Monday, May 25, 2009

garden stories

Judging from the crowd at Lowe's garden center this weekend, my passion for gardening is shared by a whole lot of people. I love to walk through the rows of flowers and look at the bags of mulch, the cement pavers, the wheelbarrows, the planters and all of the lawn medication designed to cure the ills caused by a long winter. Today, I bought a calla lilly plant and a foxglove to add to my front flower garden. I chose two good spots, dug holes, felt the warm dirt in my hands as I patted it around the stems, and then got out the sprinkler.  New additions for the new year. 
The first thing I learned about planting a garden is that it is an act of faith; a good garden takes years to evolve.  What you do this year probably won't flourish this year. The next thing I learned is that weeds are really a matter of opinion; some of my favorite little guys arrived unbidden by me and have stayed.   The third thing I learned is that, like every other living thing, each plant has a story to tell.
My iris, for example, began with a couple of plants that I bought on the way to my dad's house. There is a place in Renzelaar, Indiana, where you can buy just about any kind of day lilly or iris, and they have a gorgeous koi pond where you can eat your lunch. Anyway, I bought the iris because my grandmother had them in her yard, and then my dad had some of her bulbs in our family garden when I was growing up. I felt that iris were a part of my family history and so a good start for my plot. It took about three years to get one to bloom, and what a joy when they did! I have since added more iris (and day lillies) from my trips to my dad's. They will be blooming in a couple of weeks; I often greet the first one right after the last day of school.
My lilac bush is enormous and also reminds me of my grammy Freda, as do the tuberous begonias I plant every year. She loved them and had them in the bed in the front of her house in Howard City. I remember walking around the yard with her every summer and listening to her stories about those flowers.
Next to my new calla lilly is a huge bleeding heart that was a gift from an old boyfriend. When he told me its' name, he smiled sheepishly.  The only picture I have of him was taken by that plant. It grows bigger and more beautiful every year.  I have three rose bushes, each of them a gift from one of the Marsman girls, students of mine from Waukazoo.  The peonies went in after a trip to the Ann Arbor Arboritum.  The black-eyed susans are my reminder that it is almost time to go back to school. The cone flowers are probably my favorite of all; those orange spiky centers and delicate purple-pink petals are ravishing to me. The Japanese maple started as the tiniest little snippet from my dad's and is now shoulder-high.  The pansies are in honor of my mom. When I was little, it was my job to pick them so that more would bloom. I never look at a pansy without thinking of her.
Hauling the hoses around, pruning branches, weeding, digging, raking, mowing... what joyful work it all is. Days like today, with the breeze blowing, the water pump groaning as the sprinkler arches back and forth, and the hostas unfurling, seem like a long way away from those frigid days of winter. 

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