All around us children are being shuffled about to baseball and lacrosse, Stouffer’s Cuisine just saw a 42% jump in share prices, and people are inexplicably nice to you at the supermarket. Either there is something in the water, or the heady promise of spring is starting to work its seasonal magic on the masses.
After months of wearily scraping ice off the windshield with whatever we have on hand – including a discarded plastic spoon or our children’s homework folder – the greater populace is ready for a large pay-off and is willing to accept all forms of currency, whether balmy temperatures, flowering trees, great swaths of daffodils, or indeed, fantastic deals on unnecessary plastic objects at our favorite retailer.
I’d be happy to settle for far less…such as a few signs that my garden managed to survive a heartless summer and a vindictive winter.
Up until last week, I have averted my eyes as I trudged down to the basement for yet another bag of pellets and a jar or two of applesauce. Over the icy months of winter I’ve walked past freeze-dried ligustrum and tried to ignore strawberries heaved out of the soil. I’ve remained emotionally impervious to browned Thujas and a snow-broken Ilex well past its sell-by date. But the day has come to stand and face the music. Beds must be readied, shrubs must be pruned, and yes, I’m going to have to deal with a little more in the loss department than I did last year. Well, as Nietzsche once said upon inspecting his winter ravaged rose bed in early spring, “What doesn’t destroy me makes me stronger.”
There are certain plants I knew I would never see again – the strawberries for instance. There is no way they could have possibly survived that summer without drip irrigation and a kiss for luck. I wasn’t in any mood for kissing by the end of August and I never particularly liked that variety anyway. So, it’s time to pick out some promising contenders from the Stark Brothers catalog and plan on buying by the quart this spring if I want to make any jam.
The aquilegia, astilbe and dicentra are not popping their heads up with the same joie de vivre as last year. Clumps have been decimated, and I won’t have many to divide this year; but then again, I won’t have many to divide this year – I can look at this state of affairs from two different vantage points, and I think I’ll choose the silver cloud approach and save a few tears.
Save them for the Thujas that is. Or, to be more specific, four big heartbreaks in the form of drought killed privacy-line trees. I had held out hope in the fall that they weren’t dying and were merely annoyed with lack of water and less than stellar attention from the resident gardener, but this weekend’s detective work has confirmed the worst. Requiescant in pace. Sniff.
But I am wallowing, for which I apologize. Overall, the picture is not as grim as I thought it might be. Many plants played possum in the latter half of the summer and were well dormant by the time winter’s little daemons started to creep through the garden. Others hung on by their teeth, steadfastly refusing to go towards the light. We also lost a beehive over the winter, but heck, one out of four ain’t bad. For all of these things, and for the ability to smile at less than ideal circumstances, I consider myself fortunate. Besides, as noted plantsman Christopher Lloyd was always fond of saying, “A dead plant is an opportunity,” and goodness knows there are tons of plants out there I want a chance to try. Now I’ve got a few spots in which to try them.
Yes, you must keep your sense of humor in the garden. No, you cannot control every environmental factor out there. Yes, there is sorrow, but there is also great joy. Try and take it one day at a time, without recriminations or regrets for those days now behind us. To do otherwise is to waste precious minutes of the three glorious seasons that lay open and ahead of us in all their wonder, heartbreak, frustration and bliss.