Saturday, January 3, 2009


The peach tree has been stripped by winter down to its essence. It is plain now how it grew last season and where the oriental fruit moths stunted its tips. Those two branches weighed down by fruit are curved now only by memory. Do peach trees dream of Julys? No, only I do that.

I wake up every morning and peer out at it, searching for… what? The way I write you’d think I was living on a 100 acre farm. I’m not. I live in suburbia, bathed in the glow of strip-mall fluorescence. The peach tree is a stick among Bradford pears, holly and water maples – all the cheapest trees planted at volume discount. A garden, however, can happen anywhere, even in January, because beyond these poetically peachy ponderings there are some important things to consider.

January is when all the gardening catalogs come out. Glossy photos of succulent tomatoes, impossibly hued peppers, warped pumpkins cultivated two centuries ago – you know, Seed Porn.

I am here with stacks of magazines, graph paper and ruler in hand, trying to chart out how much I can stuff into 300 square feet of growing space. Packing algorithms are my forte. I figure if I utilize the surface areas of the fences I can train pole beans, zucchini and cucumbers up instead of out, and thereby get in a row of beets or salad greens or something. I’m just worried about the shade factor of the 6 foot fence. Will it be too shady for the beans? On the other hand, they may not mind some shade in the sweltering afternoons. And the kale – where am I going to put the kale in July? The garlic will be out by then, so maybe I can put it around the border… but then where do I put the garlic come November when the kale is still in there? One thing I know for sure – THERE WILL BE ONLY ONE SUNGOLD TOMATO PLANT.

But these are concerns for the beginning of March, when I turn the kitchen floor into a nursery. Believe it or not, the peach tree is the more pressing. Based on last year’s records pruning and an application of dormant oil should happen during the first or second week of February (“green tip stage,” although I may have to prune sooner than that. I need to look it up.) I’ll bring the pruned branches inside and force them for some winter color.

Golly I wish I had a camellia. A nice double pink one that would bloom in February or March. Maybe if I ripped out the holly bushes next to the front porch…

Life is too short for discount shrubbery.

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