On my calendar for Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, I’ve written, “Harvest and carve Halloween pumpkins with Lee.”

That note, which I wrote in ink, is a direct trash-talk to the Garden Goddess.

In our nine years in Moscow, my husband, Lee, and I have always harvested our pumpkins from the parking lots of local grocery stores.

In early June each year, I planted pumpkin seeds in one of our raised beds. With the fervor of Linus from the comic strip, “Peanuts,” I always believed my great pumpkins would be the showpieces of our October garden.

Longtime readers might remember my most successful harvest happened last fall, when I grew one pumpkin the size of a deflated football. The other two surviving gourds were so small that even our 2-year-old granddaughter seemed embarrassed. “Tiny little punkins,” she said. “Baby punkins. Very teeny-tiny.” I got the point.

This season I’m using peat pots, instead of direct planting, for seeds from a fancy variety of pumpkins and gourds.

The mix includes a pinkish Porcelain Princess, Lakota and Speckled Hound squash, Rouge D’Etamps, the red-orange pumpkin that Cinderella made famous, and, the seed packet says, an “autumn harvest display.”

In past years, my average germination rate from three packets of pumpkin seeds was three seedlings.

Multiply that by the big honker number of seeds I’ve planted this week, and maybe I can expect to start with 10 seedlings, for transplanting in June.

Experienced pumpkin growers probably are already feeling sorry for me. But why dwell on Linus’ annual dejection, as he sits alone in the garden patch, waiting for the Great Pumpkin? We impetuous gardeners are a sunny group, especially before mid-summer reality sets in. So let’s tip our garden hats to another season of hope.

No matter the fate of the pumpkins, I always find joy in my flower garden, which is nearly ready with its wave of blooms. The burgundy, plum, red and pink oriental poppy plants are always the springtime showgirls.

I’m still waiting, though, for the white Royal Wedding poppies.

Maybe these delicate beauties consider themselves too elegant to perform their “Swan Lake” pas de deux on the same stage as the painted hussies and their high-kicking can-can.

Near the poppies, columbine in rose, blue, yellow and red float like airy butterflies above green stems, and pansies weave through the taller plants, turning their smiling faces up to the sun. Fragrant honeysuckle vines already have reached the top of the rose arbor, where actual roses refuse to climb.

My favorites, the delphiniums, will follow, in shades of blue and purple, and new hybrid colors of pink and lavender.

English Canterbury bells and bellflowers, blue perennial bachelor’s buttons (centaurea Montana) spicy phlox, and old-fashioned verbascum, with their mauve, lemon or cream petals, will add texture and more color soon.

The garden’s artistic masterpiece appears only sporadically, though. Benjamin BadKitten sometimes poses behind the birdbath, a living sculpture with a fluffy tail, a pudgy tummy and a cowardly lion’s heart. He is certain the artwork needs only one more element to raise it to Louvre museum quality: a sleepy, slow-moving bird, napping between BBK’s front paws.

During Moscow’s recent Renaissance Fair, I was on my knees in the dirt when a family paused in front of the garden, on their way to East City Park.

Their little boy, maybe 7 or 8, studied the garden and asked, “How long did it take you to do all this?” “Nine years,” I said, “starting with digging up all the grass.” “Wow,” the boy said. “So, why did you do it?” “I wanted to make something beautiful with the flowers and the bird feeders and the birdbath, so maybe people will feel happy and peaceful when they look at this garden.” The little boy looked up at his parents. “That’s so cool,” he said. His dad smiled at me. “Really cool.” I have always known why.


Sydney Craft Rozen finds peace in the beauty of her beloved flowers, humor in the yearly challenge of the pumpkin, and, soon, the joy of planting her primary “kitchen garden” of herbs, carrots, salad greens, peas and tomatoes. Email her at scraftroze@aol.com

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