If my mom isn’t in her kitchen, she’s in her garden. In a fantasy world she could retire from cooking, but gardening is indispensable – it’s refuge, meditation, exercise, creative outlet and the key to her good health. Her dream garden is the green version of a dream house. Instead of a carbon footprint, it produces carbon – all kinds of good organic matter into the soil – as well as fresh oxygen into the air. And unlike a house, mom’s well-loved garden only gets better with time.
My mom’s garden has the botanical density of the Amazon rainforest. Nothing gets her more excited than new plants. Like a circus sideshow, she delights in the unusual. The flower pictured above actually sways atop a towering 15-foot stem. Here’s the view looking up.
In my mom’s garden, every blossoming flower is cause for celebration, a birth. She’s currently reveling in this newly-blossomed trumpet flower, which is next to her front door.
And she’s really excited about these potted pepper plants. Bright colors give her joy. It’s an extra bonus that they are also edible.
My mom takes care of her old friends as lovingly as her new ones. Her classic roses and cheerful geraniums have bloomed loyally for decades.
My dad dislikes grass as a water hog in a dry land. My mom thinks grass is boring. Her ground cover looks like this.
Organic gardening takes creativity. Fortunately my engineer dad is all about resourcefulness. My mom and dad carefully net their juicy edibles and hang CDs in fruit trees to scare away the birds. They even have a bucket in their kitchen sink to save “gray” water – from rinsing dishes and vegetables – which they empty into their garden a dozen times a day.
It’s November, and she still has tomatoes ripening. Sweet and juicy early girls are her favorite variety.
They have a giant net over their laden persimmon tree. I had to crawl under to take this picture.
In recent years my mom has discovered a Japanese miracle herb called ashitaba. It comes from a remote Japanese island, where it has been consumed for its health benefits for centuries. Mom got her first plant from a friend, who smuggled it in from somewhere in Asia. Since then she’s become a one-woman ashitaba farm, giving away potted ashitaba to friends and family. She eats a few leaves every day, often in salads, and credits the herb for improving her sleep and reducing post-menopausal abdominal bloating.
Ashitaba is in the foreground; Chinese chives (which old timers here may remember from her chive and shrimp dumplings) are the tall grasslike shoots in the background.
And then there’s the lemon tree. When I was a kid I used to make pitchers of iced tea with Nestea powder and squeeze in a couple of lemons for freshness. A few years ago we were shocked when a friend told my mom the lemon tree is actually an orange tree. But the oranges are very yellow, even when ripe.
Our pediatrician used to tell my mom, when she expressed concern that her kids were so skinny, “You can’t get oranges from a lemon tree.” But mom now waits patiently for her lemons to ripen and squeezes fresh orange juice every morning.
Leave it to my mom to get oranges from a lemon tree. She’s that kind of person.