batten the hatches, blanket the garden

by bam

no, no, this is not about how to dry your laundry on the line, sans the line. this is not about casting your underthings and old rags upon the garden for the sake of saving turning on the dryer.

no, darn it, this is about fickle spring.

there you are merrily thinking the thaw is underway. all around the place, little things are pushing up, pushing through the crust. not so tentatively, but maybe a little shy, they peek their soft green tips. tenacious tips. they gaze around, they check to see if they’ve got goosebumps, or whether it’s safe to keep on coming.

they come. a tulip sprout here. virginia bluebells there. the poppies, even, send up their fountainhead of leaves that look as if they’ve been cut by giant pinking shears, all ziggy-zaggy around the edge.

and my april prize, my heirloom hyacinths. the antiques of my garden with roots dating back to 1870, the one they call, “the queen of the blues.” she is a soft, soft silvery blue, according to my friends at old house gardens, the ones who rescued her in the first place, and then, for a small price, bequeathed her to me. she’s been in my care and custody for years now. if heaven sold perfume, this might be the no. 2 seller (after the aphrodisiac, korean spice viburnum, which sends me to the moon, and which, if sold at neiman marcus would elbow ol’ dowdy chanel V right off the counter.)

but back to the laundry scattered in the beds.

it seems that just as all the pretty things were hours or maybe days from showing their true colors, someone somewhere decided to pull the switch, hit reverse, and suddenly out there it feels like winter.

the mercury on my truth-telling thermometer is silently sliding south, right now at 32, which, unless i’m losing marbles, i am certain i learned in first-grade science is the point at which fluid water turns to solid ice, a substance nowhere in the primer, “how to grow a flower.”

the weatherperson who lives in my computer tells me it’s getting colder still; and, as is, all living things outside feel as if it’s deep down in the early 20s.

that means, my growing things need coats.

sleeves for tulips can be a little difficult to construct. so i go for the loose look, the draped look. old sheets flung. terry towels as fabric domes to hold in what little heat there is.

did i mention that the winds were whipping through the night? great howling winds. winds that made you think you must have holes right through your floorboards and the winds were whistling west to east, taking shortcuts through the room where you were sleeping. or trying to sleep, at least.

yes, yes, it was a night, it remains a day, for ragtag april garden. i’ve had to do this right up through may: the annual tucking of the beds under bedclothes.

in the city, i lived next door to an equally towel-tossed gardener. our side-to-side gardens on these frosty mornings looked like christo, the fabric artist who has shrouded museums and mountains and even central park, had slipped through the ’hood and done his wrapper thing. on our tulip heads under towels.

these days i dwell in the land where one does not fling mismatched rags on the lawn. once again, i stand in danger of at least a phone call from the appearance review police.

excuse me, madame chair, they would begin, we do not support your nasty habit of littering the leafy shore with those babushkas in your beds. please remove them, or we will revoke your passport and send you shuffling back to the nitty-gritty city.

which is why i do my dirty work, my mission work, really, in the back, where, save for this blaring announcement, no one should notice that i am deep into doing what it takes to get my garden through the cold snap.

if it means secreting out the back door, in dark of night, bundle of slightly tattered sheets in arms, then i will risk my residence here on this north shore. i will, as i unfurl my cotton armaments on my shivering spring shoots, not be stopped.

do not, i tell you, get between a madwoman and the precious beds she must protect, come lawn police or subzero temps that would do in a lesser warrior.

anyone else lie awake fearing for their tender sprouts, as wicked winds whistle taunts all through the night? anyone else cast a quilt of tattered cloths upon the april beds, in hope that may the month will bring a riotous show of life triumphant over freezing cold? anyone else have any other warming tricks up their shivering gardener’s sleeves?