Garden Detective: Poetry contest winners

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Sy Roth, of Mount Sinai, took first place

Sy Roth, of Mount Sinai, took first place in the 2012 Garden Detective Poetry Contest for his entry, "Lilliputian Paradise." (May 29, 2012) Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

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Jessica Damiano Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnist

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 20 years experience in radio, television, print

Last month I asked readers to celebrate their garden's smallest features with prose. Nearly 75 sent in poems of 10 lines or less expressing their appreciation for dainty plants and tight spaces. Some were funny, some heartfelt, others highbrow, but all were worth a mention. 

Sy Roth of Mount Sinai gets top honors for his intellectual musings in "A Lilliputian Paradise." Karl W. Horlitz of East Hampton rightfully earned his second place standing for "My Little Garden," a literary work to which many surely will relate. And Debra North of East Meadow takes a respectable third place for her creativity in "Strawberry," combining odes to a very clever container and the greatest band of all time. Everybody else gets my gratitude for taking the time to compose, submit and simultaneously honor poetry and plants, which both are too often overlooked.

FIRST PLACE: "A Lilliputian Paradise," by Sy Roth, Mount Sinai

A pointillist nightmare garden, a reductio ad absurdum?

A Monet, one washed by delicate soft strokes?

Or a Van Gogh drawn bold, emotional and crammed with maddening color?

Give me all of them, ones scaled down, proportioned to satisfy smaller desires,

Ones inhabiting daintier spaces where I can dabble in the Eden of my creation

And jump into the spiritual heart and soul of matter

Rather than be drawn haphazardly into wild, unrestrained spaces.

Plant in miniature and cut with smaller shears,

Mix in an audacious blanket of darkened mulch that hugs the snug bed of flowers,

And sit there, once in this spot, then another, assuaging the soul.

SECOND PLACE: "My Little Garden," by Karl W. Horlitz, East Hampton

I've planted a little garden,

That is there for one and all

Tho small, it shows its beauty

It's as long as I am tall.

There are no pretty roses

Nor Gardenias to show its worth

It's filled with plants from the roadside

That God has placed on Earth.

THIRD PLACE: "Strawberry," by Debra North, Lindenhurst

Karl Horlitz, outside his home in East Hampton. Horlitz, 90, took 2nd place in the 2012 Garden Detective Poetry Contest for his entry, "My Little Garden," an ode to weeds. (May 29, 2012) Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

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Poor berry

You had visions of Beatles Fields Forever

But not my clever container,

Imagine --

A spaghetti strainer. . . .

Still, you bear fruit

Dig in and root for the Sun King-

In a bed of planted milk cartons we made

An Octopus' Garden in the Shade.



"Good Gardens Come in Small Packages," by Julia Manolis, 7, Floral Park

Debra North, of East Meadow took 3rd place in the 2012 Garden Detective Poetry Contest for her entry, "Strawberry," which pays homage to Beatles song titles and her spaghetti-strainer strawberry pot. (May 29, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Jessica Rotkiewicz

Gardens are the gifts what Mother Nature gives

plants, like roses, marigolds and daffodils too!

When the day begins, the garden is bigger than last time and beginning to bloom.

The plants are shining in the sunlight,

and there is morning dew on the ground,

it gives me a morning smile under the sunrise of the shining sun.


"The Journey," by Rosalie Silverman, Commack

My grandmother's pickling crock

journeyed from across the seas.

It now sits nestled on my patio.

Tiny roses bloom within

bringing cheer and memories.

"Block Garden," by Carmela Dolce, Medford

Vines took hold

in fertile ground

luscious strawberries

would abound

from a hollow

cinder block

in a pinch

growing anywhere

for her . . . a cinch.


"Downsized," by Irma Souveroff, Baldwin

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Now hung, the herbs bring green delight

To a smaller living space

Than I once knew, but life goes on --

As a less frenetic race.

Confined my terrace plot may be,

With fewer seeds to sow

In gritty patience. Yet I sense,

Somehow, we both shall grow.

"Tomato Farm," by Jane Shelley, Wantagh

Grab the shovel, get the rake!

Spring is here, there are plants to stake.

Till the soil, dig holes in the dirt,

Plant the tomatoes in mother earth.

My farm is productive, and cared for by me,

In feet it measures just two by three!

Yielding fruit, as well as pleasure,

My little "acreage" is indeed a treasure!

"My Inspiration," by Patricia Barker, Uniondale

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Outside my kitchen door --

Three feet square, no more --

A little bed of herbs does thrive.

There chives and creeping thyme,

Fragrant basil, feathery dill

In wild profusion all survive.

Sweet lemon balm, oregano,

Rosemary and lavender

My flagging spirits soon revive.


"Expecting (from each small package)," by Sister Mary Sheppard, CSJ, Northport

Imagining multiple marigolden heads

Surrounded by baby breath-like alyssum,

I nourish, water and cultivate

The soil of earth's womb

With patience-tempered eagerness

As I joyfully anticipate

Each infant bloom.

"Good gardens come in small packages," by Rhonda Sayre, via email.

I planted my tomato seeds in the ground

And as you grew you made no sound

I planted you at the end of May

And came and watered you every day

I watched and waited for signs you were growing

And as weeks went by a green bud was showing

A tasty tomato I knew you'd be

A plump red ripe one I soon would see

So from a small package of seeds on a shelf

Came a big red tomato I grew by myself


"Viewpoint," by Joan Higuchi, West Islip

     I wondehow I look
            through the eyes of


Deborah Ann Rehm, Shirley: " The Comfort Zone"

Fragrant smells wafting

through the kitchen window

from my square foot

herbal garden below.

Freshly snipped swiss chard

nurtured from seeds is not hard.

Some basil for my sauce

or a cup of mint chocolate tea.

Only a small space needed to grow

the herbs that soothe and comfort me.

Donald E. Allen, Amity Harbor: "Broken"

You had a broken handle when you first came to me.

Thrown away just like broken people are,

in our society.

So I took some epoxy putty and a new handle for you I made.

Then I restored you to your rightful place,

beside my garden hoe and spade.

For a tool some thought to be broken, you have more to give I see.

That is why I like my mended garden tool so much,

it is so much like me.

Nicole Menzzasalma, Island Park: Untitled

The flowers in Nana Ray's garden died,

along with the rosemary and thyme.

The tulips never sprouted another spring.

The tools in the shed rusted with sadness, ivy covered the shed uncontrollably.

Green moss and weeds grew over her stepping stones,

entombing her footprints to evoke her.

The virtue in the nature unraveled, the weeping willows made the other trees cry.

Queen Anne's lace crumbled into brown decay, infinitely mourns, the nature in her garden.

Nana's fingers charmed her nursery well, the garden's melancholy as are we.

The day she died the garden died with her.

Michelle Gagne, Medford: "Uncle Johnny's Smile"

Johnny-jump-ups in the garden

Uncle Johnny in a chair

cerebral palsy keeps him there

with sunlight dancing on his hair

he loved a tenement rooftop breeze

his picture smile puts me at ease

please always plant some heart's ease


hide and seek me in the garden

Robert Makofsky, Port Jefferson: "Ode to a Bugleweed"

There you stand amongst the oily green grasses and soft fuzzy dandy lions

Sprouting up from tangled stringy roots matted into the wet cold soil

Dark purple flowers just inches above the early blades of grass testing spring

You dress like the bard in borrowed robes disguised weed-like with roots sprawling

An untrained eye will cut you back, dig you out, uproot you to the mulch pile

Where you will languish without light uncared for turning brown, then black like the night

I gather you up carefully, roots in hand and on my knees place you gently

In the nurtured soil just dug and turned

Hoping to share your simple beauty in the shade of an old oak waiting for a friend.

Susan Dell'Orto, Lindenhurst: "Good Gardens Come in Small Packages"

The time is here

The earth is alive

With the miracle of perennials

Each having their turn to bloom

Goodbye to creeping pflox and hello to black-eyed Susan

Splashes of annuals for a pop of color

impatiens -- marigold -- petunia

And then -- from a small seed package -- lo and behold

The mammoth sunflower reaches up toward heaven

The garden is enriched in all its glory

Kathy Miller, East Northport, "Untitled"

There's an item in the shade

That's sorry to say handmade

It's made with love

And could fit in a glove

A heartfelt slogan is what it says

About a cat who has laid his head

So when spring comes and the dew is gone

We nod our head and say so long

Just Velez, Bronx: "To my Carnation"

You gave me yellow roses for friendship.

You gave me red roses when you said I love you.

You gave me a bouquet of white roses when we wed.

You brought narcissus flower for our firstborn son,

and the sweet pea of daisy for our second son that rest in peace next to you.

I am the lily of the valley I bring to you, your grand bouquet two

Narcissus one snowdrop one carnation, a marigold, chrysanthemum,

Jonquil, daisy and larkspur. What joy to share with you the sunset and

The morning of grand flowers that brightens up heaven and earth.

Karl O'Leary, Sound Beach: "A Peculiar Allure"

A delicate dew

Glistens upon a newly-emerged bud

Commencing its daily journey

Striving through the chill of morning

With a proud resurgence

Leaning for its source of light

Stalks of strength transgressing its might

Manifesting its beauty within

Elucidating an atmosphere of angelic tranquility

Trista L. Breil, Oceanside: "Untitled"

Black knight Lily,

sets the night on fire.

Woven waves

of amber flames.


a diamond dotted sky.

Paula Camacho, Farmingdale: "Lilacs"

I cannot resist the sweet smell

of their purple stars.

Arriving past the edge of winter,

their aromas are lost outside

to wandering winds.

I bring a bouquet inside

for the company of their perfume

and for a few days I am reminded

how a small pleasure can grab you

and change the direction of a day.

Barbara Kaufmann, Massapequa Park, "Garden Gems"

Wildflowers awaken, waiting

like shy teenagers at the first dance,

Painted fern dresses in lace,

Epimedium in delicate yellow and pink,

Solomon's Seal, creeps soldier-like toward the sun,

Lenten Rose lingers long past Easter,

Columbine nods at a cool breeze,

Forget-me-nots reflect the sky's glory,

Purple bugleweed hugs the shade,

Tiny gems recall a grandmother's garden.

Diane Long, Saint James, "The Iris"

'Tis ironic that the iris has stolen my heart

Since of the garden it only has a small part.

Yet it spreads and it blooms in May of each year --

The bright purple flowers looking glad to be here!

Tho thief it may be of heart and of soil,

I willingly surrender and do nothing to foil.

For this beautiful bounty is a gift from above,

Nature's reminder of peace, hope and love.

Valerie Skelly, Bellmore, "Untitled"

He's proud as proud as he can be

He's hung a shoe holder on a tree

And as he finishes his task,

What's that doing there? I ask.

You're right he says -- aah! Now it's done

The side of the house gets way more sun,

He fills the pouches with soil and seed.

Well, I mutter you won't have to weed.

Laugh if you want just wait and see

You'll eat your words, I'll eat parsley!

Submitted by Laurie Brancaleone Kenna, Floral Park; written by Antoinette Marsala (1919-1994): "Tulips"

Did you ever see tulips grow

tall and straight and all in a row

their colors resemble a rainbow hue

red and yellow, pink and blue

Other flowers of beauty rare

to a tulip cannot compare

and when they die and fade away

and leaves and grass are in their way

I will always see my tulips fair

because their bulbs are planted there.

Susan Colledge, Southampton, "Flash of Blue"

How do I admire thee?

Let me count your beauty . . .

Your bright blue plumage,

indeed a rare cutie.

Never mind the Oriole,

besides, he was a no-show.

You have chosen my pole

graced my yard,

magnificent Eastern Bluebird.

Noreen McAllister-Bifulco, Port Jefferson Station: "Mint"

I have done it again.

In one moment every spring,

I stop to snip the fresh breath of mint

A growing miracle, planted within thyme

Near sage, each sprig reaped

Some for my son's bun -- an offering

With his touch, all rebirths in broad day

And I'm left with that heady scent

That sprouts the belief

All that's gone can return again.

Regina Genova, Middle Island: "For love of the Hosta"

The green leaves of the hosta plant so perfect and bright

Come up each spring of their own given right.

As these border plants were showing their reason for being,

Along came tall predators, tempting greens they were seeing.

The beautiful deer which we always loved

We grew not to be so enamored of --

The strong hosta plants so lush and new

Became a gourmet dinner for the four-legged crew.

These beauties of nature, we placed in clay pots

Our deck came alive as the hostas evolved, beautiful garden, problem solved.

Terri Donahue, Center Moriches: "Ode to a Tiny Pansy"

The tiny pansy debuts its blooming "face" in early spring

Its petals quaint and delicate, like a butterfly's wing

This colorful flower is the best one yet

It's cousin to the viola and violet

This cool weather annual is a "perennial" delight

When some seeds sow themselves, it's a beautiful sight

Its royal purple and yellow overlapping petals

Make this flower one of nature's edibles

Pansies' short-lived blooms that look like faces

Are my favorite of all, in my garden's small spaces.

Tony Trapanotto, Lindenhurst, Untitled

I'm just a violet

a violet in bloom

sitting here in my garden

with just enough of room

the people that planted me

will surely see soon

that within my small garden

I can surely grow and bloom

Christine A. Barbour, Woodhaven: "The Peony Tree"

Peony petals unfurl from their bulbous heads to show

hundreds of variegated blossoms pushing sweet perfume out

into the green atmosphere and where ants dance between

the double flowers and carry pollen dust on their antennas

as they run through the soft succulent dew of spring

getting high when they draw in the wonderland

of the pale pink and white flora of the peony tree

if only for a few short weeks pleasing Paeon,

the physician of the gods, who loves their

stately, rare, huge flowers.

Carla Procida, West Islip: "What I See"

You brave soul, nothing more than a weak little twig

yet I see you flourishing so your home I now dig,

already I inhale your sweet, breathtaking scent

though with one small breeze your body has bent.

Planted alone so none could choke or cause you thirst

no doubt one day on this plot your flowers shall burst,

although compared to Charlie Brown's famous tree

I look at you and a beautiful lilac bush is all I see.

Christina Abbenante, Holtsville, "My Fathers Garden"

In a small patch

of ground

In the back of

the yard

Is my Fathers Garden

Peppers and Pumpkins

Cucs and corn

Eggplant and Tomatoes

Cherry and Beefsteak

In my Fathers Garden

Oh those Tomatoes

hot, juicy and fragrant

Picked ripe right off

the vine

From my Fathers Garden

Sharing -- the tastes

the smells -- musky

the memories -- warm

Of my Father

In my Fathers Garden

Betty Marie Wybenga, Center Moriches: Untitled

A mid-day bed catching sun

found fiddlehead unfurling,

daffodils nodding,

roses standing "prim."

Rays beamed to me . . .

unseemly grass is in between.

Reaching, pulling, separating sandy soil

from green blades;

a baby box turtle surprising spring and me!

Joan Vullo Obergh, Seaford: "Spring Seduction"

There is an unkempt elegance in

the slumbering early spring garden,

a shameless appeal to dormant senses.

Clay pots eagerly waiting, bare earth reveals

nubile sprouts, shoots and sheaves, brittle brown

leaves scattered over unmade garden beds,

disheveled like a woman lazily awakening,

tousled and easy with the taste of promise and

pleasure lingering on her sweet, warm morning breath.

Margaret Bavoso, Plainview: "A Rose Garden"

She ties up the wild red rambling roses

Prunes the yellow tubular rose

Smiles at the blushing pink miniatures

"Don't they have sweet little faces?"

She breathes in the delicate fragrance

Going into her castle

Carla pauses,

"Thank you my rose garden

For bringing so much beauty into my life."

Margaret Titone, Rocky Point: "Wild Violets"

When they appeared in our garden

I mused

Pretty weeds with purple flowers.

Still weeds --

They had to go.

I dug and tugged

They refused to leave.

Popping up here there everywhere

Flourishing --

Now friends we cohabitate.

Louise Webster, Port Jefferson: "Lily-of-the-Valley"

Fragrant fairy wedding bells

Alabaster petal shells

Woodland flowers that thrive in shade

Fairest lily on hill or glade

Tiny teacups hung to dry

Gently sway as the breeze goes by

A star-strung night upon green leaves

A sign of spring beneath the trees

Elaine PasqualiLilies of the Valley

I remember Mom's love of Lilies of the Valley

small, white, bell-shaped beauties

their sweet fragrance wafting in from the garden

or from a vase on the kitchen sink

I remember Mom's love of Lilies of the Valley

and the small bottle of Lily of the Valley perfume

that she "spritzed" on herself on special occasions

I remember Mom's love of Lilies of the Valley

a patch of Lilies of the Valley grow in my garden

and their delicate beauty and sweet scent remind me of Mom

M.P. Kusen, Maspeth: "Crocuses"

When crocuses break through the ground,

They stretch and yawn and look around.

Purple, yellow, white and red,

All waking from their earthen bed.

They slept as frosty winds did blow.

Beneath the winter's ice and snow,

And when at last the earth did thaw,

They thrust their colors out once more.

Prodding fellow flowers to awake --

"Come on get up for heaven's sake!"

Kathy Levine, Long Beach: "Small Wonders"

Whenever a neighbor asks me: How does your garden grow?

I admit it's not all my doing. I have help from my loved ones, you know.

See the masses of irises adorning the fence?

That began with three bulbs from my Mom.

And the abundance of lavender under the tree

Dewdrop diamonds glisten

On delicate fragrant leaves

Clay pots hold earth and roots

Parsley, basil, rosemary,

Thyme, mint, oregano

Sprout perky sprigs

An herbal bounty for my feasts

Was once a sprig from my dear friend Tom.

It's a miracle these glorious blossoms

Started out as small seedlings in a pot

But you can see when it comes to the garden

Little things do mean a lot.

Carolyn Rushefsky, Belle Harbor: "Good Gardens come in small packages"

My impatiens blooming inside clay pots are lovely.

So, too, marigolds, petunias and queen anne's lace.

Worms coiling inside the soil help these flowers grow

But the grubs, no.

They destroy their roots

And are ugly, besides

Happy to say crushed egg shells

Help keep the grubs at bay.

Florence Gatto, Bellmore: "Mini Garden"

Dewdrop diamonds glisten

On delicate fragrant leaves

Clay pots hold earth and roots

Parsley, basil, rosemary,

Thyme, mint, oregano

Sprout perky sprigs

An herbal bounty for my feasts

Laura J. Hebenstreit, Middle Island: "My Little Garden"

It's just a little piece of land, a border 'round my door,

But with the flowers that I plant, I couldn't want for more.

The sunshine and the soft spring rains will help my plants along,

And as they blossom and come to life it fills my heart with song.

All I need's my little plot to plant a sprig or two.

Smell the perfumes, see the blooms, in pink and red and blue.

Softest greens of petal and stem, to contrast them just right.

Sunlight dabbled in the day, still fragrant through the night.

It may be small, but it's all mine, and it will have to do.

Maybe one day you'll stop by and I'll share it all with you.

Susan Marie Davniero, Lindenhurst: "Garden's Tour"

A garden tour

Flowers galore

The garden gate

Floral beauty await

A flower bath

Lace the path

Bouquet beauty

Garden variety

Fragrance there

Pervades the air

Blooming find

Nature's design

Anne Starnes Kingsbury, Huntington Station: "Wings"

Be as the orchid

though delicate and fair

must bloom and thrive in air

not rarified,

but host to hardy things.

A plant with earthly wings.

Margarita Duncan Tomko, Farmingdale,"The Children's Garden"

The sweet pea vines climb high

They cover the Victorian trellis

Last year the children planted seeds

The sweet pea vines climb high

They keep the garden free of weeds

So on pink bright blossoms bees may feed

The sweet pea vines climb high

They cover the Victorian trellis.

Leslie Schult, Huntington: "Lilly of the Valley"

Spring brings the little ones to bloom

There hidden beneath the first azaleas.

Green slender leaves covet their prize

Of tiny white bells hanging from a thread.

They sway ever so gently in the breeze

So fairies can hear them tinkle,

And May birthday girls wear their perfume.

Welcome to these delicate ivory lilies

Spring's little ones in bloom.

Joan E. Boudreault, Breezy Point: "Haiku"

along the garden,

hidden by large leafed hostas,

forget-me-not blooms

Edward Broderick, Rockaway Beach: "Vision in my Garden"


All the flowers that were

Or will be


Do not equal the beauty

Of thee

Linda Frohlinger, Massapequa, "Source"

To help things grow from rich moist earth,

Is the closest one can get to the very source of life.

Lovingly putting seed in furrows freshly scratched in neat rows.

A promise to tend with care, pull harmful weeds, feed young green sprouts.

I watch fat pink worms, hard at work turning kitchen scraps to dank rich soil.

One tickles as he wriggles in my palm.

I put him gently down and watch as he burrows out of sight,

Feeling peaceful and serene as the day falls into soft gray dusk.

Robert J. Savino, West Islip, "Footsteps in Bloom"

Chalk-sketching the driveway was fun

but paled to kicking a yellow ball

into Grandpa's garden before spring arrived.

She carefully hops over lavender crocus plants,

first to bloom through remnants of mulch.

My eyes drain, flood footsteps of her mother,

mindful of Jacinda frolicking in the flowerbed,

waiting for forget-me-nots and butterfly kisses.

All I have to do is turn around,

stepping stones of life grow before me.

Giacomo Galletta, East Northport: "Great-Grandma's Rose Garden"

The bones of the sea seem to smile,

shells bleached chalk-white by many

a harsh summer sun. They form

the underlying design, now

barely recognizable.

Its creator, I can't recall.

I learned that she was small,

patient and devoted

to ellipses and roses as her

ongoing expression of order.

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