Tag Archives: Elisabeth Kinsey

An Underground Affair

First published in Greenwoman #4, December 2012.


“Naked Ladies” by Laura Chilson


Do you remember your first kiss? How about your first lover? Well, during winter, that’s what we gardeners must do. We must remember the sweet earth of our gardens, even while it’s blanketed and hibernating under ice and snow. I’m living without my husband again, therefore, my sexual relationship is nil. If you’d like to think of me engaging in infidelity, go for it. I’m boringly devoted, though. Ignore that for this column. Let’s pretend I’m very naughty and am having an affair with the bulb. Like winter can be for gardeners, traipsing around with the memory of luscious dirt on our hands and longing for that tactile transference between hands and earth, we can envision all the boyfriends (and girlfriends) of our past in full detail. I remember one of my Berlin boyfriends, when I lived there as a nanny, to have a particularly sweet breath when he blew on my ear. Oh my, here we go. I’m planting the memories of every Berlin boyfriend in the ground this fall. What will spring bring me?

What possibly can a currently sexless gal say about sex in the garden at this time of year? My friends tell me—talk  about the produce section, sexy vegetables like cucumbers and the longer sweet potatoes. But I’m thinking of a certain tactile tuber, glabrous yet man-like. And the image of a flowering naked lady. Although these “naked lady” bulbs don’t grow in Colorado, in my California childhood I planted them with my grandmother. Grandmothers can be sexy, c’mon. Instead of a MILF, the ones who hold bulbs in their hands loosely, and drop them gently into the crevice of the ground, those are called GILFs.

That particular bulb got its name or its “nakedness” from their bulbous promise, when they jut forward in Spring, thrusting up only green spikes, without anything to show, naked, in fact, until at the ends form a bulky bud. When their flower pulses forth, opening into, in this case, an amaryllis, their ruddy pinks aren’t bashful as they dance in your front yard.

Which bulbs give you the most wham-bam-thank you-Ma’am for your buck? There are too many to list but some of my faves are the many hybrids of tulips. Plant them anytime; but usually, in Colorado, you’ll need to open the earth as it still offers a supple surface, mostly in late September or October. Crocus, hyacinth, and mini-daffodils cluster around the spring, popping color at your feet, as if you are the queen and they cower and lust for your presence. Plant the tiny joys around the tall and papery iris and you’ll be sure to excite anyone walking by in spring.

Not all bulbs are bulbs. You can’t be fooled by their testi-like appearance. Corms are described as being “swollen, underground” and only have one “growing point.” A gladiola and crocus have this base. There are rhizomes which lay on their backs, growing horizontal. Lily of the valley will take over a whole yard, inseminating the air with their heavy scent, but only in milder climates with enough humidity (U of I, 2012). Denver would have to exhale, all at once, an exalted breath after sex, to create that kind of humidity. Tubers mass-propagate the dahlia and begonia, bulbs broad in the middles, pulsating out in bunches under the surface tuft (Dave’s Garden, 2012).

What can a gardener do with these tempting underground treasures? There are so many bulbs, and so much lust for the earthen tubers. One bulb enthusiast had a positive experience planting the naked lady, or amaryllis, in Tucson. She wrote, “I’m from Tucson, AZ and my Uncle Charlie brought some bulbs out from Minnesota to me. . . I have planted them on the west side of my home but has afternoon shade from my Southern Oak trees.” Joan Bolten (2012) of Santa Barbara Garden Design claims on her blog: “In August, the show begins, seemingly overnight. Stout, brownish-purplish stems rise rapidly out of the earth.” The rising is what sustains our thoughts through winter. In spring, as with all creatures, the libido returns, and our buried jewels thrust up from a cracked, warm earth.

Bulbs are like an orgasm, they will burst forth in folds if you coax them out of the ground. Bulbs promise spring sex, and, during the winter, we can envision scenes of their jutting forth. Plant them in Fall, and sense their growing interest, as they sustain your enthusiasm through winter. One day you will see flat dirt. The next, a shoot will be unsheathed, and finally, you’ll see gold, purple, reds, oranges, and pinks dot and dance, undulating and naked. What would my grandmother think of this carnal scene? Well, she’s the one who planted them. I’m sure she remembers all the boyfriends of her past, too. We’re all human.


  1. Joan Bolten, Santa Barbara Garden Design, http://www.santabarbaragardens.com/articles/128_amaryllis_nls/arti_128.php
  2. University of Illinois Extension. (U of I). 2012
  3. Dave’s Garden http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/2377/

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Born in Northern California, Elisabeth Kinsey was raised among her Italian and Jewish families. She is pursuing a PhD at the University of Denver. She teaches writing (redundant but rewarding), and her published works appear in Greenwoman Magazine, Ask Me About My Divorce, Seal Press, Wazee Journal, The Rambler, and Emergency Press among other journals. Elisabeth can be called upon to speak about: divorce, zone 5 gardening, and Northern Italian cooking.

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The Dirt on “Dirt”


Drawing by Laura Chilson

(This article first appeared in Greenwoman #3: The Victory of Dirt)

On his way home from a campaign, Napoleon Bonaparte wrote his wife, “Dear Josephine, I will be arriving home in three days. Don’t bathe . . .”

One of the dirtiest words in existence in the 1400s was “slut,” describing this unfortunate creature as a “dirty, slovenly or an untidy woman.” As I dream of the time I’ve spent in Colorado soil, fingers cracked, digging out the longest part of a dandelion root or picking purslane seedlings, one by one, like picking out gray hairs, I long for even that transference between weeds, soil, and the body. Am I a slut to the earth? Are gardeners mere sluts, wanton slaves to their soil? I wondered at other gardeners’ relationships to dirt and its sullied beginnings.

Let’s explore a “dirty” profile, find out where soil got a dirty name: My imaginary Victorian, let’s call her Lady Catherine, has nothing to do. She stopped her needlework years ago. She dabbled in painting and could barely get enough orange on a canvas to make an orange before she bored of it. Her mouth is something between a geisha’s pretty tied-up bow with the bottom lip too full and supple for anything other than kissing by wild princes (riding uncontrollably across craggy moors to save Lady Catherine from twisting her ankle) or, worse yet, ennui.

Underneath Lady Catherine’s many bandaged breasts (corsets, etc.) and her large dress-hoops is a sensual being that Victorian society deemed “dirty” and which by deeming it so converted the world under the dress, and at every gardener’s foot, as something unnatural. The most important virtue, in order to be of High Victorian society, as we all know from the scene when Scarlet is forced to show her grubby, working hands in Gone With the Wind, was to be the owner of a pale, lifeless hand that went limp and delicate in any suitor’s grip. Then it was swept up under his nose for the lightest and most normal of kisses. But wait, was that tongue?!!! I’m sure it was, recoils Lady Catherine, as she whips her porcelain fingers from the suitor’s lips. How dirty, she thinks. How invasive. How very naughty.

Dirt got really dirty in the Victorian era, stripping anything having to do with soil from it, thus vanquishing all roots between the natural, oozing, procuring earth and the natural, oozing and procuring body. You can read up on the era and its prude expectations of women by delving into any Austin or even Cooksin novel. Dirt existed, whether the Victorian prigs wanted it or not. Dirt will always prevail, regardless of moniker.

Who are we now, we tillers of the land, Gods and Goddesses with hands as roots, reaching and groping into the earth for its dark secrets, accidentally digging up a lost tulip bulb, finding coins from the ’70s, extracting someone else’s white landscaping rock to reveal a barren hardness that we must convert back to its humus soul? Dare we admit that we are, in fact, dirty minded? Have we entered into the truest scandal in gardendom?

And who ruined soil? There were just enough uber-sexual beings to keep the dirty connotation. A scandalous dirt fetish is recorded between a Victorian-era barrister and his scullery maid in Wellcome Collection’s London exhibition a few years back which explored attitudes about dirt (“Dirt: the filthy reality of everyday life.”) London journalist Giovanna Dunmall  wrote about the exhibit:

“Our 21st-century preoccupation with germs and cleanliness is clearly not a new one . . . There is hardly a dull moment in this exploration of filth . . .[for example] letters detailing the bizarre 40-year relationship, and eventual marriage, between barrister Arthur Munby and scullery maid Hannah Cullwick in Victorian London. The former had a thing for working-class women whose jobs involved hard, physical labour and there are photographs of Cullwick dressed as a chimney sweep or posing covered in soot and dirt.”

Anyone walking through the streets of London at the time either were used to grime, (perhaps being one with it or dying by it?) and some carried a perfumed kerchief or nosegay to cover the stench of foul conditions. So many maladies stemmed from “dirt” that it was easily equated with filth. Before penicillin and sanitary drainage, it was an honest mistake; however, in our current society, worries about getting dirty in the garden bed stifles soil’s natural yearnings. When I speak to real gardeners, and this is from the beginner through the pro, they always mention how important it is to get their “hands in the soil.”  Especially after winter’s thaw, spring stirs something in every gardener’s soul.  For me, I constantly check the surface of the yard, kick it with a toe.  Does it divot, indent?  I take a shoe off and dip my naked toe.  Does it accept any entrance?

The different constitutions of loam, clay, sand, and organic matter implant themselves in my dreams so that I wake with their dark, dusky smell in the mornings, hoping I can get into the dirt. One gardener calls this tactile transfer a communication with the soil.  Tamara Mahoney, long-time certified Colorado master gardener has this to say, “Nothing calms my nerves or relieves my stress more than getting my hands in the dirt for a little bit. I love fresh carrots just dug out of my garden and washed in the garden hose . . . they taste like the dirt they have been growing in. No store-bought carrot ever tastes as good!”

Tasting the dirt is not the only vice we dirt worshipers have, but it’s a good one. Patricia Hampl stands up for eating a peck of dirt (a full two gallons) in her memoir A Romantic Education. She wrote about her grandparent’s dark and tuber-producing garden. “I ate dirt there. This is the first taste I remember.” After dropping a jawbreaker around the corner, the owner had said, “Well, you have to eat a peck of dirt before you die. “ After that, Hampl reflected on death and dirt and pictured herself without the proper amount. She ruminates, “So I ate dirt. I also ate it out of curiosity, putting it on my tongue like brown sugar and waiting hopelessly for it to melt.”

Our society and the media continue to sell us alcohol and other toxic cleaners to rid our hands of germs. Gardening gloves, like the corset, hinder transference. To combat dirt’s bad connotation, it’s not enough to just commune with the soil. Chuck Rise of Soil Science of America writes about soil’s healthy properties and that, ironically, many antibiotics come from soil. Under our feet, and indeed, in our hands as gardeners, we touch the key to existence itself. Rice asks us, “Did you know that there are more living individual organisms in a tablespoon of soil than there are people on the earth? A teaspoon of soil contains over 1 billion bacteria yet we know only 1%. The remaining 99% are unknown and contain a treasure trove of products.”

I have so many friends who are new to dirt and slowly succumb to its call, accepting the lure, and therefore scandal, into their lives, but jump into their soil too soon, without finding out what it will do first. One such gardener had bad luck. On the Laguna Dirt blog, Janine Robinson even admits defeat when she didn’t gauge her soil correctly. Kind of like going out in the middle of winter in a spaghetti strap dress. Sure, you’ll ensnare a dude, but what kind of dude will he be?

“I started a winter vegetable garden in early November, and blogged about how I built the raised bed on top of my concrete patio, using concrete block . . . I filled it with seedlings and seeds, but even after weeks of rain and warm temps, things barely grew. With the help of some gardening friend experts, I learned my soil was way too compact, allowing little drainage and oxygen.”

I’ve made the same mistakes, stripping my gloves off, digging small holes to plop a seed that never has room enough to spread and writhe. I learned, in the clay neighborhoods of Denver, that Eko clay-buster was just going to be my heavy companion while I labored, digging up clods, sweating into the earth, getting in deep and mixing the two: old sad, dried-up souls with new vigor. The result admitted any seed, enveloped, and pushed out my ornamental horehound, my monkey flower, reaching straight up out of my dirty mind.

I needed to find other dirty minds in the search for support. That’s not hard when talking to gardeners. Ross Shrigley, Senior Horticulturist at Denver Botanic Gardens, agreed with the notion that dirt can’t be bought, but must be manipulated. He writes,

“I know it’s the soil because fresh potting soil doesn’t deliver the same sensation for me. Potting soil just seems like work.” He relates that when speaking to clients he tells them of “ . . . the sensual feelings I have when a garden bed is prepared properly. It’s digging and planting with only my hands in that bed that pushes the high until all is planted. Climax is reached when I stand back and look at it, and know what is to come.”

We can be captured by dirt’s call, succumb to all its earthy needs. Every spring, we are virgins anew and let our minds go deeply astray. From all outside appearances, our Lady Catherine still doesn’t know what to do with that kiss on the hand, but within, there is a deep knowledge of her body.  We own such knowledge now, coming back to our dirt, manipulating carnally, heaving ourselves, letting the earth dominate us until we can harvest and eat its sweet offerings.

Our acceptance, our carnal deeds don’t go unrewarded. Shrigley also told me, at the end of planting, the reward of our earthen relationship, our dance, after we’ve let ourselves get soiled, planting beds, learning our soils, is rejoicing at earth’s reward. Shrigley states, “When I prepare a bed, I imagine it as my wife describes the great sensation of shaving her legs and climbing into the clean sheets of a nicely made bed. I can easily imagine her sensation when she climbs in and I picture myself being the sheets. That’s the sensation I seek when I properly prep a garden bed.”

Lady Catherine would outwardly be appalled, touch her laced glove to her lips and intake breath. As the gardener is raking clods of moist earth in front of her, shirtless, a new world awakens under and inside, where she has the fantasy of rolling with him, dirt and all, in the flower bed.


Dunmall, G. http://www.iconeye.com/read-previous-issues/icon-096-|-june-2011/dirt
Rice, C. http://wiredsoils.blogspot.com/2011/01/soil-is-fundamental-for-life.html
Robinson, J. http://lagunadirt.blogspot.com/


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Born in Northern California, Elisabeth Kinsey was raised amongst her Italian and Jewish families. Her parents converted to Mormonism, which is the basis of her memoir: The Holy Ghost Goes to Bed at Midnight: Half a Mormon Life, that she is now shopping around to agents.
She has a BA in Writing from Metropolitan State University of Denver and a MA in Creative Writing from Regis University. She teaches writing and composition.
Her published works appear in Greenwoman Magazine, Ask Me About My Divorce,Seal Press, Wazee Journal, The Rambler, and Emergency Press among other journals.
Elisabeth can be called upon to speak about: divorce, leaving a strict religion, zone 5 gardening, Italian cooking, and andragogy.
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Fifty Shades of Green

The cover is a take on the Fifty Shades of Gray title, with the hose signifying . . . well, you'll just have to use your imagination there.

Our mock-up for the cover is a take on the Fifty Shades of Grey cover, with the hose signifying    . . . well, whatever your imagination wants it to signify.


It started last year after reading a Facebook post. Someone shared an article about how Fifty Shades of Grey author E. L. James made more money that year than any author on the planet.

Yes, the planet.

That was hard for me to believe. So I read the article. It was true. Then I thought, well, damn, I guess I have to read the book now. See what the fuss is about.

I think everyone’s heard of it. It’s a book that features a lot of sex between a handsome (but psychologically damaged) billionaire and a plucky and pretty college student. The title comes from his declaration, “I’m fifty shades of f**ed up, Ana.” And from the fact that his surname’s Grey.  The 21-year-old college student starts the story, and the relationship, as a virgin. Their names are swooningly romantic, the prince-and-princess-like Christian and Anastasia. 

So I downloaded the book from the library, read most of it, and realized two things. One, contrary to popular opinion among writers, the writing’s not bad. The prose is not dazzling, nor original, but it’s solid, and the protagonist is believable.

My problems with the story were the single theme (a troubled romance), and that there were no other plot lines. I also didn’t find Christian compelling or interesting (poor suffering, handsome billionaire just doesn’t resonate with me).

The second thing I noticed was that the sensationalism came from the abundant and explicit kinky sex that Christian persuades Ana to participate in. By kinky, I mean light BDSM, which I learned stood for bondage/discipline, submission/dominance, and sadism/masochism. Ana has mixed feelings about all this, but overall she enjoys it. She sets some sensible boundaries, so nothing is that dangerous or demeaning—in her opinion, anyway.

50shadesofgrey (2)

So there you go! Oh yes, it’s also a fan fiction from another disturbing (to me, anyway) 21st century relationship story written for teens, Twilight.

What was funny to me was the stories I’d hear about Fifty Shades. One seventy-year-old friend told me her book group read it and the ladies, all around her age, loved it. Diane, no prude, refused to read it. (Good for you, I thought.) My daughter Zora, who was in Ireland in school last year said the book was very popular on campus. Many students were talking about it, and someone told of a monk they knew who was seen reading it on the bus; even his curiosity got the better of him!

Such are fads.

I did have one connection with the book before I read it. I was in the store last Valentine’s Day when I spotted the cookbook parody Fifty Shades of Chicken. I looked through it, found it hilarious (it has recipes for Mustard-Spanked Chicken and Dripping Thighs) and bought it for my husband. If you haven’t seen the steamy trailer for that, feast your eyes here. And you’ll get a good idea of the prose in Fifty Shades of Grey.

What ultimately bothered me about Fifty Shades of Grey were the stereotypes: pure-hearted girl, smart and brave but dirt-poor financially in comparison to her love interest, mooning and swooning over her societal “better.”

She is in a powerless position in comparison to him, yet the overall message is that her love will save him!

There’s not even a twist with the whole BDSM thing . . . she’s, get this, the “submissive” in the relationship! Excuse me while I throw up. This is how far we’ve gotten? I mean, I know biology is biology, and love is love, but still . . . is there no progress?

I bitched about the book to a friend, saying something along the lines of, “I would like to write a parody of this book where the tables are turned. Where it’s an older woman who is the powerful billionaire and the guy’s the virginal college student, and she gets to tie him up and spank him! But I also want a gardening theme. Hmm. Okay, I’ve got it. She’s this powerful woman who is helping save the environment through her scientific work, yet she likes to do naughty stuff in her garden.”

My dear friend, whose imagination knows no bounds but is acquainted with bondage, immediately came up with some ideas for my new story. This is from a letter she wrote:

“Now you have my sick imagination working with your wicked theme. . . .The plethora of garden implements and tools certainly adds to the spice. ‘I remember a particularly effective lover who made me pick out my own switch from the garden bushes for my spanking.’ Yes, there is a lot of S&M potential in the garden but we could camp it up and add liberal dashes of sarcasm. Forcing a lover to wear stilettos when she was turning the compost. Creative uses for garden hoses. Making the lover into a ‘weeding slave’ who must stay on his hands and knees for hours doing your dirty work (now I might really advertise for that one!)”

Of course I was beyond delighted with Rebekah’s ideas. This idea could be fun! Yet, the more I thought about it, the more limiting I realized a parody of the book would be. Having no personal experience in . . . whatever that acronym is, I read up on the subject. Let me say I have no qualms with those who are into this kind of lifestyle, but it’s not for me. In fact, The Story of O left me cold. I find no thrills in pain (though, yes, I know about the role endorphins play, I get it). I find no swoons in that kind of vulnerability. Perhaps I have slavery in my genetic background as the thought of being handcuffed and under someone else’s mercy, even a lover . . . just . . . no. I wondered, is it just me or do privileged white people get into this stuff more?  (I just looked it up. Yes, indeed, that seems to be the case, but again, it’s “complicated.” I skimmed this scholarly article on the subject, if you’re interested.)

What does intrigue about the Fifty Shades phenomenon is the playful aspect. Readers testing boundaries. Readers liking to experiment with their literature.

I started to think of my idea for a book. I loved the idea of getting down (however you may interpret that) in the garden. Now that is sexy. And the garden as a place for lovemaking, really, it’s so perfect. Isn’t that where it all started?

But then, one story wouldn’t be enough. And why limit love to bondage, or one couple in particular?

I began to think about an anthology.

This was something I knew would be fun, but at the same time, I was reluctant to take on another project. The magazine and my young adult novel, both of which I cared deeply about, were taking all of my time. How could I add something else? On the other hand, I desperately needed a diversion. Something more frivolous and fun (and sexy!) where I’d get to work with other writers. This could be perfect. I had been wanting to work on another fiction book for two years, with two other writers, but hadn’t had the time to devote to it. This project could fill that need.

But would anyone connect to the idea?

Some of you may be thinking—are you kidding? All I can say to that is when you’re an author and publisher you are filled with self-doubt on a daily basis.

I asked some friends and they all thought the idea was hilarious.

I continued with the plan and in early April got a website up and a call for submissions listed on Duotrope. The incomparable Elisabeth Kinsey agreed to be editor. (If you don’t know Elisabeth’s work, you are missing out. She’s written six brilliant “Sex in the Garden” essays for Greenwoman Magazine. She is perfect for this project.) I wrote a few other friends who are writers and asked them to spread the word. Several of them (all extraordinary writers) said they wanted to participate!

As we talked, a few of us even thought of pseudonyms we might use. Rebekah said she’d always wanted to use a name she’d heard on an episode of Will & Grace, when Megan Mullally (who plays Karen) blurts out a fake name during a bowling outing with strangers.

Anastasia Beaverhouse.

I will leave you time for laughing before I tell you the one I came up with.

Mimsey Quimblossom. I liked the “mmm” sounds.

(And it got worse from there.)

So there has already been frivolity and the submissions are pouring in! The first two were from dear Rebekah, and they are astonishing. One is sweet, one is the funniest story I have read about sex. In the last few weeks I have received stories from people I didn’t know—well written, intelligent, captivating, lusty, garden-y stories. The project is well underway. I am really looking forward to sharing this book with you!

I wanted to tell you about it today as some of you may be writers and you may wish to delve into this subject matter. Isn’t it a well-known issue with writers that some have trouble writing about sex? Well, now’s your chance! It’s about a month before the submission deadline, June 15th. The book will be published in July on Amazon Createspace. It will also be available as a digital download.

If you’re interested in submitting a story, get the details here on the website.

So mark your calendars and tell your friends. This book will be this summer’s must-read.




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They Called it Poppy Love

A Bed of Poppies, Maria Oakey Dewing, 1909. Via Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

A Bed of Poppies, Maria Oakey Dewing, 1909, via Wikimedia Commons.

This week my attention went to poppies when I read an article in Garden Rant and saw a Facebook friend’s photo of blooming poppies outside his office in California. Poppies, oh, yes—I remember them! With this long (long) winter I had nearly forgotten. Now on my to do list: scatter a few more of my saved ‘Lauren’s Grape’ seeds over the next snow!

With the beautiful poppy and its enchantment in mind, I couldn’t help but think of the enchanting Elisabeth Kinsey. She has written an educational and very sexy essay in every issue of Greenwoman Magazine. I have been so honored to publish her dreamy, steamy work.

So I thought I’d share the first essay Elisabeth published. About poppies. The one that made us fall in love. I hope you’ll enjoy it, share it, and share your stories about poppy love.

—Sandra Knauf

Poppies, John William Godward, 1912

Poppies, John William Godward, 1912. From Wikimedia Commons.


I never knew I could be the sort of woman who grew poppies. These women live in gigantic houses with terraced gardens, boasting dripping sedum and perfect bunches of perennials, color coded, tendrilling out of their hibernation in perfect cycles. These women, some sturdy with spiky hair, licking their girlfriend’s ear in public, some in long overall type dresses, tight curly hair never getting into their eyes, their hunky husbands, sporting tool belts, bursting out of the house with a glass of wine on a golden tray.

“Honey, why don’t you leave the garden for now?”

These women don’t sweat. These women hold the secret to colorful California poppies’ papery orange ecstatic fluttering, the virgin pink or dragon-red flames of corn poppies grouping around the walkway. These poppy women are able to survey their bursting gardens from a flagstoned patio glance, while sipping their Nebbiolo or Chenin blanc. These women were not me. I tried to grow poppies and failed.

A Colorado master gardener friend (I’ll call her Camille) pshawed this idea.

“Beth,” she said, “Your problem is that you want to coddle your plants. You can’t think of poppies as if they’re roses. You need to be like a dude and ignore them. You need to play hard to get.”

Could it be that I was overanalyzing the poppy? Expert gardener Barbara Pleasant claims the poppy to be the “Easiest plant to grow.” She writes, “You can grow them in Sleetmute, Alaska. You can grow them in Corkscrew, Florida. Heck, there was even a big patch of them just shy of Oz on the Yellow Brick Road!” Was I the only gardener around who had bad luck growing poppies? To understand the poppy, I had to get into poppy-mind. Not to plunge into its aphrodisiac qualities (we’re not allowed to grow that variety here), but to understand its wants and needs. Basically, Camille had me pegged. I was an overbearing drudge. Poppies held a grudge against me.

To lure this beauty from my sandy acidic soil, I had to stop planting it in the “normal” planting seasons. As I read up on this obstinate beauty, I learned what’s obvious to me now. Don’t grow this seed indoors with your herbs in February. Don’t even let its papery folds, its furry bulb head into your mind in the spring. No. This plant needs to be ignored, left alone. Which is so hard for me. Look at Le Coquelicot (yes, the root of this name is ‘Coq’) by Kees van Dongen (and now ignore the dong in Dongen.) It’s the over exaggerated red hat, the woman’s eyes looking off away from its viewer, confidant of the action she’ll be getting momentarily. The poppy is a primal need. This is what it feels like to be human.

Camille commanded, “Throw those poppy seeds on the cold ground and then they’ll want your love.” I didn’t even have to prepare my soil. When I was able to let go of this idea of seducing these almost-alien-at-first bodies out of my inadequate garden patch, it was almost too much for me. Nothing to coddle, watch under grow lights, no spring grace during winter in my living room, where I was all knowing, all seeing grower.

Poppies are actinomorphic, not zygomorphic, which, according to Ushimaru et al, means that in the world of flower sex is “easily pollinated.” Poppies throw themselves freely to any honey bee coming along to plunge into their open folds. To the sluts of the floral world, I was coming on too strong.

I took my Papaver rhoeas seeds when the wind held enough chill for me to feel like eating lentil soup and wearing slippers all day and threw them onto the cold ground in the corner of my garden I had previously tried planting something fluttering and pink. Yes. Then they came. The poppies rose up and out in a mild May, furry, wanton, curving bundles, obstinate, and soon to throw open color into my landscape.

Throw those poppy seeds onto the ground unabashedly. They need nothing more. Do this, and you’ll have the poppy’s heart forever. We can all be this sort of woman.

Le Coquelicot by Kees van Dongen

Le Coquelicot (“The Corn Poppy”)                  by Kees van Dongen, 1919.

Ushimaru, Atushi, Ikumi Dohzono, Yasuoki Takami, and Fujio Hyodo. 2009. “Flower orientation enhances pollen transfer in bilaterally symmetrical flowers.” Oecologia 160, no. 4: 667-674. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed February 7, 2011).
Pleasant, Barbara. 1995. “Poppies make the world go round.” Organic Gardening (08973792) 42, no. 5: 68. GreenFILE, EBSCOhost (accessed February 7, 2011).


Elisabeth Kinsey

Elisabeth Kinsey

Born in Northern California, Elisabeth Kinsey was raised amongst her Italian and Jewish families. Her parents converted to Mormonism, which is the basis of her memoir: The Holy Ghost Goes to Bed at Midnight: Half a Mormon Life, that she is now shopping around to agents.
     She has a BA in Writing from Metropolitan State University of Denver and a MA in Creative Writing from Regis University. 
     She teaches writing and composition at Regis University and writing workshops in fun environs. Her published works appear in Greenwoman Magazine, Ask Me About My Divorce, Seal Press, Wazee Journal, The Rambler, and Emergency Press among other journals.
     Elisabeth can be called upon to speak about: divorce, leaving a strict religion, zone 5 gardening, Italian cooking, and andragogy. 

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