the weight of honeybees, two or three on each spiky head. The lacecap hydrangeas, in full blowsy bloom, are abuzz with furry bumblebees packing yellow saddlebags of pollen. The plum trees, which have no flowers but are fat with ripe fruit, are patrolled by wasps: yellow jackets, paper wasps, hornets and thread-waists of various description.

Hard bee bodies click against sunlit windows. In shady spots near the house I discover (and discourage) starter nests — walnut-size clusters of cells or the first tender layers of paper. As I pull weeds, I find telltale traces of ground bees: chewed soil, tidy round openings.

They do their work, I do mine, mostly not interfering with one another, tending the garden, harvesting the bounties of summer.

the garden’s…

there is all this…

pink tree peony with raindrops
…a whisper of rain on the roof; spruce aglow with furry new growth; red rhododendron in full fanfare, visible from four blocks away; rain-drenched wood fence the perfect backdrop for every spring color; dogwood barking pink, pink, pink, pink; crabapple’s spill of cerise petals on the patio; a single sparrow whose plangent serenade from the top of the smoke tree persists through every hour of daylight; the blizzard of white plum blossoms now turned to fruit the size and shape of a grain of rice; an evening rainbow against a charcoal sky; the fragrance of turned soil; a neighborhood walk at dusk revealing a chorus—hundreds, perhaps—of frogs, heard but unseen in a backyard pond behind a hedge; raindrops pearling on blue-green hosta leaves; three pale blooms on the tree peony, each wrapping a luscious confection of pollen; the long, long twilight of spring…

the autumn garden…

stolen appleBehind a gentle afternoon breeze, a big wind — the first of the season — gusts in from the north. Unusually warm — what reaches us from that direction is typically well-chilled somewhere in the sub-Arctic plains of Canada — it scrubs and ruffles the clouds for a blazing sunset, brightens the eyes of the stars and calls due the maple leaves that have lingered extra long in their dazzle of red-orange.

This is a busy season for gardening, when depleted vegetables and spent vines and errant irises are tended with an eye toward barren winter and productive spring. The last broadcast of summer’s ambitious weed seeds has taken hold.

The squirrels are busy, too. They help themselves to apples, carry them away in their teeth and leave chewed cores scattered around the yard. Run off in mid-theft, a squirrel will usually keep hold of its treasure. But not always. The apple sat on the fence for most of the afternoon before it was reclaimed.

Tucked among the herbs and under yellowing hosta leaves are apples “buried” in holes that would do well for a peanut but leave the fruit half exposed. I throw them down the untamed slope behind the house, where some critter will find them, or perhaps they’ll sprout and join the feral grove.

Under a rain of leaves, I move through the garden pulling, trimming, clearing. Knowing that the real work is indoors: the poems that need pruning, or sit buried in files waiting to be reclaimed, or swirl in wind-ruffled eddies of words, teasing, just beyond reach. Seeds of the feral grove.

autumn at 9 a.m.

in Emily’s garden…

a frustration of beauty…

sedum season
Some years ago, when I moved into my house and began digging up the sad grass that called itself a front lawn, I picked up a few lentil-size bits of sedum that had shucked off a neighbor’s plant and tossed them at random into the yard. They spread themselves happily among the new plantings and each June, after the tulips and peonies and rhododendrons are finished, they fluoresce into brilliant mounds and swales of yellow.

I try and try to photograph this fleeting season, frustrated by its beauty, which my camera seems unwilling to capture, whether in cloud-light or sun: the yellow not nearly yellow enough, the effect not truly the illuminated-from-below radiance that the eye sees.

In the afternoon sun, this gush of early summer is a buzz and blur of bees. Stand back and every yellow thing on the block seems inspired by the color; lean in and the mounds reveal themselves to be uncountable constellations of five-pointed stars.


elm seedsHow eager the Ulmus, spring limbs laden with pendant promise, profligate in its disc-winged seeds.
Yet how tough, unwelcomed, these papery lozenges, these flighted samara, in even this moist and fecund earth. For surely if they succeeded in proportion, then instead of Doug fir and maple, cedar and alder, we would be enveloped by elms.

signs of spring…

elkhorn cypress in April
The perfect greens of spring, scale precise upon scale, new growth bright as the robin chick’s gape, this hunger for air, for life, this urge to twirl the slowest waltz.

. . . . .
thujopsis dolabrata – elkhorn cypress

in the scrape…


Loquats and Mountain BirdBelow the retaining wall that held our back slope in place, my father leveled a narrow terrace where, at my mother’s urging, he planted a trio of small trees. One was an exotic flowering shrub of some sort that never produced flowers. The second was an orange tree that burst into intoxicating bloom each year. Its fragrance would waft up the hill and into the house, the blossoms transform themselves into fruit as round and green as peas, and then fall off. It never yielded an orange larger than a hazelnut.

With my mother standing at the edge of the patio offering suggestions from above, my father tried ministrations of every sort, to no avail. Perhaps it was the slope or the soil or the oily fallout of the adjacent row of eucalyptus, but neither of the trees could deliver on their promise.

After that, each year, my mother invested all of her hope in the third tree, a loquat. This robust individual could do nothing but bear fruit. I was oblivious to its progress, but at some point my mother would start issuing daily instructions for me to descend the hill and “check the loquats.” This I did by giving the fruit a few little squeezes and bringing back a promising sample for her to examine.

loquat - Eriobotrya japonicaI’m not sure what she had in mind — she certainly never made jam — but these were labor-intensive fruits. About the size of a walnut but pear-like in shape, they had tough, slightly furred skin, three, four or five large, slimy, glossy brown seeds, and, in between the skin and the seeds, perhaps an eighth of an inch of flesh that was an astringent cross between an apricot and a pear. (The exemplars in this photo are voluptuous compared to the loquats we grew.)

At any rate, one day the sample I brought up would prove suitable and my mother would set out a large basket for the next morning’s harvest. There were hundreds of loquats on the tree.

The following morning, as directed, I would carry the basket down the steps and across the terrace and, without fail, the tree would be stripped bare, the birds having arisen at dawn to confirm Dorothy’s assessment of ripeness and not paused, as I had, for breakfast cereal. A scattering of shriveling, pecked fruits on the ground were all that remained.

This scenario was repeated annually for perhaps five years until Dorothy gave up and the loquat tree became a sort of family shorthand for referring to things that looked promising but never quite delivered.
. . . . .
Loquat and Mountain Bird painting
Loquat photo


heather in MarchHere in the upper lefthand corner of the U.S., in the early-March garden, spring is mostly a matter of hints and suggestions. The bare wood of the plum twigs and hydrangea stalks now show fattening nubs and leaflets. An inch of red-brown peony pokes up through the soil. The precocious azaleas and rhododendrons seem to gather themselves from their winter bedraggled-ness and ready a crown of tight, yet-colorless buds. Upon the accidental touch, the juniper’s nearly-invisible cones billow forth a cloud of pollen. The cotoneaster, still bearing some of its red berries, pushes out its first tiny, leathery leaves. Hellebores unfurl their shy, downward-facing blooms. But oh, the heather. Nothing shy. Nothing subtle. The garden’s Pied Piper. Just that pure, announcing color that says hang on, don’t despair, spring is almost here and the long, languorous days of summer can’t be far behind.

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