Archive for the 'Friends' Category



Going to BlogHer 2008?

Last summer, I lived a scant 4.5-hour drive from BlogHer 2007’s chosen location. I had all kinds of plans to be there for the conference, figuring that I could just steer my aging green Camry (and by green, I mean its color, not its environmental profile, at this point) toward Lakeshore Drive and have a blast with all kinds of fabulous women bloggers.

And then I realized what weekend it was. Thusly and therefore, I planned myself the most ridiculous travel weekend ever, which meant I got one solid day of BlogHering, followed by three hours of sleep, followed by continued crazy voyaging.

This year, when BlogHer announced it would return to the Bay Area for the third annual conference, I wrote it off. There was a point when I had an inkling I might move out here, but that was not a point at which I had any inkling I would be out here two months before the conference’s opening day.

Then I found myself a short BART ride away from the weekend’s activities. What’s a garden-oriented blogger to do but show up? This year, I’m in for all three days, including the Unconference on Sunday, July 20.

I'm attending the Home and Garden Meet-up. Are you?

I'm attending the Home and Garden Meet-up. Are you?

I float between life as a food blogger and life as a garden blogger, so I plan to be at the Food Bloggers’ Birds of a Feather meet-up on Friday, but will also attend Deb Roby’s Home and Garden BOF meet-up on Saturday. Deb’s going to interview bloggers at this event for a vodcast, so she’s looking for questions. Anything you’ve been dying to ask me but were afraid to comment about? Send it to Deb, and you never know what might end up on the Interwebs.

If you’re going to be at BlogHer 2008, please look for me. I love meeting other bloggers, and would love to get to know you better!

Very slightly delayed gratification

Right as I was leaving work yesterday, I started getting increasingly urgent messages from my friend and former roommate, Susan. She needed my number. She needed to call me. She thought she had my number, but somehow she did not. When she actually sent me a message via Twitter, I knew something serious was going on.

This is about when I noticed that I had a voicemail from Susan, who had apparently found my number. The serious thing, as I found out shortly thereafter, was a question popped, a ring delivered.

It seems that Susan and her fiancé, Don, went out to Roosevelt Island, which is smack dab in the middle of the Potomac River between D.C. and Arlington, Virginia on Friday, and after a picnic, he asked her to marry him.

But Genie, this is a gardening blog, you may be thinking. And even if you have just moved and may be awfully discombobulated, why are you telling us about the social milestones of your friends? Aren’t there plants to talk about?

Why yes, good people of the Interwebs. There are plants to talk about, and if you’d just hold on, I’d get to that part of the story.

As I was saying, the engagement happened Friday. But here’s the thing. It would have happened sooner, before Susan went on an extended set of business trips to Chicago and Ecuador, but for one tiny detail.

The day Don was originally planning to ask Susan to marry him, she beat him to the question punch. She asked him if he’d dig her a garden bed.

“Oh my God,’ I said to Susan on the phone. “A whole bed?”

“Yes,” she said. “Which meant he had to dig up all the grass.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I remember what a huge pain that process was. And how long it took. And I was actually helping. A little. Anyway, by the time Don finished, it was too late, that day, to take Susan to the island, and so he held off until there was time for an unhurried moment of surprise.

But now Susan and Don have a garden AND a wedding to plan. “And every time we eat our vegetables, we’ll think about how this all happened,” she said to me last night.

I can’t think of a better reason to delay something…even something so happy. To Susan and Don, I wish you smooth wedding planning, incredible veggies out of that garden, and as much happiness as you both can stand. Can’t wait for the Key West blowout!

Trailing into Spring

Once I determined it was time for a little life in the hanging plant arena, the next step was to figure out what to shop for. Last time I asked for suggestions, I got some good ones, but that was all for Fall plants, and, well, let’s not talk about Fall. I’m still in recovery from winter, after all, and so plan to relish the warmer weather of Spring and, yes, even Iowa’s celebrated hot-and-humid summer.

My friend Amy was visiting for the weekend, so I dragged her to the closest Earl May to peer at flowers. “This one’s pretty,” I said. “Do you think it’s a trailing plant?”

“Sure,” she said, with not much more conviction than I had.
Bacoba and Million Bells

The label confirmed, though, that the plant would allegedly trail. It was a container of Million Bells in a color riding the rails between pink and purple, and I snagged the healthiest looking container of lavender bacoba to stick alongside it. I loved my white bacoba last summer, and I know for sure that trails.

Did you hear that? I know something for sure about gardening. Bacoba trails. So there.

“Is that going to be enough?” Amy asked.

I stared at the two plants in my hand and tried to visualize the hanging basket. I figured with room to breathe, this ought to be about perfect, but suddenly my confidence ebbed.

“You think I need more?” I asked.
“I have no idea,” she said.

My confidence returned. “This is good,” I said.

Plus, it was $10 worth of plants. That’s plenty for the hanging basket.

Inside the garden center, I tracked down an actual employee, and held up my plants. The weather was still a bit frightful, I said, and I wanted to ensure I could actually keep them alive if we got a sudden cold snap. She told me to bring the basket in when it got cold, and I nodded solemnly, fully aware that the reality is I would probably forget. But for just that moment, she and I believed that I was a conscientious gardener. One who remembers to water her hanging basket in the first place.
After Amy took off for her return journey home, I took the hanging basket out back and got to planting. The flowers nestled in together, replacing the dead plants I tossed in the compost bin. And when I hung the basket up on the front porch, it seemed that finally, Spring had arrived.

Million Bells

Springtime in Washington

When I ran into Prairie Robin at the Winter Gardening Fair back in February, we had no choice but to discuss the weather, which inevitably led to a discussion of the ever-so-far-away spring. Prairie Robin is another transplant from the D.C. area to Iowa, and so it came as no surprise to me when she sighed, “I really miss all the flowering trees in the spring.”

I knew what she meant, immediately. Iowa has prairie beauty, but D.C. and its dogwoods and cherry trees and magnolias? D.C. in the spring cannot be beaten.

And those of you who knew me when I lived there and, therefore, remember me with my inevitable allergic-reaction-sparked spring cold that generally hobbled me right around the time those trees all bloomed? Hush up. ‘Cause even when I didn’t feel well, there wasn’t anything wrong with my eyes.

About this time last year, I had the opportunity to take a business trip back to D.C. over a Wednesday and Thursday with the CEO of my company. It was just before Easter weekend, and I had thought I would be able to extend the trip and see friends and family in the area before returning to Iowa. It’s a long story as to why, and doesn’t bear repeating, but I had to fly back Thursday night without seeing a single person I knew. Airport, client dinner, hotel, client site, Starbucks, airport.

From the second I got off the plane in D.C., I drove miserably at high speeds past the flowering trees, wanting nothing more than to stop and get a closer look.

Through a quirk of flight scheduling, Thursday afternoon’s schedule had us driving from Annapolis, which is far to the East of D.C. (for those who don’t know the geography) all the way to Dulles Airport (which is far enough West of D.C. as to qualify as practically being in another time zone). I told the CEO I would navigate us through downtown, skirting Capitol Hill and taking us out the George Washington Parkway. My intention was to get us to the airport faster, of course, but I also wanted, even though I would be driving in D.C. traffic, to catch a glimpse of the cherry blossoms surrounding the Jefferson Memorial.

I came off the Howard Road exit off the Anacostia Freeway and took the turn onto South Capitol Street to cross the Anacostia River toward I-395. And then, past the flowering trees that popped up here and there off the roadway, I saw it. Nationals Park, still under construction. When I left for Iowa, it had just been a concept, and I hadn’t seen it since.

The CEO had fallen asleep in the passenger seat—he was traveling with a bad case of the flu—and so he either missed this next episode, or he did a good job of pretending he was asleep long enough to let me re-compose myself. But suffice it to say I was crying before I even knew what was happening. Springtime in Washington. A new baseball stadium that I had been wishing for for years. Friends just minutes away from the road I was on and no way I could see them. If I could have gotten out of the car right then and sent the CEO on his way back to Iowa, I probably would have.

Iowa has its own spring magic. We just got that annual soaking rain that turns everything from brown to green overnight. And I’m excited about getting out there in the dirt and planting—that’s going to happen sooner rather than later.

But as I listened to the Nats play their opening game at the new stadium, I couldn’t help but wish I was there. And yeah, Prairie Robin. This time of year, every year, I miss those flowering trees.

Introducing 100 Proof Stories

Not long ago, Kathy of Cold Climate Gardening started following my Twitter feed, which led her to another of my web ventures.

“I am charmed!” she wrote to me. “These are little jewels, prose poems…I want to collect them all! Did you ever write a post explaining what got you started writing these?”

I responded to her that I had not written such a post, but that I had been meaning to. In keeping with the thematic emphasis, I had been waiting for a garden-related story to blossom in my notebook, but one hasn’t arisen yet, so I might as well stop dragging my feet.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, let me formally introduce you to 100 Proof Stories.

That particular blog came out of a conversation Betsy and I had one day last September. We have occasional writing-lunch dates, where we escape from the office and head to a nearby Panera to eat soup and salad, chatter on for awhile, and then, usually, give ourselves a hearty 20 minutes in which to write before we have to return to work.

I told Betsy that I had been considering a fiction blog of some sort – something that would allow me to get work out there and circumvent the more traditional publication process. I have longer stories in circulation, and they trudge from lit mag slush pile to lit mag slush pile, plaintively looking for a home. Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure each story has its own set of flaws, but fundamentally, they’re good work. They just haven’t found their place, and even when they do, I’ll probably get a couple of contributor’s copies for my time and trouble.

“But part of me doesn’t want to put work out there on a site myself,” I said. “It’s not as legitimate, somehow.”

Betsy scrunched up her face, because she did not agree with me.

It took me a couple of weeks, but I mulled over the concept. What if I thought of the blog less as publication and more as structure? By committing to post every other day, I’d drive myself to write more regularly, and to do so in a format that is ever-so-compatible with my crazy life. So one day, I wrote the first story and launched the blog.

I have cranked out numerous 100-word stories with my notebook resting on the tray table of one United Express plane or another. I have written them while sitting in restaurants, at bars late at night, in the morning before work and, indeed, at Panera with Betsy.

The stories fall into three categories: Kind of true, which is my version of creative non-fiction; Not so true, because all fiction, after all, comes from a seed of truth; and Overheard, because I love to listen to what’s going on around me.

As a result, I am once again writing almost every day. Because even when I can’t find time to write something longer, I can find time to string together 100 words into a small, intoxicating story.


Getting in touch

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All words and images (unless otherwise credited) on The Inadvertent Gardener are © 2006-2008 Eugenia E. Gratto. All rights reserved.

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