Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathers Day lesson: time is the greatest gift

My father was most definitely a self-made man: striving, thrifty, hard-working, and devotedly civic-minded.  His internal engine ran on the energy of personal improvement. One of the first financial lessons that my father taught me was the value of long-term planning.  "When it comes to saving, time is the greatest gift," he would said.  As a graduate student, I plowed my fellowship and teaching stipends into a long-term IRA, even at the short-term cost of a diet based on lentils, peanut butter, and rice and living in the sort of housing that rents for $86.63/month.  It might seem crazy for a 22-year old kid to be saving for retirement, but I'm glad now to have started my nest egg way back then. That compound interest thing is kind of amazing.

The same gift of time applies with dahlias.  An over-wintered row of plants is now in bloom.  The burgundy blooms of "Arabian Night" are leading the show.  "Pattycake" is following fast behind.  

In comparison, the "Rose Toscano" tuber that I planted in late May is just breaking the soil.  Flowering is a long time off.

The gift of  time given to those over-wintered dahlias, along with some peony foliage and Alchemilla lady's mantle, pays off with a Father's Day bouquet. And at a price that my frugal father  would definitely have approved!

Friday, June 08, 2012

Good thymes

Anyone who ever read Edward Eager's "thyme" travel stories as a child appreciates all the magical possibilities of this herb. I still wonder, like the characters in Eager's books, if I crush the scented leaves of creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum Coccineus), will I find myself transformed into a baby crawling on all fours?  And a sniff of orange thyme takes me where? To a fruit farm in California or Florida? What delicious adventures are hinted by pink lemonade thyme, coconut thyme, or lime thyme?

Carefully stewarding my youthful sense of wonder, I remain open to the possibility of a flight of fantasy from my workaday world.  So my garden always has space for thyme.  Right now, a blooming carpet of creeping thyme is cascading over the front stone wall. Around the back, common thyme (Thymus vulgaris)  has settled in next to a bed of mint. (I like pretty shiny sparkly things just enough to enjoy that time trip.)

And a little clump of lemon thyme (Thymus x citriodorus) is flourishing in an herb pot. 

I'm not big on garden ornaments, but how wonderful would be a sundial with some cryptic horological inscription--"Heed also the shadows which inform the light" or my personal motto, "Festina lente"--to convey oneself back to a leisurely childhood afternoon of reading fantasy books on the lawn. Or maybe a sundial reading "Knowledge is the sun of youth's bright day."