the happy elephant

Greetings and salutations everyone; one again it is I, Chess the purebred border collie, filling in for the guy I live with, who’s been busy trying to figure out which way is up, as I’ll explain more below. You may remember me from such posts as “Left Alone” and “Another Lonely Day”, among other posts, most of which are not quite as sad as those. He left me alone again today, but not for long, and he brought back food for me. What a hunter, huh? Here I am in a characteristic pose. Characteristically out of focus, too.


The guy I live with says my mouth is open a lot. (“Whether his mouth be open or shut.”) I’ve said that before, and my reply is still the same. Look who’s talking. Anyway, it was kind of hot today. 87 degrees F (30.5C) and 13 percent humidity. (“Almost up to the limit”, he said, though it felt really dry.)

When he came back from hunting, he said we weren’t going to do anything.  Like we do anything anyway. That suits me just fine.

He was just sitting here doing nothing, when the mail came, and there was a box.


It had a happy elephant on it.


It was a box full of bulbs from Janis Ruksans in Latvia, and the guy I live with got pretty excited, like a happy elephant. He likes bulbs a lot. They like him too, which is even better.


Well, the guy I live with says it’s sometimes hard to tell which end is up with corydalis. Some of the tubers look like little potatoes or Jerusalem artichokes, which you know really aren’t from Jerusalem, but from the Italian girasole, meaning turn toward the sun, a sunflower. (Though in Italy I guess the Jerusalem artichoke is called topinambur.) I certainly wouldn’t face away from the sun if I were a plant. But the guy I live with says some do. Hymenoxys grandiflora, for instance, always faces east. Some botanists call this Rydbergia but it still faces the same way.

Where was I? Oh, the corydalis. The guy I live with says, when in doubt, plant them on an angle, and the plants will figure it out. Sometimes, anyway. They’re going in this garden, which looks fairly empty, but it really isn’t.


The chicken wire is to keep new plants from being horribly eaten by rabbits. The French scare cat is to scare away anything that needs to be scared. They scared the poop out of the neighbor dog but he’s not a purebred border collie, just a dingbat. I don’t have papers but I’m still a purebred. My parents herded sheep. I sleep on very soft sheets from Pottery Barn, but the guy I live with says they aren’t the most expensive ones, so, really, I’m roughing it.

And next spring, assuming the guy I live with planted the tubers the right way, my garden will be filled with corydalis in April, even if it’s snowing. We’ll both be happy elephants, then. (I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds good.)

I better go now.

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8 Responses to the happy elephant

  1. Fisher, the Wonder Dog says:

    Latvia? Really? For someone who describes themselves as a “miserable gardener”, the guy you live with seems to take this stuff pretty seriously, or is “miserable” meant to describe his state of mind, rather than his gardening skills. Or is to leave us wondering the intent?

    • paridevita says:

      Latvia really. Lithuania maybe next week …. And the U.K. too. No sense of restraint here.
      The guy I live with thought “the miserable gardener” was a pretty funny title. He can recommend a blog from across the pond, called “the anxious gardener”, too.
      He has rare tulips to plant, so left all the talking to me.

      • Fisher, the Wonder Dog says:

        My Grammy’s parents were from Lithuania. She doesn’t remember them ever saying anything about elusive plants. Lots of talk about amber, though. And the evil Red Army.

      • paridevita says:

        The story here, according to the guy I live with, so it’s kind of muddled, is that there were a group of avid gardeners in the countries of the former Soviet Union (the guy I live with tells another story, of a friend of his who heard that the word “xeriscape” was trademarked, and he was going to trademark the phrase “the former Soviet Union” ……) who collected plants and bulbs in places like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and so forth and now they’re important sources of rare bulbs and rock garden plants and so forth.
        The guy I live with highly recommends the book Buried Treasures by Janis Ruksans.

  2. pamit says:

    The vagaries of gardening in the intermountain west are challenging, sometimes misery-inducing, and very occasionally produce smidgens of ecstasy. Such as when seeds, plants, or bulbs lie in front of us, awash with possibility. Pardon the grammer, Chess.

    • paridevita says:

      The guy I live with says that living along the Front Range isn’t so bad, so long as you abandon the desire to pretend you live somewhere else, and spend a lifetime or two searching for suitable plants. Sometimes elusive plants.

  3. Vivian Swift says:

    I don’t think that’s a Latvian elephant. I think that’s a wooly mammoth, wearing his jaunty little wooly cap. Didn’t wooly mammoths once roam the Latvian tundra? (Wait. Is there a tundra in Latvia? Are you growing Latvian tundra tulips? If there is no such thing as a Latvian Tundra Tulip, there should be.)

    I’ve never been so miserable since I decided to write a garden book, so I totally get the “miserable gardener” tag. I wish Linnaeus had used oh, Latvian or Portuguese or Esperanto when he devised his taxonomy … it’s so depressing to have to resort to Latin when you write about gardens. “Datura” is such a disappointing name for such a beautiful flower, for example, no romance whatsoever. Almost makes me want to write fiction (shudder).

    Chess is still my favorite wooly mammal, no matter how rare the Latvian stuff is.

    I’m now going to look up that Buried Treasures book. I hope its about buried treasures.

    • paridevita says:

      It is about buried treasures, bulbs being buried in the ground.
      The guy I live with suggests searching for datura on the blog to see where it really comes from, then maybe the romance will return.

      Oh, and the guy I live with also says to never write books. He said “never to write books” but I changed it.

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