Moving to Ankara, one of the first things I did was to start planting. Back home, I was a part of a group that began the Broad and South Community Arts Garden. I think it is currently known as the Garden of the Arts. (Click the link to see its beautiful website!) Back then, it was almost a square block of open land, full of rubbish and rock. We built 40 plots. There was a large open area ready for “projects”. So through the years we built a closed-in dog run, planted a rose garden, added a Japanese tea house, a shed for tools, a pumpkin patch, a picnic area, a desert garden, a sunflower patch, walkways, and a party area – uh, I mean, picnic area! It was just beautiful! There is nothing more delicious than the “South St. Salad”!
Eventually management was lacking, so I took over running the show. They called me “Madame President.” But of course, it was a self-imposed job, so I didn’t let it go to my head or anything. I let them call me “Prez” for short!
When I moved across town, I gave up the garden. I did have small areas for my gardening at my new home. I had plants and flowers in the front and in the back I grew tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, bush green beans, and herbs. I even had a few Turkish varieties!
I also developed a love of orchids. The first orchid I owned was an oncidium, “Dancing Lady.” She was beautiful. I was told she would be fussy and difficult to care for. But she liked it everywhere! I had her on the 22nd floor of a Philadelphia office building. Then she went to my small condo where I put her out in the window box for the summers. Eventually she moved across town with me, first to a rental house where she enjoyed bright sun and then to “the big house”, where she continued to delight me with almost continuous blooms!
So back to Ankara. I had a fresh page. Two small balconies and a huge living room window sill that basked in the sun! I couldn’t wait to get started! When I arrived, my mother-in-law had already furnished my first houseplant. I am happy to say it is still doing well.
But after that, I had trouble. People kept giving me african violets and I kept killing them. When summer came, I bought geraniums and vegetable plants. I know – why grow them when they are so cheap to buy in the markets? But I did. What I wasn’t expecting was how hot it can truly get in the summer. Keeping up with watering became a hassle! Let’s just say that we didn’t have much fresh produce on the balcony come dinner time.
I even brought plants from home and from Germany. Perennials that I haven’t seen much of here – coral bells, variegated hostas, a big ground cover cactus, the works! Alas, nothing survived but my garden gnome!
At some point, my luck changed. Currently I am the proud owner of not one, but two violets that are doing well. My mother gave me a piece of a lovely begonia that I was originally given to me about 6 years ago or so. It’s doing great too! I have a two pieces Christmas cactus, one from Mom and one from Aunt Martha. My neighbor gave me a cyclamen – which I have never been able to grow – and it’s blooming for months on end. My husband gave me an orchid for Christmas, the ones that are supposed to be easy, a Phaleanopsis. She almost died, but has recovered nicely. The pièce de résistance? My Dancing Lady!! On a visit to the States many years ago, my mother-in-law took a piece of my orchid. I gave her all of the necessary supplies, wished her well, but had little hope. She returned the favor by giving me a piece of the same plant! Oh what joy! She is still tiny, but she is a survivor! I can’t wait for her to grow and bloom.
I still miss my Jerry Garcia passion flower. The variety of plants, flowers, and vegetables is somewhat lacking here. So if you are heading this way, please bring seeds!
I found myself back on the balconies this morning. Fighting the installation of a homemade trellis. Repotting spaghetti squash starters. (Thanks to my big Sis for the seeds!) Moving my thyme, basil, oregano, and Fesleğen (a Turkish basil) into larger containers. Enjoying the beauty of the surviving geranium from last year. And sending out emails begging for butternut squash seeds! Here we go again! Wish me better luck this year. I know I can. I know I can!