Marty's Gardening Journal, September 2nd, 2011
Of course, you can count your blessings in many different ways. There was the spring my Laburnum tree bloomed for the very first time. It had taken 10 years to get those first flowers and I couldn’t have been happier. The following winter the tree died and Laburnum blooms were no longer in my future. Oh well, it was a perfect gardening moment while it lasted.
Then there was the year we bought the gazebo and had it assembled in the garden. I ended up digging up all the plants in its intended spot, only to find out the township’s regulations required putting the gazebo in a different spot. More plants were dug up and some were unceremoniously temporarily dumped in a corner. The whole building process took longer than expected; a worker hurt himself, the door was missing, and months later I realized the hodgepodge of plants had securely rooted itself in the ground and were a perfect complement to each other. To this day I marvel at the unintended combination which worked out so well.
And then there is my love for amphibians, frogs and toads, although I wouldn’t say no to the occasional newt either. As a kid in Holland I would go looking for frog eggs and bring them home. The transformation from tiny tadpole to small frog was eagerly followed and many frogs ended up coming out of our development, hopping down the block to the river. A few years ago, during a very wet summer, a shopping area was being built about a mile from our current house. The toads living in that area “went forth and multiplied”, by the thousands. That year our town made national tv as the place with “a plague of toads”. For me it was an opportunity to go looking for baby toads and release them in my garden. To this day you can hear toads calling to each other from every garden and I like to think some of those toads were introduced into our development by me. Then there were the frogs. Some years frogs would visit my ponds; some stayed for a while, then moved on.
Working in Morristown at a small campus with a few ponds I get to indulge my love in catching baby frogs and baby toads again. Sometime after mating season has passed and the tadpoles make their transformation to frog and land, it is time to start looking. During lunch time, hopefully when there is no one around, I go out with a plastic bottle and look for them in the grass on the edge of the pond. Once a dozen or so are captured I venture back to my desk and eagerly wait for quitting time.
A quick car ride home and the babies are released around the small pond in the front yard. The baby toads scatter in all directions. They don’t necessarily require a pond; a cool, damp spot will make a perfect hiding space for them. The baby frogs jump in the water, probably scaring the two small goldfish the very first time. Then, I keep an eye open to see if any stay. A week goes by, two, three weeks. Nope, they scattered; I’ll have to wait another year before I can catch more and release them in the garden. But wait, one morning when feeding the goldfish I see a little frog face peeking out from under a lily leaf. A few days later I spot a second frog; a week later a third and then a fourth! All are green frogs (Rana clamitans) one larger than the other one, one with a slightly different coloration than another. One is shy and jumps in the water when I get too close; another allows me to come within an inch of it.
They have their favorite spots around the pond; on top of a large stone sticking out of the water, sitting on a floating lily pad or peeking out from under a leaf. Then, one morning while getting ready to clean the filter in the large pond a frog caught in the skimmer net jumps out unexpectedly and scares the living daylights out of me. Again, a few weeks go by before I start spotting this frog on a regular basis. Now each day I count my frogs which have made my garden and ponds their home. I used to smile when I saw one frog; now with five in the garden my happiness spills over. See, sometimes it doesn’t take much to make a gardener happy.