Garden Life: Mystery was tough nut to crack

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Many years ago, my buddy Jim Laird and I added a string of colored Christmas lights to the garden in preparation for a winter holiday party.

We ran the lights from a Douglas fir that stands at the dogleg in the driveway, where it turns up into the parking area near the house and barn. The lights hung about 10 feet above the ground and ran from the fir tree all the way down to the pump house, illuminating 75 feet of garden path below.

These were the old-fashioned lights with full-sized C-9 bulbs, pear-shaped in bright Christmas colors of red, blue, yellow, orange and green. They were the perfect seasonal addition and, since they added much-needed light to the nighttime garden, I never bothered to take them down after the holidays.

Within a week, I noticed that a few of the bulbs were missing.

At first I thought the bulbs had burned out but on closer inspection I could see that they were simply gone. We scoured the ground under the string of lights to no avail. I diligently replaced the bulbs with new, clear ones to tone down the look of the holidays. Every week, one or two or three more light bulbs would disappear.

It was spring before I discovered the source of this mystery. I was on my hands and knees, weeding a flower border near the driveway and I had

been in that place long enough for my fellow garden dwellers to forget about my presence. I watched as Mr. Squirrel McNut began his tight-rope walk along the string of lights.

He scampered along the line until he came upon a fully ripe, red Christmas bulb. Within one minute he had fiddled with the bulb (I dare not say he unscrewed it) enough for it to drop to the ground below. If I had just remained quiet where I was I might have been able to follow him to his holiday treasure trove but I gave myself away with one hoot of outright laughter.

Review the record

This is the season to update your journals and to review the record you have kept of your garden’s progress over the years. Every journal should have a page of “Garden Dreams” at the beginning of each year. This can be as simple as a list of ideas you would like to implement over the coming year or as detailed as an exact planting plan for a new flower border. Any unfinished plans from last year that continue to occupy your thoughts can be transferred to next year’s journal.

Late last winter, I wrote, “I have been changed by the experience of slogging around the garden in a raincoat, rain hat and muddy boots in search of the first minor bulbs of spring. Five months earlier, in November, I held those tiny bulbs in my hand and planted them one by one at the foot of an established rhododendron with a vision of spring in mind. In my mind’s eye I can see the bright yellow flowers of a miniature daffodil set off by the rhody’s leathery, deep green foliage.” Gardening encourages us to dream.

‘Flourishing one’

Flora, which means “flourishing one,” was the Roman goddess of flowers, gardens and spring. She is the embodiment of all nature. Her name has come to represent all plant life. She blesses the land with color, fragrance and beauty. Her footsteps heal the soil and herald spring. Flowers bloom in her wake and the earth warms at her gaze.

The Goddess Flora is also known as the Goddess of Spring. She gives charm to youth, aroma to wine, sweetness to honey, and fragrance to blossoms. I see characteristics of her traits in many of my female gardening friends. I’m quite serious when I say that I think of them as goddesses, too. They and their gardens are delightful, indulgent and occasionally voluptuous. Take a stroll through their gardens and you know that they are devoted to beauty. They are romantic and sensual, rarely demure.

Many of the design ideas for their gardens are derived from gratification of the senses. My garden goddesses covet a secluded nook for reading and relish an exposed deck with a lounge chair for basking in the sun. One friend tells me she wants to add a bathtub to a private bedroom deck and fill it to overflowing with warm water and rose petals. The Goddess Flora teaches us to honor pleasure, growing things and new life, wherever it is found.

Robb Rosser is a WSU-certified master gardener. Reach him at Write2Robb@aol.com.