Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Bit of Earth (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme)

A bit of earth
She wants a little bit of earth she'll plant some seeds
The seeds will grow
The flowers bloom their beauty just the thing she needs
- From the Secret Garden musical

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine
- From Scarborough Fair, English folk song made popular by Simon and Garfunkel

I'm a certified city girl and I've never professed a love for plants. I used to laugh at my mother who talked to her plants during the morning. And I never really understood my aunts' fascination for orchids and roses. I mean flowers are pretty but to actually spend your time and energy caring for them?

One exception to my no plants rule is herbs. My mother grows herbs and she sometimes uses fresh oregano leaves to flavour her pastas. I love the smell of her oregano and mint plants. So I've always wanted an herb garden or plant box of my own. I fantasized about having fresh herbs on hand during the someday I learn to cook. Watching Jamie Oliver in 'The Naked Chef' sealed the deal because he has a plant box by the window sill where he gets his fresh rosemary and thyme.

My aunts gave me a bit of money for my birthday so I decided that this will be my gift to myself. My flatmate and I went off to Bunnings Garden Centre and saw rows and rows of cute little plants. Not knowing anything about plants, I got help from one of the staff there. Jill directed me to the herbs section and she chose two easy-to-grow ones - rosemary and thyme. She also corrected my pronunciation of thyme, saying that it should sound like 'time'. I asked about laurel or bay but she said that it actually grows into a tree so I shouldn't buy that. Since I've been using parsley in cooking, I got that one too.

But then she told me that those little plant pots weren't enough. I actually have to buy a big pot and a small sack of potting mix. What the? Feeling a bit terrified that it was becoming more difficult than I thought, I said that I'd maybe wait for my aunt to come back from overseas to teach me.

Jill then started to reassure me, "It's easy, just put the potting mix into the pot and then dig a little hole then transfer the plant." Still feeling skeptical, she also instructed me to separate the parsley into two or three and plant them around the rosemary and thyme. Then gave some instructions about watering the plants. Armed with this information, we then went into the actual store and she helped me choose a plant box and a good but cheap potting mix with a bit of fertilizer in it. My flatmate read the instructions in the potting mix and we realised that I needed gardening gloves. So we got a flowery pair, a small plant spray and I plunged into the unknown.

When we got home, we semi-cleared the patio of boxes that Charry has been keeping for the time she moves to another flat. Found out that it's actually illegal to have junk and clothes lines on the patios here. But then Charry doesn't have any other place to put the boxes.

Got down to the business of repotting this afternoon. I think I used up more than half of the potting mix. Put the rosemary in first. Dug a shallow hole but then realised that the roots were actually deeper than my hole. I then proceeded to choke the roots of the plant trying to get it out of its pot. Then put in the old thyme, this was easier as I just squeezed the pot and got everything out. Divided the parsley into two. But then the roots of the parsley is more shallow and the plant was going this way and that. In short, I think I half-killed the parsley trying to straighten it out and then planting and replanting it.

Here is the final result. After almost 30 years of life on Earth, I now have my little bit of earth.

P.S.Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme were used as a recurring line in the song Scarborough Fair because it evoked meaning to medieval people. Parsley took away bitterness, sage symbolised strength, rosemary symbolised faithfulness and love while thyme symbolised courage.