Last month, I asked readers to participate in my seventh annual garden poetry contest, and participate they did: I received a record 103 poems. Long Islanders (and some out-of-towners, too) waxed poetic about daffodils, insects and life lessons gleaned from nature.
Gardeners and poets are two exclusive groups, but as it turns out, not mutually exclusive. Both share an appreciation for nature and have a keen sense for finding spiritual beauty in the physical world.
Wendell S. Storms of Levittown took first place for "The Injustice," a powerful and emotional, rhythmical journey that demands reflection, and perhaps re-evaluation of common beliefs and practices.
Janet Lemaire of Wantagh takes second place for her untitled poem about aging. Brief and simple on its surface, the composition reminds us that gardening is good for everyone's soul -- and its joys simply cannot be outgrown.
And Gladys Masucci of Copiague made me smile with her third-place entry, "Vegetation Devastation," a limerick capturing the failures experienced by every gardener at one point or another.
These and some of the best of the rest are published below.
Congratulations to all!
Wendell S. Storms, Levittown
One of man's erroneous deeds, A foible that correcting needs
Of calling certain flora weeds, While wantonly their growth impedes
Perfecting herbicidal needs, Whose consequence he seldom heeds
With spray and spreader's lethal speeds, A battle where the chemist leads
No victim cries, no victim bleeds, Just merely from the scene recedes
Yet, -- dandelion to swampgrass reeds, Have reason to be setting seeds
A chain of life, a plant that feeds, In nature's world there are no weeds.
Janet Lemaire, Wantagh
I am growing old
But not too old
To enjoy my garden
Where everything is alive
And so am I
Gladys Masucci, Copiague
My garden is now in decline
My tomatoes won't stay on the vine
My string beans lack string
My bluebells won't ring
And my grapes have refused to make wine!
Carmela Dolce, Medford
With each tug
of the dandelion
so goes the seed . . .
Margaret Hanan, Rockville Centre
When my heart aches
My garden beckons me.
When my tears flow
My garden soothes me.
When my sadness lingers
My garden cheers me.
Forever grateful am I.
Joan Ingles, Fresh Meadows
The passing years have left me jaded, but my love for gardening has never faded.
Each year Spring sings her sweet refrain, but more and more my joints complain.
With every motion of my rake my efforts bring another ache.
Planting, mulching, weeding, staking -- must be done with a back that's breaking.
Just when I think my garden is a sad delusion, I see the results in their glorious profusion.
The season's song has again been sung; the joy and the beauty will keep me young.
Lessons I Learned From My Plants
Christine Chiarelli, Brooklyn
The path to the light isn't always easy.
Sometimes you have to twist and bend, grow taller, be faster and shine brighter.
And then there's sometimes -- when it looks like all hope is lost,
that you've reached a point you think you can't come back from,
when you have to peel away the layers that are weighing you down,
until you find that tiny survivor deep inside, ever changing and ever growing,
that will guide you back to the light.
Ode to Caterpillar
Kathleen J. Aiello, Dix Hills
I have been on my knees taking care of my roses most of the day
and would appreciate it if you would slither to another pathway
Naeges Rothermel, Levittown
fresh green grass, no weed killer
Ann Mathisen, Port Washington
In the land of Nassau County,
There my dad reaps a bounty.
Big, red ... juicy from the vine,
Yummy tomatoes quite sublime.
Each summer they meet the test,
Then shaken with salt, eaten with zest!
J.R. Turek, East Meadow
No reservations required
Tables and chairs available only for shutterbugs and poets.
Backyard dining, healthy balanced meals for bees and beetles,
butterflies and hummingbirds, bunnies and squirrels.
Aster and goldenrod, larkspur and honeysuckle.
Mother Nature their chef and me their gardener.
My Garden of Eatin'
Eileen Melia Hession, Long Beach
The zucchini is taking over! It's spreading across the yard,
It already ate the tomatoes, devoured the peas and Swiss chard.
Its tendrils wind round the green peppers; the lettuce is next, I'm afraid,
The strawberry patch is in danger. What else will this species invade?
The extent of this devastation makes it so easy to see,
That I'd better start eating zucchini, before it starts eating me.
Mark Keller, Garden City
He who strives for perfection is always disappointed,
And so it goes with my lawn.
Can't cut it enough in Spring,
Browned blades from the summer's sun,
Layered with leaves in the Fall,
Blanketed below Winter's snow.
Fortunately, the grass isn't greener across the road.
Donald E. Allen, Amity Harbor
I plant the seeds,
and pull the weeds,
apply water and fertilizer.
I don't exactly know,
what makes things grow.
If I did, I'd be much wiser.
Lorri Goodman, Baldwin
Rest in peace Brian Moore
As my lilacs blossom every spring
I will think of you
Rest in peace Brian Moore
as a red-winged blackbird soars
above my giant old oak
I will think of you
Roses to Remember
Susan Marie Davniero, Lindenhurst
Bouquets throughout the years
When beautiful roses appears
Love blooms of romancing beaus
When giving me a single red rose
Dad's rose garden a show place
Grandpa's roses array on terrace
Art class rose drawing design by ink
Template etching the floral imprint
Heaven sent of white roses grace
Floral bed for Mother's final resting place
Blossoms one's born days of splendor
All my life are roses to remember
THE BEST OF THE REST
Terri Donahue, Center Moriches
The ferocious dandelion is not so "dandy," as it spreads its golden seed
Popping up here and there, growing abundantly at time's warp speed
It's the bane of my gardening days, as I attempt to annihilate this weed
As a child I ran to gather the silvery puffs and blow them frivolously into the air
Sending thousands of tiny seedlings on my parents' lawn without care
But when my grandchildren pick the billowy "flower" puffs, I want to stop them in despair
Then I remember, as I watch their joy of blowing dandelion seeds frivolously into the air.
Miriam Cohen, Valley Stream
The season's planting is done --
Colors, all over, appear
Morning comes -- a new day
However, to my dismay
There's dirt OUTSIDE the pots --
The squirrels have been here!
My Pocket Garden Hose
Elaine Anne Pasquali, Dix Hills
I've always been partial to pockets in my clothes
so imagine my joy when I learned of the pocket hose
It's a lovely green color, much like pistachio
and long enough to reach my garden and patio
Turn on the water and my pocket hose uncoils itself
turn off the water and it shrinks up like a tiny elf
Therefore, I propose, it's one mensch of a garden hose
Marigolds: My Go-to Plants
Elaine Anne Pasquali
My adorable mini schnauzers snatch at plants in my garden
they munch on my flowers and never beg my pardon
These mischievous pups present a flowers-pups dilemma
marigolds are nontoxic and bloom through September
Golden marigolds are my "go to" plants each year
I enjoy both pups and plants without having any fear
Ode to My Garden Bench "Ole Faithful"
Florien Mincone, East Meadow
If it were not for Ole Faithful, my garden would not be,
For getting up and down is not as easy as it used to be.
She lets me sit while I plant and weed,
She helps me get up and down,
She lets me sit and take a break before I move on to plant the rest of my grounds
So thank you Ole Faithful for always being there for me,
For without your help my garden just would not be.
Valerie Skelly, Bellmore
We love to experience the springtime thrill
Of a purple tulip and pale daffodil.
But if that brassy dandelion shows its mane
It's off with its head we quickly proclaim.
Can we ever dispose of this weed for good,
This lawn-spoiling blight of our neighborhood?
But children love me, they loudly declare,
They huff and puff and send my seeds everywhere!
The Garden Divine
Kathy Melia Levine, Long Beach
God's such a creative gardener
I noticed it this morning again.
The lilies of the valley have blossomed
They're beyond the minds of mere men.
Each plant holds dozens of tiny white bells
So delicate and exquisitely cast,
It took divine imagination to craft such beauty
And a love for the earth unsurpassed.
It's Just a Seed
Terri Lynn Ammon, Pataskala, Ohio
I once received a priceless gift, its value was unknown.
It was a rare original and a pride and joy to own.
Over the years its value increased and it was a joy to discover.
That I was not at all its owner, I was in fact its gardener . . .
The Mighty Oak
Myra M. Lavine, Wantagh
The devastation of Super Storm Sandy still lives in my backyard.
The mighty oak tree I planted as a seedling some 50 years ago was uprooted.
A neighbor removed the trunk and branches to burn in his fireplace but the stump remained.
What a splendid idea to leave it as a seat or a table -- wrong!
The stump fights back, sprouting branches in all directions -- an oak bush out of control.
My good intentions are all for naught.
Sadly, my beloved oak tree will have to be removed.
The Terrorist in My Garden
Gloria Kirsch, Boca Raton, Florida
I walk in my garden and what do I see?
A bug on a leaf staring at me.
I weed and I feed; do everything right.
My garden is my morning delight.
Mr. Bug, you know I work very hard.
How about flying to my neighbor's yard?
Maureen Baglio (with apologies to Joyce Kilmer), North Bellmore
I think that I shall never be
The gardener that I want to be.
My plans are big, ideas are grand
But once I have my trowel in hand
My back says, "No, you can't bend down!"
So on I dream, and smile, not frown.
Ode to my lawn
Maria Manobianco, Farmingdale
Oh, Dear Lawn, you are my Emerald Isle
I dream of walking on your grassy cover
inhaling the sweet smell of you
No weeds, no patchy spots or debris
to upset the perfect picture
The colorful flower beds do not distract
from your majestic presence
Gerald and Linda Deutsch, Glen Head
My wife and I were up at dawn
Today we were going to work on our lawn
We were going to plant seeds cause we both know
When seeds are planted plants will grow
It's clear to me and to my wife
That those seeds that are planted will produce life
Jane Shelley, Wantagh
Nestled 'neath the earth, my fellow bulbs and I
Waiting for a coaxing warmth shining from the sky.
Then one day it finally comes and nudges us to grow.
We stretch and stretch and reach above through that last bit of icy snow.
We sway and dance in spring's fresh breeze, sometimes without reason,
Our golden trumpets then burst forth to welcome a new spring season!
Ode to a Perennial
Peg Whelan, Long Beach
Unfazed by Sandy's salt water,
You righteously bloom every spring.
Taking your survival for granted,
Unaware of the joy that you bring.
Trish Collins, Shirley
I have no money left to spend
I have no time
My garden to tend
But a little raking out
And some pruning of my old friends
And beautiful colors will greet me
At a weary workday's end.
Ode to Ruthie
Cynthia Crockford, Mt. Sinai
We met for a reason
Hospice visits for a season
Nature was your playground
Snakes and frogs, you were especially fond
You have passed now . . .
In my garden pond
With a bright green smile, you've come back
Roni LaPolla, Port Jefferson Station
Rows of apple trees, black and brittle, rock stiffly in winter.
Their twigs frozen like spears of ice; holding nests of snow.
And in the Spring lithe and heavy under a great weight of blossoms.
The wind shaking the blossoms; they fly, looking like snow.
In Fall, the orchard will be filled with the smell of rotting fruit;
the sounds of birds and falling apples.
Laura DeYoung, Long Beach
We labored to change its sorry state
in nurture and care we did not abate.
Mulching and tilling for hours unending
working the earth that so needed mending.
Sandy wreaked havoc in yards all around
Tis true: time and love heal more than the ground.
Laura DeYoung, Long Beach
In this world of phonies and GMOs
my husband finds joy in the things he grows.
Buying his seeds from a well trusted source
because Monsanto he'll never endorse.
Soon he'll observe with much admiration
the fruit of his honest cultivation.
(In memory of Grandpa Joseph Cioffi)
Susan Marie Davniero, Lindenhurst
Sunshine awakens the birth
Grandpa's Roses from the earth
As blush of colors bathe
Grace the walking path
Enchanting scene we behold
As the rose buds unfold
Bloom is Heaven sent
Burst of sweet scent
Giving Mother Nature's kiss
Splendor by garden's bliss
The seasons comes and goes
Blossom of Grandpa's Roses
Linda Hickson, Bethpage
My husband loves to garden, he's inspired me too
I go off to the nursery to pick up a plant or two
He mostly does the backyard and I do the front
He mows and weeds the lawn, aches and pains he bears the brunt!
When all the work is done, together we sit and ponder
At the beauty of Mother Nature and all her magnificent wonder!
My Zen Garden
Anne M. Ehmann, Merrick
A novelty in my backyard,
a focal point of beauty and grace,
enshrined with trees, plants, and shrubs
this, my quiet, reflective space.
Sounds that soothe. Moments to be.
Step into my garden and be transformed
by its colors, calming stillness, and waterfalls.
Timothy L. Busam, East Northport
Many flats filled with flowers,
planting for hours and hours.
Bags of soil, peat moss and seed
and always you weed and weed.
Then water, water, watch it grow.
Sit back and enjoy the show.
The Fig Tree
Angela de Caprariis-Salerno, Garden City
Tar paper, burlap and twine . . .
Age-old process to protect that fig tree of mine.
Another frigid snowy, winter day . . .
Undo the cocoon in early May.
Branches too dark, it's the end I fear . . .
Weeks along -- tiny green buds slowly appear.
Tar paper, burlap and twine saved that old fig tree of mine!
Ode to a Dear Friend
Ann Lettal, North Massapequa
Flats and flats of flowers are parked upon the grass.
They're waiting to be planted and it has to be done fast.
I reach for my dear friend that I couldn't do without.
It's got to be my shovel, of that there is no doubt.
How else would I get in there to move about the soil,
without by trusty shovel to release me from this toil.
So, thanks dear friend for all you do, to you I remain loyal.
Ann Lettal, North Massapequa
My garden brings me solace
in bold bright colors or hues of only green.
Nonetheless, all are calming to my senses.
It is my retreat whenever the need strikes me,
even the weeds cannot make me falter.
Never-ending gratitude for returning to greet me each year.
It is here in my garden I find my sanctuary.
How to Garden? (You'll Need Seed, See?)
Randy H. Traster, Greenlawn
I know how to garden I've done it once before
Didn't do it by the fountain. Didn't do it by the shore.
I didn't do all alone. We've dug it up before
But we did it all at once, and had to run to the garden store to get the seeds to plant, start, stare, wait, water, weed, thin, and more, thence.
Then we waited for the water, to do her job;
Then we waited, to see if the tomatoes were ready to be trimmed, snipped, sliced and BBQ'ed.
Never mind about the zucchini, the flowers were delicious.