With spring comes a freshness, a green that won’t appear again until this time next year. It arrives on the edge of thunder and hail, and even as you are righting all the lawn chairs, flipping the lids back onto the toters, there is that certain whiff in the air. It is the scent of renewal, hope, forgiveness, even. It is the scent of spring.
And it smells like mulch.
Mulch is the Epcot Center of gardening. You know what I mean. At Epcot you can visit the Moroccan and China Pavilions and believe you have traveled to those exotic places. But it’s better. Everything is just so clean. And neat. And effortless.
And the best part, you won’t be plagued with those pesky intestinal bugs that the poor slobs who actually go to China and Morocco find so inconvenient and vulgar.
Mulch is like that. It is nothing more than yard waste, shredded trees and twigs, some dirt and some composted something. But bag it and stack it on pallets, or store it loose in a giant bin like prized free-range dirt, and it becomes something more than itself, something bigger, something better and we dream of it. Covet it. Think we deserve it, because look how hard we have worked, or think about how hard we would work, if only we had some lovely mulch to inspire us.
As strange as this weather has been, you would think we would be bracing for natural disaster, or organizing our bug-out bags, or getting our affairs in order. But no.
We are not doing any of these things.
We are mowing our yards.Twice a week.
We are out buying plants. Mulch.
We are showing up at work on Monday with sunburned faces and arms, already, here, in mid-March.
Me, I’m buying elephant ears.
Mr. Davis lived next door to my grandmother for as long as Il could remember. He had a lush green lawn when no one had a lush green lawn. At a time when yards were mostly clover and Bermuda grass, his was dark and tall and looked like it could hide Easter eggs right past Halloween.
Across the front of his house was a herd of elephant ears. Gigantic elephant ears. Ears that he had been nurturing and tending for years.
They are a tropical plant, which make sense when you think about where elephants live. The bulbs won’t survive our winters, so every fall Mr. Davis chopped off the foliage and dug up the bulbs. They must have been immense because the holes they left were impressive. He dried them, stored them in his basement and in the spring he planted them anew.
What fascinated and sort of disturbed me was the fact that he would plant them, dig them up, plant them, dig them up, year after year. I had no reference for this kind of care and attention to gardening. Landscaping at my house consisted of mowing the grass right up to the house, half-heartedly trimming around the sidewalks, and scattering grass seed a few times a year over the spots we rubbed bare with our bicycles and baseball games.
I had gone out to get zinnia seeds because anyone can grow them. But right there, by my feet in a cardboard bin, were mesh bags of elephant ears.
I must tell you, I have never seen such a thing these. They were easily the size of cantaloupes and I simply had to have them.
I could see the cool dark corner of my yard where I would plant them, could see the small children dressed in organza playing amongst them as they trip around my garden sanctuary on a dragonfly afternoon. Could almost hear the crack of the croquet ball, the clinking of ice in the lemonade pitcher, could see the sloping lawn of my estate in the sun gently sets.
All this from a pack of zinnias and three oddly shaped cantaloupes. That’s right, and so what? I have smelled the mulch.