Until last spring, I was a dash and splash gardener. I’d dash off to the garden store every spring and buy some annuals and some vegetables and ensure a splash of color and flavor for the season. What influenced this approach, I think, was the gardening of my childhood. We moved from place to place because my father was in the Navy. As soon as the boxes were unpacked, my mother would hang pictures and curtains and whatever else she could to make it feel like home. But it was only temporary. No wallpaper or remodeling–nothing with roots. We wouldn’t be there long. So I learned to love begonias and tomatoes, plants that gave us pleasure for a short while and didn’t trouble me when we moved on.
There were some stately oaks dripping with Spanish moss in our backyard in Charleston, SC. I did love those trees. But I didn’t plant them and I wasn’t overly attached to them. From there, we moved to Northern Virginia. And someone planted peonies. I don’t know if it was my mother or my father or the people who lived in the house before us. I just know that they came back year after year after year. I know they bloomed for my senior prom. I know they were perennials. Perennials. They had roots; they counted on someone to care for them from season to season, year after year. And they bloomed predictably. I lived in that house longer than any other in my childhood. And I learned I liked things that grew.
Then, I got married and moved into a house with a little bit of land of its own. I didn’t know a thing about planting a garden. All I really knew was that in the spring, I was supposed to go and buy some color for the front beds. I planted impatiens. I remember the first season I planted them–I was impatient! I squatted in the garden nine and a half months and hoped the very act of planting would put me into labor. Did you know that impatiens grow seed pods in the fall that pop when small boys squeeze them? And that means that in the spring, "volunteer" impatiens bloom? Not really perennials, but still, color from the year before–a sense of continuity.
Years and years went by. Years of not knowing how long we’d be in a house. Years of having babies and babies and babies and not having a whole lot of time for planning and planting and tending a garden…Until last year.
Last year, we dug in. We had truckloads of dirt delivered to our house and our boys shoveled and hauled and spread. We all studied gardening together. And then I bought perennial flowers and herbs. These were a whole new world of plants to me. These were plants that would flower and grow and then I would tend them in the fall and they would come again–bigger, better, stronger, more–the following year.
These were plants in which to invest time and energy and love. These were plants that begged my patience.They were little tiny things when I planted them last year. They whispered, "Trust me. Take good care of me. Wait for me. Watch me grow."
I could do that. I was well practiced at that. I have children. Like a little row of flowers, they are growing. Some are a bit on the wild side and their beauty catches one off guard.
Some are more contained and utterly lovely at first glance, only to be lovelier the longer you look. Some require careful, almost constant pruning. Others are decidedly low maintenance. Together, they are breathtaking!
The thing about gardening, I’ve discovered, is that there’s always room for one more plant. A little shifting, a little pruning and the whole garden looks better for the addition. The plants challenge me and teach me things. Sometimes, they require that I step out in faith.
I planted peonies last year, even though the nursery lady told me that they wouldn’t bloom until this year. That’s okay, I’m used to waiting nine months at a time for a bloom. Now, I’m watching those tightly closed buds eagerly and wondering if they’ll bloom in time for Michael’s senior prom. (He couldn’t care less, but I think it’d be kind of cool.)
This year, I planted rosebushes. They are John Paul II roses and Our Lady of Guadalupe roses–very fitting, I think, for the first summer of Karoline Rose. People have warned me that roses are difficult to grow. I’m too inexperienced. It’s too hard. I bought too many. I smile at that.
I’ve heard it before. ..and I know that there are never too many and that, like the children, the roses will teach me; they’ll show me; I’ll learn what I’ll need to learn. Together, we’ll grow.