When the potted tropicals were brought indoors this autumn I decided that fewer would be overwintered in the dining and kitchen areas, with more being stashed by the double doors in the basement. This was done for practical reasons, mostly. The bananas and variegated gingers grew considerably through the summer, and the yellow striped agaves are now nearly four feet across, with needle sharp tips that threaten any who walk past. There’s just not enough space!
Six or eight (maybe ten) elephant ear plants of varying sizes have been sentenced to the basement because their large, slightly cupped leaves capture water, which I presume is from the trifling amount of humidity found indoors in the winter months. Eventually, enough water is accumulated so that a large droplet glides off the edge of the leaf onto the hardwood floors. If the droplets are not cleaned up promptly (and of course they rarely are), an area of wood the size of a quarter is discolored. This is, of course, troubling to my wife, and I suppose that after a number of years I have finally learned my lesson. So, some of the tropicals have been banished downstairs, for more personal and less practical purposes, so that I might enjoy my winter in peace.
Last year there were so many pots jammed against the kitchen’s three windows that it was nearly impossible to reach to raise and lower the shades. A lanky tapioca (Manihot esculenta, above) arched over my chair at the kitchen table, blocking my view of the garden, and generally making a nuisance of itself.
As I become older many more of my weekend morning hours are consumed reading the newspaper at the kitchen table, and occasionally gazing out at the garden, rather than beginning my chores early in the day. Now, I am more likely to mutter noisily about the latest political squabbles than the troubles of the local football squad, so there is considerable enjoyment in taking a moment or two to watch the bluejays hopping from branch to branch or the squirrels chasing one another merrily through the Alaskan cedar.
A bird feeder configured to look like a cedar gazebo sits immediately outside the kitchen window, but it has been years since my wife and I have filled it with seed that squirrels managed to hoard for themselves. At one time seed that fell to the ground sprouted in the fertile ground, but after a few years the gold edged hostas shaded the soil, and then we stopped filling the feeder. Today, shingles of the gazebo roof have splintered and disappeared, and the support post leans slightly after it was bent in one of the recent year’s heavy snows. There is no reason that the feeder has been left there, empty, except that I am reading more and working the garden less, and priorities must be established.
In the wet heavy snow in February last year the globose Serbian spruce (Picea omorika ‘Nana’) just outside the kitchen window was bent askew, with branches sent in every direction. A few weeks later I pulled the branches into a tight bunch so that the spruce closely approximated its original shape, but I fear that when the strapping that secures it is eventually removed the branches will fall apart and the spruce will be ruined. My wife favors removing it sooner, rather than later, because it has grown in girth to stretch over the stone path, but I cannot imagine having to start over from a plant that has been there for twenty years or so.
Several years after moving into the house I expanded the deck slightly so that one railing runs parallel and then perpendicular to the angled kitchen window. At one time or another the railing was covered by akebia and a series of other aggressive vines that eventually had to be removed, but finally I have settled on a fast growing clematis (Clematis montana ‘Rubens’, above) that my wife considers still too aggressive, but I am satisfied is only enthusiastic.
One summer a garter snake made the bushy vine its home, and on warm afternoons the small snake would curl up on a sunny spot at the edge of the rail. After a few surprises I learned to beware, and though the snake is long gone I’m still wary when I cut the vine back a half dozen times through the summer.
The view from the kitchen window is not the best of the garden, and perhaps when the day comes to remove the injured spruce I’ll give thought to making some improvement. The scene from the windows in the bedroom above is much better with the higher vantage point, where two of the ponds and the long stream that winds beside a stone path can be seen. But, we will not be moving the kitchen to the upper floor, and so the best must be made of what we have.
The winter months are ideal to ponder such considerations, the what-ifs of removing the spruce, and would this open a view of the stream that is only a few feet past it? If the spruce is chopped out a shrub of some substance must be replanted in the spot, but not one that will grow so large as to block the view of the stream again in a few years. And if the shrub would have berries that attract more birds for us to enjoy from the window, all the better. But today is not the time to make these decisions. In the peacefulness of the winter garden these changes are often more clear, and so I’ll enjoy my view from the kitchen window as it is for awhile longer.