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Jean's Blog (Check out links to Guest Blogs in lefthand Column)



A month ago, my son-in-law brought me some plants for our terrace, since various annoying setbacks prevented me from reveling in my usual happy spring foray at Saunderskill Farms in upstate New York, almost walking distance from our country house. He had chosen a glorious array of purple and white petunias, delicate spires of purple florets, pink fuschias that revealed silky purple interiors, and a magnificent hanging fuschia bursting with fat pink buds, that quite took my breath away. I imagined drinking my morning coffee under the swaying blooms once they had all opened.
We have a ficus tree that winters behind our white reclining couch in the living room, and then settles decoratively into a corner of our small terrace when the last frosts are over. We nursed it from a sprig, many years ago, to its present impressive height, and every year it gets a little harder to maneuver it back and forth between apartment and terrace. My husband heaved a sigh of relief when he had pushed and pulled it to its usual corner, and it was only later that we realized that one of its branches was in the way of the hanging fuschia, which immediately reacted to sharing its sparse light and sun by dropping buds and blooms all over the terrace floor. It had become a mass of swaying green leaves. I was devastated.
Meanwhile, the ficus, dancing in the light spring breezes, began to unfurl new leaves of delicate green, mixing in with its dark and dusty winter foliage. I noticed that the hanging fuschia seemed to have developed bunches of low hanging buds, and sprigs waved above the ficus with sprays of new buds reaching upward to the light. Today, they all opened, creating a gorgeous lacy filigree of pink and white between and above the leaves and branches of the ficus. They adapted to each other and created a superb counterbalance of shades of green and bursting clusters of color. Their combined beauty outshone their separate existences. A lesson to be learned?

I read somewhere "You don't get harmony when everyone sings the same note."

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Mandevilla flowers in the ficus tree

      We have a small terrace attached to our apartment. Our view to the right used to stretch unimpeded to the East River, but 47 years in this apartment have taken their toll. Tall apartment buildings have sprung into being over the years, eating more and more sky, obstructing more and more of the open spaces we loved. Immediately across from our terrace is a jumbled skyscape of smaller buildings; on a good day their shapes crisp against a clear blue sky.
      Last year our building underwent a massive renovation. Railings and metal netting were replaced by shiny new railings and large glass panels. That is all that separates us from the street far below, a thought that makes me slightly queasy. I miss the metal netting. It somehow seemed more substantial.
      I used to plant morning glory seeds and weave them in and out so that their purple blossoms surprised us at our morning coffee on those rare days when breezes blew softly and our terrace seemed like a magical harbor far above the teeming city, offering a soothing entry into the day.
      Today, bright blooms flourish on the outside sill of our bedroom window, and geranium plants, cut back before we brought them indoors last fall, have pushed up against the glass panels, sometimes stretching through the spaces between to lift their flowers closer to the sun.
      In the far left corner of the terrace we placed our old ficus tree, which we nurtured from a thin twig to its present expansive canopy of branches and leaves. Lightly grazing the ceiling, it, too, winters in the apartment, and every spring, I enjoy seeing the dulled winter leaves reach for the sunlight and dance in the breeze on the terrace, acquiring a rich sheen as summer progresses. This year, I placed a small mandevilla plant beside the ficus against the grey partition that separates our terrace from that of our neighbors. An abundance of conical buds and some luminous pink blooms promised a beautiful summer.
      I was not prepared for the aggressive survival tactics of the mandevilla. It released graceful tendrils into the air, swaying, seeming almost to bring a consciousness to the act, braiding its tendrils together into thicker ropes, reaching out to find the branches of the ficus and twisting itself tightly, spiraling along the branches of the ficus toward the light, its large flat leaves intermingling with the delicate leaves of the ficus.
      At first, almost amused at its antics, we took pleasure in the fact that the ficus had begun to showcase some blooms not of its own creation. But every morning we observe the vine integrating more and more with its host. The ficus looks happy, nonetheless. Is it eager for this companionship that could bring about its demise? At the first sign of distress we plan to intervene.
     Meanwhile, we watch, and wait, and I am reminded of a poem I loved, Beleaguered Cities, by F.L. Lucas, which ends with the lines:

Build, build the ramparts of your giant town;
Yet they shall crumble to the dust before
The battering thistledown.

     I tremble before the power of the weak.
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