Author: Ramos, Jean

In the Garden

A couple weeks ago I sang for the funeral service of a friend. His wife had requested the song, “In the Garden,” a perennial favorite for memorials. My friend had been a rice grower, had a large orchard of fruits and nuts, and always had a productive vegetable and flower garden. The song was fitting for the occasion and the person.

Have you ever noticed how one small job turns into several larger ones? That’s the way my summer has gone. I believe it started out with the purchase of a large umbrella for the patio. As I sat outside in the evening I began wishing I had something more than a few potted plants to look at. I visited the local nurseries and began planning my landscaping project. I got half of the side yard done but there was a small semi-circle area behind the garage that needed work. It was then that I noticed how badly in need of paint the garage was. This was the beginning of a much larger project. Without going into a lot of detail, suffice it to say that the past several weeks have been spent in preparing the garage for painting. Hey, while we’re at it, why don’t we remove that window and match up some redwood siding there? You get the picture. Well now the garage has been painted and yesterday I finally got back to that semi-circle and finished the planting and mulching.

How does all this fit into a bluegrass welcome column? Well, all the time I spent in the landscape process got me to thinking of how much our bluegrass family is like a garden. Just as some plants and flowers are colorful and flamboyant (think Central Valley Boys), so it is with some of our pickers and singers. Some plants are placed in the back of the more “showy” plants; they are there for a backdrop. They enhance the plants in the foreground and play a vital role in the garden and so it is in the world of bluegrass. You have your lead singers and pickers, and you have those that support them and bring out the best in their performances.

Flowering plants and fruits require pollination in order to produce fruit or to reseed. In our bluegrass community, we have many people who are willing to get others started in learning to play an instrument and sing the music we love. This insures that the music will live on. Once in a while, you’ll come across some “cross-pollination” where what you come up with may be a mixture of varieties. One time I planted some gourds too close to my zucchini and yellow crookneck squash. I had edible squash but it was peculiar to look at. It’s the same with our music; we often bring in a little something from “outside” the genre but it works and people smile and tap their feet.

When I was selecting some shrubs, I had to be careful to read labels. Many of them will need quite a bit of room to grow. I could have paid $29 for an Indian Hawthorn that was well on its way but I opted for the one in the smaller container for less than $4.00. I’m patient, but I need to allow it room to grow. In the bluegrass community, we need to be patient with those who are beginning the journey, allowing them room to grow. Sometimes we are like the stake that you place next to an immature plant to support it while it grows and can make it on its own. One of my friends has a sign in her garden that says, “Grow, dammit!” I’m tempted…

Pruning is a necessary part of gardening. It makes the plants stronger and more productive. I’ve received some gentle pruning in my musical journey. When you receive constructive criticism from a fellow music lover, it’s a good thing. It improves your skills and breaks some bad habits you may not be aware of, however, if correction is done in a heavy handed, reckless fashion, it can damage the plant or even kill it off.

Some of the plants I put in my landscape are called ground covers. They are all over the place. They are the Cliff Compton and Randy Shelton of the garden scene. Need I say more? They are a very necessary part of the “garden,” holding things together, adding their own brand of beauty to the garden.

I chose some of my plants for their long blooming season, multiple blooms all summer and into fall. Floribunda is a term meaning many flowers. We have some folks in our bluegrass community who are your garden variety floribunda. They are the ones who are multi-talented, multi-instrumented and prolific in their music. I won’t name any names, you know who they are.

Some flowers will bloom twice a year; spring and fall, if weather conditions are right. Think of this second blooming as the encore performance. At the bluegrass festivals it is almost obligatory, a bonus.

I could go on and on with the parallels but I know you can think of a few of your own. Think in garden terms; drought tolerance, propagation, potted plants, evergreen, fertilizer…find your place in our garden, add your own brand of color, bloom where you’re planted. Don’t make me put up that sign (Ha Ha). Now that my “summer job” is finished, I will come out of musical dormancy and get on with some music. Hope to see you all at Plymouth or the Fall Camp-out.
Posted:  8/26/2012

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email