The grateful gardener

Many things to be grateful for in the garden.

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Who says that gratitude has to be confined to the fourth Thursday in November? Not me. And not C.L. Fornari, whose post about what she's grateful for in the garden and beyond has had me humming "Come Ye Thankful People, Come" ever since.

I sometimes make lists of what I'm grateful for. (They can really change your perspective!) So this morning, as the song kept running through my thoughts, I decided that I'd start a garden gratitude list and see how much I can add to it each day until Nov. 27.

My goal: at least five more things each day. Is 65 aiming too high or too low? We'll see. I would be delighted if you would join me.

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1. I'm grateful that even though I live in a crowded urban environment, I have space to grow plants. Our row house has almost no ground, so I grow almost everything in containers -- from vines to fruits to roses. And I've learned that there's very little a gardener can't be successful with in pots if she really wants to.

2. I'm grateful for Boston's public and community gardens. Particularly the Public Garden, the Boston Common, and the Fenway Victory Gardens. They make living in the city a true pleasure.

3. I'm grateful for all the individuals and businesses in the city who beautify their surroundings. My husband and I love to walk, and as we stroll in different neighborhoods, these tiny front gardens and interesting containers of plants make us smile.

4. I'm grateful that growing your own vegetables has become popular again. Nothing can compare with the taste and feeling of satisfaction that you get from a home-grown tomato picked in your own backyard.

5. I'm grateful for those who are helping others through gardening. Programs such as City Harvest in Philadelphia and Plant a Row for the Hungry -- both of which help feed the less fortunate -- and  for all the people who unselfishly participate in them.

Added Friday, Nov. 14:
6. I'm grateful for the opportunity to be able to communicate through this blog. It's different from writing articles or books -- much more immediate and lots of fun. I've learned so much.

7. I'm grateful for all the visitors to this blog and the Monitor's gardening site, which I maintain. You're a wonderful bunch and I can't say enough nice things about you!

8. I'm grateful for the way the Internet makes it so much simpler than it used to be to research garden issuesand to locate hard-to-find plants. When I think how much time I used to spend trying to find a plant I saw in someone's garden -- and how easy it is now -- wow! the difference is amazing.

9. I'm grateful for personal computers. I well remember what it was like to write my garden articles on a typewriter. I bought one of the first IBM PCs in the early '80s-- and sold it later as an "antique"! For what I recall was 64 KB of memory, it cost about $2,000. What a difference between that primitive device and the laptops I use today and store all kinds of garden photos, videos, and audios on.

10. I'm grateful for e-mail. I hesitated before I wrote that. And I had ask myself if I'm being honest in that statement. At work, I often feel as though I'm drowning in e-mail. But would I want to manage without it? No. If I need to find out how a plant performs in California or Maine, I can easily e-mail a garden writer or other expert there to find out, and they will e-mail me a response in much less time than it would take me to write a letter, find an envelope and stamp, and take it to the post office.

11. I'm grateful that I just found the perfect Christmas card and that its purchase benefits a worthy cause. I realize that listing this is cheating a bit because it isn't gardening-related gratitude. But each year my husband and I search for the "perfect" holiday card. I'm not sure why it's so important to us since we don't send nearly as many as we once did. But we still enjoy looking. And this year, the card we both instantly agreed was what we wanted showed up in my work e-mail. (Another reason to be grateful for e-mail, No. 10.) Ordering it will help Project Bread, an anti-hunger organization, which makes us feel good. And that led us to the website of the photographer, where we discovered that we really liked all her work -- and we could actually afford it. Something else to express gratitude about!

Added Saturday, Nov. 15:
12. I'm grateful for rain, which we woke up to this morning and are forecast to have with us all day and evening. We can't grow plants without rain, although I often -- selfishly -- feel as though I'm echoing Karel Capek's words in the Gardener's Prayer: "O Lord, grant that in some way it may rain every day, say from about midnight until three o'clock in the morning, but, you see, it must be gentle and warm, so that it can soak in..." Today I'll smile at a Saturday of possibly heavy rain that keeps me indoors.

13. I'm grateful for beautiful fall foliage. When I look out the window of my third-floor home office, I feel as though I'm right in the midst of a golden forest, thanks to our towering Japanese zelkova street trees.

14. I'm grateful that so many municipalities are gathering autumn's fallen leaves, composting them, and returning them to members of the community, who use them as mulch and to improve the soil. Boston officials think they can be put to even better use, according to a report on National Public Radio: "A proposed multimillion-dollar indoor urban composting facility would capture methane gas that rotting leaves give off and burn it to generate electricity for 1,500 homes, as well as to run on-site, year-round greenhouses."

15. I'm grateful that the trend toward outdoor fall decorating includes many more plants than were once available. Mums, ornamental cabbage, ornamental kale, asters, pansies, and other violas are seen everywhere in autumn now. They complement the fall leaves and add cheer to the -- sometimes rainy -- landscape. (Admittedly, as a committed gardener, I'd like to see more fall perennials be added to the list, but I would never have imaged we would've come as far as we have.)

16. I'm grateful to artistic flower arrangers. Their creativity -- shared through florists, in lobbies of hotels and other public buildings, as well as in houses of worship -- makes even the most beautiful flowers seem more gorgeous. I tend to be the sort of gardener who prefers flowers outdoors instead of cut, but this past week, I've seen some arrangements that caused me to pause in my busy day and really look closely at the combination of roadside plants, "weeds," grasses and blooms. Such talent.

Added Sunday, Nov. 16:

17. I'm grateful for bananas. I know that's such a simple thing, but I eat one every morning and when we ran out yesterday, I couldn't wait to get to the store.

According to the University of Georgia, "Americans eat $1.1 billion worth of bananas each year, or as much as 33 pounds per person."That means I eat about five times as many bananas as the average person, whoever he or she is. And I enjoy each and every one. I like them nice and ripe -- the yellow skins flecked with brown -- although my husband and my younger brother prefer them slightly green. Differences in tastes.

All of a sudden, though, bananas are less politically correct. I read somewhere that a few schools have taken bananas off the cafeteria lunch list because they come from so far away.

There are some bananas grown in Florida and some in Hawaii, but they're a small trickle in the trade from Central and South America. Georgia would like to join that group. I'd like to add Georgia bananas to my favorite Georgia peaches and pecans -- although they would be "local" to me only in comparison to ones from overseas.

18. I'm grateful for fresh fall apples. I have always been a big fan of apples and so eat them year-round. But it seems to me that the ones we get in the fall at the farmers' market have the best taste of all. I was wondering: Is that because they haven't been in cold storage? Not that I object to cold storage -- which gives farmers an income over a longer period of time and allows me to get good apples in March or May. But I'm wondering about the noticeable flavor differences.

19. As I plan next week's Thanksgiving dinner, I think how grateful I am for sweet potatoes, which I'm sure the Pilgrims or Wampanoag Indians didn't know. (Too cold in Massachusetts; sweet potatoes like a long, hot growing season.) I like sweet potatoes cooked almost any way -- from plain baked (or microwaved) ones to elaborate casseroles (with or without marshmallows; I'm not picky) to sweet potato fries. Did you know that sweet potatoes are relatives of morning glories?

20. I guess it's overkill, but I'm grateful for regular potatoes, too, which also often grace my Thanksgiving table. Irish potatoes we called them in the South, to distinguish them from sweet potatoes. A misnomer, of course, since potatoes originated in the New World.

21. I'm grateful for corn. I'll never forget our German landlady dismissing the American fondness for corn with the comment that in her country, corn was for swine!  I'll admit that in summer we can be a bit piggish about corn on the cob. It tastes oh, so good! This wasn't a great year for it in my part of the world -- too much rain. But we ate it at least twice a week all summer long anyway. (From the farmers' market; it's not practical in my containers, sadly.) It's another New World crop that's a winner.

Added Monday, Nov. 17:

22. I'm grateful for how my Sungold cherry tomatoes performed this year. Our area had record rainfall, and lots of people complained that their tomatoes were mostly a failure. But the Sungolds (and the Super Sweet 100s) produced abundantly until tonight (our first frost). Later, I learned from a long-time organic farmer that yellow tomatoes typically stand up better to adversity. And here I thought I always liked yellow tomatoes best because of the taste!

23. I'm grateful for ever-blooming hydrangeas. I've always liked the mop-head flowers, but I never planted more than a few. After all, the bushes are large and take up a lot of space, so how many do you want since the flowers appear only in May (or June or July, depending on where you are living)? Now, I grow a bunch of them in various colors -- blue, pink, red, white -- in large pots and love the way they flower over and over all summer.

24. I've always been grateful for reblooming daylilies (and irises). I can't say that Stella d'Oro is my favorite daylily -- I think there are so many with prettier colors and flower forms -- but she introduced repeat blooming -- just like with the hydrangeas. And that's good for the future of daylilies since gardeners now want -- and are comng to expect -- a longer period of flowering from the plants they grow.

25. I'm grateful to have a daylily named for me. It's one of the nicest things that's happened in my garden-writing career.

26. I'm grateful for needle evergreens, both shrubs and trees. This revelation has been a long time coming. As a Southerner, I've always preferred broadleaf evergreens, thinking they offered more variety and distinction. I was wrong.

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