Friday, June 29, 2018

The Ginger & the Blueberries

Not long ago, perhaps five years, I picked up a small blueberry seedling while doing the weekly grocery shopping. This is not an uncommon thing for me to do. Some people's impulse buys are candy bars, shiny trinkets, or a pair of shoes. Mine are plants, and the cheaper and more impractical the better. A packet of watermelon seeds for only sixty-seven cents? Perfect. I'll take one of those and one of the carrot seeds, too. Do they grow in the kind of sandy soil surrounding my house? Who cares, but it might be fun if they do.

Another good example of this impulse can be found in the gangly remains of wildflowers outside my office window that appear to be nothing more than overgrown, un-plucked weeds. The bag of wildflower seeds found its way into the earth around the same time as the blueberry bush and, due largely to the scorching mid-day sunshine of North Carolina, amounted to nothing more than a smattering of reedy green stalks with yellow blooms. They're nothing to look at, but they make me smile every time I peel my eyes away from the computer screen to gaze outside.

Recently -- after considerable time, effort and expense invested in revamping both the front and side flower beds -- we experienced rousing success with five or six hostas in the front bed. They were purchased from a proper landscaping company and planted in a semi-circle around our best crepe myrtle. The hostas flourished, quickly doubling and then doubling again in size, inspiring us to buy seven more to complete a border across the front of the bed. One week later, our leafy hostas were reduced to lifeless stalks by local rabbits and deer. I've learned two things since then. Miracle-Gro doesn't really work miracles and Repel All gives your plants that extra bit of seasoning critters love.

The blueberry bush has benefited from having been planted out of reach from the larger garden invaders in our fenced-in backyard, in the only spot that isn't laid bare to the unrelenting sunlight of summer. And, since spring in North Carolina has transformed over the last twenty years into a rainy season of tropical proportions, the bush receives plenty of nourishment from good old Mother Nature during that important time when buds appear, develop into delicate bell-shaped blooms, and eventually turn into berries, disappointing the bees and littering the ground with white confetti. That's when you can start counting the harvest you might reap if birds and bugs are kept at bay.

Ever since the plant went in the ground, our ginger-haired son (aka, the German) has obsessively anticipated its annual production. Why? I don't know, because he doesn't eat blueberries, or any color berries for that matter. The only way he might voluntarily choose to eat a blueberry is if you dehydrated it, ground it into a powder and reconstituted it as a chip packed in a canister with other identical chips. Blueberry Pringles. Bringles. Even then, loaded with additives, preservatives and blue dye number eighty-seven, it might still be too healthy for his tastes. Regardless, he watches as the berries develop each year and reports back on their progress.

"There are going to be a lot of berries this year," he'll say in his trademark monotone way. "They're going to be really big, too."

That first year, our little blueberry seedling yielded three edible berries. The next year, maybe twenty. Production has since expanded exponentially. This summer, we can expect to pluck close to one thousand blueberries by the time the harvest is complete, and that doesn't include several hundred from a second blueberry bush we planted this spring. I'm almost tempted to see if any other parts of the backyard are fertile ground for these little fruits.

Our pending blueberry bonanza aside, and even though the side flower bed is doing well, our thumbs remain only middlingly green-ish. Basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme thrive in the same section of yard as the berries, while our tomato-less tomato stalks defy the basic impulses of self-propagation by refusing to yield anything close to fruit. I doubt this concerns the German, though, since tomatoes are just giant red blueberries that he wouldn't eat anyway.

© 2018 Mark Feggeler