Lessons learned in my Garden

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					Lessons learned in my Garden by Karen Lampinen
Grandma loved the garden—flowers, vegetables, shrubs and trees. Her home was on a double lot, so one had the house and the other the garden. And when there wasn‘t room to plant more in that garden, she started planting on the ‗side hill,‘ land beyond the neighbor‘s house and on the way down hill to the village park. Strawberries grew in abundance on the side hill and Bill and I always ate more than we carried back to the house. There were ground cherries too, a fruit I‘ve never seen elsewhere. Grandma was proud to be a member of the Garden Club. As a child, I knew it only as a meeting she regularly attended, but I‘m sure they discussed how and where different plants grew best and shared cuttings and bulbs with one another. Inside Grandma‘s house was a Christmas cactus and African violets, in a south exposure bay window where they had sun in the winter. The huge elm trees outside shaded that window in the summer. Mother‘s gardening was more pragmatic. As a teacher, she was off duty during the summer months and reckoned if she could grow enough fruit and vegetables to feed us through the winter, it was a good investment of her time. Here I learned that gardening is hard work. We would rent a roto-tiller in the spring to break up the ground, then rake and shake out clumps of weeds in preparation for planting. Our back yard went up to the fence along the railway tracks and asparagus grew wild along the fence. We had a strawberry bed and raspberry patch at opposite ends of the garden and in between were beans, beets, broccoli, chives, carrots, corn, eggplant, onions, peppers, rhubarb, and squash of various kinds. Bill and I had to help with the raking, planting, and cultivating. I helped more with weeding, picking, cooking and freezing. But the only vegetables I would east were fresh carrots and boiled corn! I look back on those years now and wonder how I could possibly have been so stubborn and stupid. There I was, surrounded by fresh, organic, home-grown produce—and I refused to eat most of it! I guess helping in the garden was my summer job. My brother had a paper route and mowed lawns, but apart from babysitting when I was old enough to do so, my work experience came from the garden for more than ten years. During my years in England I never had space to garden and most of my attempts to grow things in the Philippines ended in failure. I knew how to garden in Wisconsin, but not in Batangas City or Manila. One year all the papaya seeds we planted grew into male plants which don‘t produce fruit. Then they rotted at root level when rainy season started. I tried to grow zinnias, collecting the seeds from a neighbor in Fairview who had a lot of them growing in her yard, but mine were pathetic. The one house I lived in, right across the street from Tanauan Bible Church, was the exception to the rule. That land had been a corn field until Pastor Maling built his house there and in that soil roses and aloe vera and some other interesting plants grew well. Out back we had a harvest of root ginger the first year we were married. By then I‘d learned to watch when and where and how Filipinos planted things, and to follow their example. Later we needed to learn what to do with our crop of ginger. Our neighbors grew peppercorn, and as they were along our fence, I picked some big green berries and dried them to use in our pepper mill, only to find you aren‘t to pick the berries until they turn red.

All I had were the empty husks of peppercorns with none of the white powder, the part that provides seasoning. Also in Tanauan I had a harvest of watermelon that I‘d never planted. Mrs. Gonzales had shown me how to make candied watermelon out of the white part of the plant, between the red center and dark green skin of the fruit. I‘d thrown the seeds out back before I went to England for a visit—taking the watermelon candy with me to give as gifts—and when I got back there were vines and small fruit all over my tiny back garden. The first house Dave and I lived in in Manila had a large number of fruit trees at the back. The yard was only about 16‘x 40‘, but in that space the owner had planted three mango trees, one chico, one rambutan, one chesa, and one jackfruit tree. The trees kept the yard cooler, but the canopy they formed meant light didn‘t reach the ground enough for grass to grow. Along the fence at the front of the house we had beautiful bouganvillea and outside the gate were four coconut palms, a good source of fresh coconut meat and milk, plus leaves for brooms and husks for skating (polishing) floors. On home assignments we were never in one place long enough or at the right time of year to plant anything outside. But when Ben was ill, and we stayed in several different houses, we planted a few vegetables and were able to eat lettuce and a few home-grown green beans. Over the years my tastes had changed, and there was nothing I liked better than home-grown vegetables, with the exception of asparagus. When I needed medical treatment, we returned in May and stayed in a delightful little house with some lovely flowers. Sheri who owned the house brought over three tomato plants and we watched those grow, but moved out of the house before the fruit was ripe. It was August when we moved to Wiese Road, too late for planting and with inside work on the house taking priority over gardening. The following spring was our first opportunity to plant a garden. On April 3 I started seeds in trays and put them in the bedroom window facing east to get the morning sun. It seemed the rain would never let up enough to get started, especially since step one had to be preparing the soil and planting grass seed for a lawn behind the house. We borrowed a tractor with tiller and when it was dry enough in mid April, Dave went over the ground about four times. Then we marked out a path and flower beds and started putting in the flowering plants we had even before sowing grass seed. Next came bark chips for a path and wooden frames for raised vegetable beds. A week after the grass seed went in we began to see a faint shimmer of green on the dark soil, and a week later there were fine blades of grass growing. I started pouring over gardening books and questioning friends and neighbors on what to grow when and where. Wil‘s class had a plant sale to raise money for their trip to Washington, D.C., so as well as my little seedlings, a variety of healthy flowers and vegetables arrived at the end of May. Not knowing most of the names of the flowers on the order form, I chose assortments of perennials and annuals that liked the sun. Apart from the poppy and petunias, I didn‘t know what my new plants would look like, but week by week as they bud and flower I‘m

discovering the intricate beauty of delphinium, larkspur, nicotiana, gazania, static, cornflowers, etc. I‘m still waiting to see what eupatorium and sedum look like in bloom. As my friend Nancy and I walked around our neighborhood, we saw other flowers that reminded me of my grandmother like peonies, bleeding heart, and spirea. Others reminded me of Mom and our home in La Crosse. We had a mallow (hibiscus) next to our back door which grew into a very large plant each summer, with huge orangy-pink blossoms, and a wigelia at the front corner of the garage. I remember that bush being covered in red trumpets all summer. So when I saw plants at nurseries or nearby stores, I gravitated to those. Both Mom and Grandma had glads, so again in went the bulbs in hope of late summer color. Then I spotted freesia bulbs. I knew fresias as delightful scented cut flowers in England. Would they grow here? I had to try! Less than half came up, and only one had a flower. It amazes me that some varieties of hibiscus can withstand the heat of Manila and others the cold winters of Wisconsin, and others the wet spring in Oregon. But I like the idea that this plant can live in so many of the places God put me to live. Perhaps the most important lesson God has taught me through flowers is best summarized by a poster I had in my early years in the Philippines. It said, ―Blossom where you are planted.‖ The person who modeled that most clearly to me was Erika Hanser. Erika is from Germany, and she loved flowers. I think she brought seeds with her and also found flower seeds around her, but wherever the seeds came from, she was always planting them or tending the growing plants. Missionary life is often transient and on a number of occasions Erika had to move before her flowers bloomed. It may have been hard for her to leave them, and start planting again without having enjoyed the fruit of her labor, but it didn‘t stop her from planting again in her new location. I learned from Erika partly because I got to see those flowers bloom. My heart was lifted many times as I enjoyed her flowers and was able to pick them and arrange them inside. I began to see that we don‘t just plant for our own enjoyment, but to give pleasure to others who will follow our path. Dave and I have sought to leave rented homes in better condition than when we moved in, another way of testifying silently to landlords that Christians can be trusted not only to pay the rent, but to be good stewards of their property. For me, ―bloom where you‘re planted‘ has had lots of implications and applications. It means to make the best of our circumstances and do what we can to improve them. It means to invest in the future, knowing others can benefit from our actions. And it means living for today and not just dwelling on the past. Given a choice, I would be in hot, humid, polluted Manila right now, where I struggled to keep plants alive. But God has put me in lush, green, fertile Oregon where almost everything we‘ve planted has sprouted, and most have grown well. I‘m officially on ―study leave‖ from our mission this year, and I‘ve learned more from our garden than in any other way. These are some of the lessons learned:

Lessons learned in my Garden

GOD IS IN CONTROL. I can‘t cause a seed to germinate, to put out roots or a stem and leaves. I can‘t control the sun and rain. I can water my seed trays but I can‘t control the temperature. As Paul said, we can plant and water, but it is God who gives the increase. FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. I‘ve learned and will remember more from what hasn‘t done well than from what has! So far my worst failure has been trying to start impatiens from seed. I put potting soil into egg cartons with one seed per hole, and I started early, planting those seeds on April 3 rd. But the directions said the seeds had to be kept at 75 degrees F. while germinating and we only set our thermostat at 65 degrees! I thought if all the other conditions were right, it wouldn‘t matter if one was a bit off. From a whole packet of seed I got one plant that survived, and at the end of July it still hadn‘t flowered. I have been very impatient with my impatiens—but I didn‘t follow the expert‘s directions. And the same lack of good results follows every time I fail to follow my Maker‘s directions, so clearly laid out for me in His guidelines for living, the Bible. I‘M IN A BATTLE. Weeds need no help to grow and they are happy to steal as much goodness as they can from the soil where I want something else to grow. They pop up quickly and aren‘t too hard to remove when they‘re small or the ground is soft, but once their root system is well established and the ground is dry I can‘t pull them out. Sin in my life grows in much the same way. If I acknowledge my sin as soon as I‘m aware of it, God can pull it out roots and all and it‘s gone. If I let it grow it becomes more invasive and more drastic measures are needed to remove it. Its roots become more entangled with me as a plant and they want to choke the life out of me. The battle isn‘t only with weeds but with bugs and fungi. Insects land on leaves and start eating. They lay eggs which hatch and the larvae eat too. Slugs and snails love mums and lilies and petunias, primroses and marigolds. In fact there doesn‘t seem to be much they won‘t devour. Constant surveillance is needed to keep ahead of the enemy who uses such a variety of means to accomplish his ends: to kill and destroy. I need the equivalent of slug bait in my life to fight my enemy—and God has provided that in the armor and weapons needed (Ephesians 6). But having that armor doesn‘t do any good unless I put it on and use it daily. Satan is more crafty than slugs and earwigs and if I forget I‘m in a battle and need to be ready to fight, he will quickly take advantage of my forgetfulness and laziness. And he will bide his time. After months of drought with no sign of slugs we had one night of rain, and suddenly the slugs were back! Big, fat, healthy slugs. How had they survived during the dry months? I don‘t know, but I do know this showed me once again the need for vigilance. Cabbage moths which are prolific at laying eggs in every crevice of the Brussels‘ sprout leaves have reminded me that letting even one of those eggs hatch leads to disaster. We‘ve sprayed those plants more than anything else in the garden, but we‘re still losing the battle. ESTABLISH DEEP ROOTS. I bought four tiny clematis plants and kept them in the greenhouse until each had a long vine I could tie to a trellis. But they didn‘t flourish when transplanted. First I learned their roots needed to be in the shade even though the blooms could handle direct sun. A friend gave me a lovely mix of ground cover plants to protect

the roots. But still the clematis were disappointing. Then a nurseryman‘s comment to a friend showed me what was wrong. Robin was buying fuschia ‗starts‘—little plants in 2‖ pots. We looked through all the pots to find ones that already had buds or flowers, thinking those were the choice specimens. But as we were paying for our selections, we were told, ―Be sure to cut off the buds when you plant these starts. The plants need to establish their root system before they start flowering.‖ Later in the summer I cut back my largest, most scraggly clematis and three weeks later I had beautiful new healthy growth on that plant. The better established the root system, the more growth will take place. There are many times I‘ve neglected my own root system, and been less fruitful as a result (Psalm 1 and 40). And not only did new growth appear, that clematis climbed the trellis, putting out new leaves and flower buds as it went, and when cool weather meant most things in the garden were looking haggard, that clematis had five cheery blossoms into November when heavy rain and wind ended its flowering for the season. Every time I walk near that trellis God reminds me of His lesson on letting my roots go deep. GROWTH TAKES TIME. We can extend the planting season somewhat by starting seeds or nurturing young plants in a green house, but they will do best and grow best when conditions are just right. I planted lettuce seeds on April 3 rd and put the plants out about a month later. But the seed that went straight into the ground at that time grew faster and did just as well. The same was true with my cucumbers. Later, direct planting into warm soil yielded better results. We all look at people around us whom we admire and long to be like them. Unfortunately if we have opportunity to get to know them, we learn that they became gracious and wise and gentle through suffering. There isn‘t a quick and easy path to Christian maturity. Plants and trees are strengthened through having to fight adverse conditions, and so are we. I remember reading a book called, ―Rees Howells: Intercessor‖ about thirty years ago. My response then was ‗Please don‘t ask me to be like him Lord.‘ The price to maturity and powerful prayer looked way too high. Annuals are cheery colorful plants that only last a season. Perennials like hollyhocks and lupines won‘t bloom the year they are planted. It takes time for the plant to establish deep roots and strong branches so that the following year they can put their energy into flowering. Plants can‘t change their nature, but I think I‘ve changed from being happy to be an annual to wanting to be a perennial—deeply rooted in God‘s word and giving glory to Him through flowering for a long time. GARDENS ARE TIMELESS. Even though the miracle of growth is repeated every time a seed sprouts or a new leaf appears on a woody stem that looks dead, there is a sense of continuity in a garden. I‘m finding that growing flowers that my mother and grandmother grew is bringing more and more memories of them. Just as what makes a gift special is the giver, so the mental associations we have with certain trees and shrubs and plants draw us closer to those with whom they are linked in our minds—and at the same time closer to the One who created all colors, textures, shapes, and sizes: the author of all beauty.

WE ARE STEWARDS. That word isn‘t used much anymore, but the concept it represents goes back to Genesis 2. God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and care for His garden. That responsibility to take care of our surroundings was given before man sinned. And the only way our responsibility to be good stewards was altered was that as a result of sin, the job was made more difficult because we now to contend with weeds and thistles. THE IMPORTANCE OF FERTILIZER. Raspberries, strawberries, gladiolas, clematis all suffered this year because I didn‘t know when or how, or even that I needed to give them added nutrients to grow. I thought water was enough. The results: fewer berries, few or no flowers, unhealthy plants. I think for me the spiritual equivalent is reading stimulating, thought-provoking books which stretch my mind and help me to grow spiritually. For another person it might be attending a conference where the extra dose of fellowship or stimulating talks gives you a boost. One type of fertilizer is manure. Plants that have been eaten by animals or birds, digested, and excreted…is this like learning from the experience of others? We can‘t imagine going through the pain and suffering they have, but we can benefit as they share their digested experiences and what God taught them through each. Compost is another good fertilizer, but I‘m learning that not everything makes good compost. We‘ve been throwing all of our table scraps—apart from meat and bones—into the compost bin, then covering it with grass clippings. A few months later we have very black, healthy-looking soil in the bottom which we scoop out and use as fertilizer. The results? I planted iris along one fence, and first worked three pails of compost into the soil. I also scattered wild flower seeds hoping they would give us color during the summer. Consequently I didn‘t pull out the little plants that started growing around the iris. I still haven‘t pulled them out, and now have a row of little tomato plants and a couple of squash vines in the iris bed. Last week I was talking to Clinton, my very analytical systematic gardener neighbor, who periodically checks the Ph of his soil and has a water meter to tell him when he needs to water his plants. He has a new compost bin, on a stand like a spit, which he rotates regularly. He only puts in grass clippings, saw dust, and special nutrients and water. And he gets high quality, nitrogen rich soil out of his compost in two to three weeks! No unwanted seeds are going to contaminate his soil! He won‘t get the surprises that I do in his gardening, but you should see his beautiful dahlia bed and the 100 foot row of glads—all flowering right now. Makes me think about what I take in. Is my diet healthy in the right nutrients?-- Am I spending my time reading and watching things that draw me closer to the Lord? – or do tomatoes spring up where I‘ve planted iris because I haven‘t been careful in making good compost, or have let anything on TV or in movies or novels influence my thinking? I‘m not as methodical and disciplined a person as Clinton, but I can learn a lot from him. When I first met Clinton and admired his garden, he told me I needed a meter to test the soil, so I bought one. It‘s still sitting in the laundry room cupboard because using it seemed so complicated and slow that I never did the mixing of soil and water necessary to use it! Good equipment doesn‘t help us a bit if we don‘t use it. That‘s an unfortunate reminder

that the stabilizer ball in my closet (not even inflated right now) isn‘t doing me much good either. While fertilizing is systematic and only needed occasionally, watering has to be done regularly. For the fuchsias to not be watered even for just one hot summer day can spell disaster. My largest pot often needs watering twice a day in really hot weather and when we were gone for a few days I think it didn‘t get quite enough TLC. We found it with dry, paper-thin petals on most of the blossoms. They were so dry on the outside that the petals couldn‘t open, so I removed them all. A week later after lots of water, the plant was covered with more blossoms than I‘d ever seen on one plant. I think the parallel is to how critically important it is to be in touch with God through prayer and reading His word. Without that vital communication we quickly become parched, dry and brittle, edgy and unsympathetic to those around us. Like very unattractive plants. No wonder Christ talks about offering us living water which we need to be taking in on a daily basis.

IT IS OK TO TRANSPLANT. When we moved into the house on Wiese Road there were rhododendrons at the front, west side of the house, azaleas on the north and east, a lovely dogwood, and a hydrangea, also on the east. The hydrangea hadn‘t been pruned and heavy blossoms weighed down branches. We used bungee cords to try to hold it together. So in the fall we cut it back—too much. It only had two flowers the next year. But the bush looked lots better except that the leaves were scorched by the sun. It made me sad to see each healthy new leaf open and then get burned at the edges. We couldn‘t figure out a way to shade the hydrangea and I noticed that the healthy ones I saw were all on the north sides of houses. So I got Dave and Wil to dig up and move our plant. We must have done the move at exactly the right time because the leaves didn‘t even wither. It was at the beginning of rainy season and cooler weather, and now, a month after the transplant, it looks as though it had always been there. We just dug up the geraniums from around the garden and put them all in pots in the greenhouse to see if they make it through the winter. My bright red fuchsia is looking happier in the greenhouse than it has on the deck all summer. My conclusion: transplanting needs to be done at the right time. With most plants that means before or after warm weather when all the plant‘s energy will go into growth mode and when there is an abundant water supply, and with an eye towards improving drainage, light, etc.— whatever conditions were lacking before. I see how God transplanted me from Wisconsin to London to Manila to Portland. Each move was to help me grow in a new area of my life. When I drank deeply from His lifegiving water supply, I could blossom wherever I was planted.


				
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