A collection of Odes: To Dirty Hands, Chairs and Un-Cool Plants

The time is always right for gratitude. Now, as many of us hibernate in our homes waiting for a pandemic to pass, considering what it is we’re grateful for can be a way to expand our vision beyond the walls of our living rooms, and the fences of our backyards. It can remind us of the wonder and the beauty that exists on this planet. It can help us remember what it is we love, and why. Gratitude can keep us connected in meaningful ways to each other and the world at a time we need it most.

It is from the ground of gratitude that the Planthunter Ode Project grows. Since we launched it a few weeks back I’ve had the privilege of reading many delightful, profound, and entertaining words of gratitude and respect.

The Planthunter Ode project is ongoing. If you’re feeling the need for words, for a new vista, for creativity, reflection and fun, consider writing an ode and sharing it with us via Instagram (tag @theplanthunter and #theplanthunterodeproject) or email ([email protected]). We’d love to read it!

More info, including a writing guide, here.

Below are a fresh drop of odes from our readers, and one from me. Enjoy.

Image by Daniel Shipp.

Ode to my Backyard Vegetable Patch

By Sandie Don (@anaustralianbackyard)

Readying the patch for winter vegetables has never felt so complex. I try to grow my own food for its taste, for convenience, for environmental reasons. What it does for my sense of self is a whole other thing. To be part of the seasons and the natural word as it thrives and slips away. In the garden, life makes sense.

Today, pulling up old tomatoes to push peas into the earth, gardening felt like an act of defiance. It felt like a desperate search for order in days filled with growing fear and constant instruction. It felt like a hare-brained idea that I will grow fresh food as the supermarket shelves are stripped.
But it’s more than food. It’s turning to nature for reassurance, for understanding. To remind myself I’m a small part of a greater ecosystem, at a time when thoughts are turning inward. To remember my place amongst the ants and the earthworms and the ladybugs that I disturb.

And unexpectedly, an afternoon wrist deep in soil ends with me washing my hands with wonder rather than alarm.

Casuarina

By India Flint (@prophetofbloom)

Casuarina glauca. Image by Georgina Reid.

from here it looks as though
the ocean has been butter smoothed in parts

perhaps with a hot knife
one cottonball cloud hangs
motionless above its pink echoing seashadow

down at land’s edge the palms
make a bobbly fringe
while seven small doves
compose an oratorio high on the wires
that carry a different kind of current up the hill
streaming past the casuarinas
standing motionless in the soft air
offering their own quiet cadenza

like the sound from that shell your mother
put into your hand
way back in your third summer and said
listen, the water is calling

Ode to Agave attenuata

By Georgina Reid

I first met you, Agave attenuata, in the early 2000s. A time of ‘architectural plants’, aubergine feature walls and water features. Features, everywhere. A feature agave with bright white feature pebbles at its featureless base. Sometimes I overdose on liquorice bullets. And then I can’t eat them for a while. The same happened with you, Agave attenuata, after the indulgence of those early years. No more agaves. No more yuccas. No more water-bloody-features.

When we moved into our river house a few years back, the garden was a head-high tangle of weeds. Once I began clearing, I discovered you, Agave attenuata. I groaned. My vision of a wild bush garden didn’t include you, or that dreadful shade of purple that kept popping into my head every time I saw you.

Since living here I’ve come to love you, dear agave. Because you are the only plant the wallabies and possums don’t like. Because you’re indestructible. Because you helped me make a garden where there was none. I can saw you off at your base, drag your waxy grey green head around the garden, stick you in, and voila! Garden! You offer structure to a space that is otherwise unstructured and I look at you most days, and think ‘thank god you’re here’.

Dear Agave attenuata, sorry for being so mean to you when I was a young designer all those years ago. Sorry for objectifying you in the name of cool. Sorry for dumping you when the affair was over. You are glorious and appreciated and resilient, and I promise to never to go near polished white pebbles ever again.

Agave attenuata by Georgina Reid.

Ode to a Garden Chair

By Tom Dwyer

I have been gardening on a plot at the end of my family’s yard for five years now. At first I was working against it, clearing it of a suffocating ground cover and finding bones buried and forgotten by the dog. Then I was working on it, building walls and pathways, and sketching the outlines of beds to be filled on a later date. Next I tried working for it, adding compost and manure to the baked and dense clay landscape. I travelled endlessly from the lowest point of our block to the highest with bucket after bucket of mulch. Burdened like a packhorse, I attempted to hide the bare soil from the fierce stare of El Nino.

Recently, I like to think that I have been working with the plot, thanks to a garden chair. A small steel chair I picked up from the kerbside on a drunken walk home has come to occupy my plot. The chair is comfortable but the plot is rarely flat. Yet we make it work, my garden chair and I. I’ve sat down plenty of times in my plot, generally tired and sweaty from an afternoon’s toil. But I’ve never had a chair on the plot, and I can tell you honestly, the prospect is different from atop my new perch.  

From my chair, balanced on some bricks in the shade I watch my plot and those who come to visit. Just the other day I counted four different types of bees on one salvia, its deep purple spikes and near black calyx calling in pollinators I’ve never seen before.

My garden chair has taught me to slow down and look. Books can teach me plenty and so can trial and error, but I can learn just as much about my plot from my garden chair. My garden chair has given me prospect and refuge within my plot, and it has gifted me patience and time.

This is an ode to a garden chair, to my garden chair, but it is also an invitation to bring a chair and to come and sit with me, because a prospect shared is a prospect bettered.

Clive Blazey, founder of the Diggers Club, in his garden chair. Image by Daniel Shipp.

STOP PRESS! Actually, start the press.

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