Tag Archives: flowers

My Little Family In The Dirt

Already I have stopped by a couple of nurseries and picked up some babies, herbs mostly, but a Shasta daisy or two, hibiscus, a geranium, old-fashioned perennials I’m not too sure about.  But then, how can we ever know, I mean really, what the little ones will grow into?Will they take to the ways in which we have trained them, nurtured them?  Or will they go their own way, headstrong and difficult, exasperating us, bullying their more delicate siblings, hogging all the light? 

My happiest time in spring is seeing all my young plants, flowers and herbs together, bunched up on the porch in a puppy pile of color and texture.  They sit in the shallow cardboard boxes I bring them home in, and I thrill at the riotous abundance of it.

The day will come when I separate them, take them out of the playpen and put them in their own beds, and it will be sad for all of us.  They will thrive, eventually, more than they ever could on the porch, crowded and craning their slender necks so they might face the sun.  But for the first few nights they will look small and a bit lost in all that space I’ve given them to grow.  

Soon they will settle in, they will nestle sweetly under a brown blanket of new soil and mulch, but there will be a difficult night or two. They may get cold and need extra cover, and I will oblige, placing tea towels and pillowcases just so.  Some nights they are thirsty.  Other nights will arrive with too much wind, until the time they come to rely on it, the sound of it drifting them off to sleep, their roots growing sturdier with each gust and whisper.

I have taken to calling them girls. I greet them in the morning, compliment them, even when they don’t deserve it, just to encourage them along. But sometimes the compliments are genuine, heartfelt, especially in the early days and all that color and green and hopefulness take me by surprise when I open the door in the morning or return from an errand and see their happy brilliance as I pull into the drive. 

But I am a casual parent, too.  By summer’s end they will have had it, will have grown old and tired, or turned their faces to the wall, fading as slowly as their blooms. I give them what they need, food and drink, and I help them tidy up their rooms on occasion.  Sometimes a little treat to refresh their blossoms, or support for their giant and heavy heads. But I let them be themselves. It is the only way.  For I know, I always know, these girls will leave me.

A couple of grandpas and grandmas live around my house. I am not quite so casual with them.  I scratch on their branches, looking for that bit of green that says they have survived one more winter.  I watch for signs of new leaf or budding with a mixture of dread and hope and anticipatory grief. 

I talk to them, too, but in a different timbre, and we commiserate where as the young flowers and I dream. There isn’t much to do for them, really, but sit with them in the sun, enjoy the deepening shadows as they play across their faces. There are no heroic measures to be taken in my yard.  I tried that once, long ago, and hastened the death of a perfectly good, but aged shrub.  One that had a bit more to teach me. A bit more to give. I thought I knew more than I did, and overdid the cure, a cure for which there was no disease but simple, noble old age. 

My little family will grow over the next few weeks, more plants carried home in boxes and containers and little paper packets to be opened and emptied upon prepared patches of ground. I learn each season which plants are apt to be happiest here, which ones will need more light than I can provide.  I will stock the shelves with nourishing food and special treats, but not too many.  Maybe a little something to brighten their blooms like party dresses.  Maybe something to keep the bugs off.  After that, they, like all of us, are on their own.  

HINTS AND HOPES OF SPRING

Already there is something stirring, call it spring, call it the vaccine, call it about time.

The weather looks to be better, some nights around freezing, maybe, but daytime temps are creeping up into the fifties, the sixties by the weekend.


It seems the same for friends whose weather I keep up with. I have taken you to my heart, truly and forever, if your city pops up on my phone’s weather app. I keep up with the weather in a couple of places I love like people, too. And almost all of us can count on temperatures at least in the 50s by the middle of the month.


Even if it is snowing where you are now.
Even if you are freezing right this minute.
Even if it won’t last.


Already I am eyeing that spot along the fence that separates my drive from my neighbor’s yard. He has been eyeing it for months now, too. In the fall I offloaded bags of manure and compost with the intention of filling in the low places and preparing a flowerbed for spring. I didn’t have quite enough dirt so I left it all sitting there until I could do the job properly, and there it has sat since.


He has offered to spread the contents of the bags for me, but no, I am happy to do that myself. I want to do it, think I can call it exercise, and so it would be. But first I need more dirt. He is a patient fellow, but he will be glad when I get after it. Soon, John, soon.

This week might just be the week, in fact, because seed and flower catalogs are jamming my mailbox and nothing inspires me quite so much. They are stacking bags of mulch at Kroger and I am giddy about it. I know they are, because my cousin posted a photo of those big bags last week, when she was giddy first.


I have tried watching the British gardening shows, Monty Don being one of my favorites. But if I am honest, he exhausts me. He moves slowly and calmly, digging, uprooting, rerooting, I will give you that. But I think of all the behind the scenes efforts — just getting those nice bins filled up with that custom peatless potting soil, I mean, how long does that take? How does he drag all the ingredients into his well-appointed potting shed? And those wonderful giant terra cotta pots he has all over the place. How much do they weigh? Empty? Loaded?

No, I have already decided, from the comfort of my couch, to pare down my gardening this year, sticking with those things that provide real bang for the buck. I have managed to keep two rosemary bushes alive all winter, and I am trying to overwinter some big geraniums in the basement. My fence row garden plot may serve as an AirBnB for zinnias until fall, when I may plant iris.


But, even so, there will still be plenty of trips to the nurseries, the garden centers and those places that fetch bags of mulch for you and dump them like a body in your trunk. I will be glad to have gardening back, to have it back as the joyful, playful activity it is. Digging in the dirt, water play, all my favorite childhood past times. But now no one yells out the back door to bring those serving spoons back in the house this minute.

I have had tools. I have a wheelbarrow.


So, celebrate with me. It’s almost spring, the vaccine is here and it is more than time.