Thursday, July 27, 2006

Eureka Lemon, Tahitian Lime

Taking advantage of the clear weather (or, as some doom-and-gloom merchants are already calling it, 'the drought'), I spent a couple of hours in the garden today addressing the horticultural mayhem and manufacturing a bit of Vitamin D. It may be the latter that's making me feel so cheerful but I think it's more just gardening in general. I don't know about being 'nearer God's heart in a garden /than anywhere else on earth' -- but I certainly always feel nearer to my own.

Or it could have been the highly satisfactory bloodletting of the Texas Pruning Saw Massacre. I've been a bit conservative with the pruning of the climbing roses over the last few years and the result is a bunch of knots and nodes too high up, sprouting lots of pathetic little stems going in no particular direction. Not any more -- I just sawed them all off.

My late lamented Ma taught me how to prune, and now I just rip into plants with manic confidence that it will do them whole bunches of good. Certainly the fuchsia -- the one a few feet from the place where, five years after her death, I found the precious gold earring she lost there the day I bought the house -- is responding brilliantly to being cut back to less than half its former size. Don't believe the people who tell you never to cut into old wood.

When I'm pruning I commune with my mother, who got first go at the heavily under-pruned garden the first winter I lived here and indeed the only winter I had with her after I moved back to Adelaide: I swear I can feel her guiding hand on my wrist and hear her voice saying 'No, not there -- here.' She had a lighter touch than mine (she had a lighter touch than anyone's: a baker of perfect sponge cakes in a wood stove in her early life and she just kept improving from there) and I think a few of things I did with the secateurs today would have made her put her head in her hands and moan.

Wherever I went today in the garden I just kept thinking 'This place is a poem' (though in a different mood I could just as easily have been thinking 'This place is a shambles'), and so, inspired by Elsewhere's reading challenge, I have set myself a Writing Challenge. I am going to write a sonnet -- fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, at least, but it'll have to be blank verse because rhyming is in this case beyond me -- consisting entirely of the names of things in the garden.

GARDEN SONNET

Eureka lemon tree, Tahitian lime.
Three bottle-brushes and a Banksia rose,
low-flying blackbirds, magpies, a few gulls.
Camellias, bougainvillea and thyme,
some jasmine, snowdrops, rosemary and sage.
A lot of lavender, an apple tree,
some pigeons, sparrows, starlings, flowering gums,
a morning-glory vine and some sweet peas.
Anemones, ranunculi and ferns,
a wagtail, honey-eaters making nests,
a crow, a spider plant, a dragon tree.
A blood-red kangaroo-paw in the sun,
some little purple pansies in the shade.
About five thousand rainbow lorikeets.

6 comments:

Zoe said...

Oh, I like a challenge. I'll try and do one for my yard. It won't be as lyrical or have as many plants in it, though, so don't get your hopes up ;)

elsewhere said...

Ha ha! The reading challenge is a shambles after I left the book in my office last night. Will have to do extra on Saturday.

Also, you'll be glad to know that I have been writing iambic pentameter myself in preparation for some of the torture I'm about to put my students through. Mine is terrible tho -- you've fared much better. (Also have become preoccupied with finding iambic and other pentameter in daily life -- like news headlines, but that's another matter.)

ThirdCat said...

Without wanting to sound un-poetic, but is a Eureka Lemon a good one to have in a garden? I'm assuming it is a lemon tree? Just asking, because we are planning - any day now, like you know, maybe even this weekend - we are putting our citrus in. Bet those people in our last three houses are really enjoying all those oranges we've paid for, planted and even fertilised, but never enjoyed the fruits of. Mutter, mutter.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Oh yes, El -- once you start looking for iambic pentameter or trochaic hexameter or whatever else, you can find it everywhere.

I always found that the way to help students 'get' metre immediately was to draw a sonnet grid - ten syllables across and fourteen lines down - and then get them to physically write in the symbols for strong and weak stress in every box. After that the hard bit is explaining how a perfectly scanned sonnet will be a bad poem and sound like doggerel, and that the real gift lies in approximating that stress pattern rather than nailing it right down -- shoehorning in an extra unstressed syllable, stressing occasionally where you should be unstressing, and so forth.

The Stephen Fry book really is fab, though it has some truly filthy Stephen Fry-like examples of different metres and forms.

3C, I chose Eureka (yes, a variety of lemon) because (a) I liked its name, (b) it's frost tolerant to -2 which is enough for here on the plains, and (c) it's got a lot of flavour. They are the thin-skinned deep-yellow slightly knobby ones, not the thick-and-smooth-skinned green-tinged ones. But if the issue is issue, then I think any citrus hangs round for a few years before it bears. Mine has its first-ever fully ripe lemon on it, and I transplanted it from its pot over two years ago. NB re tomatoes, my book says that if you re-plant in the same place, you should prepare the soil with lots of rotten zoo poo or whatever at least a month before you plant.

This comment shortly avaliable in paperback.

genevieve said...

And a fine paperback that will be - I hope you've patented that grid, BTW.Going to rule one up later today...
I don't think I have enough plants, though - I'll have to gossip about the neighbours, I think. Or the possum that ate all the Vietnamese mint.

What always messed with my head was going over to the French poetry seminar to listen to a lecture in French on alexandrines. My brain insists on attempting to read them as the five feet...

Pavlov's Cat said...

There is a wonderful bit about alexandrines in A.S. Byatt's The Virgin in the Garden. But I agree with you -- it feels all wrong.

I would love to see the (hypothetical) sonnet about the possum that ate all the Vietnamese mint!