Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stealing Tomatoes

Technically, I didn't steal my neighbor's tomatoes. My 12-year-old son was charged with keeping them watered while they are away. I don't know many boys that age who either (a) know how to water a garden properly or (b) have the attention span to water a garden properly. Of course, I went along under the guise of supervising, when what I really wanted was to check out their vegetable garden.

You see, I'm green with veggie garden envy.

I just cannot seem to work out where to place the vegetables in my own garden, which is chock full of shady spots that would be ideal locations for eggplant, peppers, squash, maybe even some potatoes -- if only there was some sun. My sunny spots are full of perennials and shrubs and a tiny little lawn (got to have some negative space). As a designer, it just makes no sense to plop down a vegetable garden without a completely well-thought out long-term plan, perhaps a complete re-design. And, I must keep a few open spots for fancy new cultivars of perennials and shrubs that I want to try out before adding to a client's garden. How can I just stick a couple of tomato plants next to my late summer blooming Chelone lyonii 'Hot Lips'!

My interest in growing food has expanded. For clients, one of my first questions is how many kinds of herbs and vegetables they want to grow -- I always try to work food plants into the design or incorporate their existing kitchen garden into the overall plan. I know it is important for my kids to learn how to tend a garden (other than pruning roses and dead-heading annuals). I relish fresh and tender produce. So, I will plot out a spot for fall greens. I will have a new vegetable garden in the garden next spring (I've got all winter to plan). For now, I'll just keep volunteering my son for watering jobs around the neighborhood so I can have some home-grown, juicy tomatoes.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


There must be a part of my brain that is circa 1957.

We had just returned from a delightful weekend at the beach with friends. I sat down at my desk, pulled out some precious notecards a friend gave me for my birthday, and started a few quick personal notes to express our heartfelt thanks for a most delightful weekend. And then, "da-ding," I heard the alert that I had new emails. What I saw both horrified me and then, also made me pause and think, was I actually grateful? My husband had sent an email "thank you note" for the weekend to our hosts. To their work email addresses. From his work email address. Before I could get the stamp on my perfectly crafted, handwritten, personal expression of gratitude. Ugh, men.

He actually took the time out of his busy morning, after returning from a four-day weekend, to thank our friends.

Should I be mad or glad that he beat me to the punch? Should I feel guilty for cringing that he sent a note via email? Should I really care?

Of course I care. Whether it was my mother (I'm sure it was) or her friends or the etiquette lessons we had during debutante season, somewhere along the way I learned that it was necessary to write a personal note of thanks when receiving gifts or hospitality from others, even if you thanked them in person. So, I keep stashes of cute, funny, elegant or simple cards and stationery ready at hand to fire off timely little notes with just the right sentiment. A couple of my friends started a company and have some very clever ones I like to keep handy (

And even when I'm not timely with my notes -- I'm not as efficient as I like to think I am -- I still send them because it's better to thank someone late than to never thank at all. (I was ridiculously late sending a note to my friend who sent me these cute notes with recipes on the back!)

My husband has watched me, or perhaps just slept next to me, sitting in bed with my lapdesk, a favorite pen and little stack of cards and write away. My address book is the old fashioned kind with a pale yellow toile fabric cover, worn a little at the corners, each entry written in pencil because people move frequently in this day and age. It is updated each January after the flood of holiday cards help me make sure everyone's address is current. Yes, I handwrite holiday card addresses, too.

So back to my question, mad or glad? I tossed out my own note -- our hosts had already replied back to him via "reply all" -- and wrote a new one, addressed to their children. They were probably imposed more upon since they had to share their rooms and toys and entertain our children. I'm choosing to be glad, though I've pulled out my husband's personal note cards, dusted off the box top, and left them next to his bedside table for the next time he wants to write a thank you note.