Living like ‘Little Women:’ Limes, Pears, & Poppies

Living like ‘Little Women:’ Limes, Pears, & Poppies

If you read my post on “’Little Women’ and the History of the Squash,” you know my love for the 1994 film adaptation of Alcott’s book, and my Christmas tradition that surrounds it, trimming a tree and watching the film with a friend over a bowl of popcorn and mugs of mulled wine.

And thus you’ll understand my distress upon reading the recent news that ABC is going to attempt a television version of my beloved book and movie.  I wondered what it is I love so much about the 1994 version, besides the obvious: Susan Sarandon IS Marmee and know one else should ever try to replace her.

It’s also Jo’s imagination, that “late at night my mind would come alive with voices and stories and friends as dear to me as any in the real world. I gave myself up to it, longing for transformation.”  It’s Laurie’s heartbreak when Jo refuses his proposal.  It’s the friendship between sisters who care for each other and burn each other’s books and create the Pickwick Club to critique stories and put on plays. It’s Beth’s love for the poor Hummel family.  It’s Amy’s limes in winter and Marmee’s feminist indignation when Amy’s teacher tells her it is “as useful to educate a woman as to educate a female cat.”

There are so many beautiful details in the film, colors that stand out against the stark, often dark landscape of the lean times surrounding The Civil War.  The bright green limes in the winter snow, the soft green pear Laurie leaves in the mailbox to announce he is home for a visit from college, the bright red petals of the poppy scattered over Beth’s death bed.  (Errr, spoiler alert.  Beth dies.)

Want to live like one of the “Little Women?” Surround yourself in the colors and tastes of the March household.

Amy’s Limes  “I’m so degradetated. I owe at least a dozen limes.”

  • Growing limes works best if you live in a warm climate, zones 8 – 11, with a mild winter.  However, if you live in a colder climate, dwarf varieties grown in protected containers will thrive as far down as USDA Zone 4.  If the temperature drops below 50F, bring your container(s) inside.
  • Plant in full sun, with soil that drains well.  Limes dislike salty or clay soil.
  • Nourish:  According to SF Gate, fertilize your citrus tree every couple of months, using citrus plant food or slow-release fertilizer with extra nitrogen. “The nitrogen content should be nearly double when compared to the phosphorous and potassium content; for example, 20-10-10. Only a third of the recommended amount of fertilizer needs to be used each time.”
  • When your soil is dry 6 inches deep, give your limes a healthy drink of water, approximately once to twice a week.
  • Fun fact – limes actually turn yellow when they are fully ripe, but are most flavor-packed with picked while still green, with just a tinge of yellow. (If lemons are your thing, read “Confessions of a Lemon Addict,” here.)

Laurie’s Pear “Laurie’s home for the weekend! In need of funds, no doubt. We’d have a week’s groceries for what he spends on billiards.”

  • Plan to plant pears? Choose two varieties and check with your local nursery that they are compatible with each other, as pears need cross-pollination to produce.*
  • Plant in full sun in the winter or early spring.
  • If you choose full-size trees, you’ll need a little more room, as they should be spaced 20 – 25 feet apart. If you’re tight on square footage, consider a dwarf variety, to plant 12 – 15 feet apart.
  • Similar to planting peaches ( if you’re transplanting from a container, lay the root ball on its side and use shears to remove any circling roots.  Your hold should be dug a few inches wider and deeper than the spread of the roots, and does not need to be fertilized before you plant.
  • OrganicGardening advises that you give each tree 5 to 10 pounds of composted manure to start and mulch the trees generously.  For the first few years, be sure your trees get an inch of water, whether from rain or your hose.

*OrganicGardening notes that the “available varieties include Asian types, European types, and hybrids of the two. The classic European pear varieties—’Bartlett’, ‘Anjou’, ‘Bosc’, ‘Comice’, and lately even ‘Seckel’— have become highly susceptible to a widespread bacterial disease called fire blight. They’re wonderful pears, suited to USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 to 8, but not the best choices for large swaths of the East and other regions where warm, wet springs—prime fire blight conditions—are the norm.”  If that sounds like your region, your best bet is the “Magness.”

Beth’s Poppies “I know I shall be homesick for you even in Heaven.”

Oh my god Beth.  I was trying to end this on an up note. But I do love sobbing in that moment, when Beth tells Jo she can be brave, too. That she’s not afraid to go ahead of her sisters into the unknown.  Cut to beloved hausfrau Hannah, tearing red poppy petals from the flower to sprinkle them over Beth’s empty bed, her worn, wrinkled hand pausing to grasp the hand of Beth’s doll.

SO SAD.  But poppies, although associated with wartime death, don’t have to be. Work with me. They’re bright. Cheery. So here’s how to add some cheerful color to your garden and remember Beth in her better days, writing about the history of squash.

  • Poppies are easy to grow, in zones 1 – 10, and best to grow from seed.
  • Plant perennial poppies outdoors in early spring, as well as annual varieties at the same time for Zones 3-7. If you live in Zones 8-10, sow in the fall.
  • Scatter the seed in your garden, or barely cover, in well-drained soil.
  • Watch them grown, cut for indoor arrangements. Scatter to re-enact the saddest scene.

What is your favorite scene in “Little Women?”  If you haven’t seen it, or it’s been a few years (or days) you can buy or rent it on YouTube.  Pour a glass of gluhwein, pop some corn, curl up with the March sisters, and tell us all about it.

Twitter: @RebeccaSnavely & @TheCityFarm

(Photo credits: Limes – Under a Blue Tree; Pears – Daily Hiit; Poppies – History Mike; Little Women – Abby Rosebrock)