Let it Grow
My love of gardening arrived slowly. When we bought our Connecticut home in 2017, I was terrified of killing plants and ruining what was clearly a labor of love for the previous owners. I avoided dealing with our inherited physical plants (except for gingerly weeding every so often). Instead, I happily spent hours studying about them in books.
2018 was more adventurous: I learned how to plant simple things to enhance what was already in place. A few new peonies, a few potted flowers, a willow tree, and some lavender.
In 2019, I received the glorious Colorblends bulb catalogue. Planting bulbs seemed like the next level up from planting peonies and lavender, both of which had successfully bloomed. After picking out some bulbs, I realized I had missed the deadline for ordering, and promised myself to revisit it next year. I didn't plant much, instead tended what came up again from the original garden: spirea, pasque flowers, witch's moneybags, montauk daisies, pink peonies and burgundy peonies, an enormous rose of sharon, ferns, musk roses, lilies, hydrangeas, and an assortment of boxwoods.
Spring of 2020 was tumultuous for reasons beyond the pandemic: my son arrived on April 15th, and shortly thereafter, he and I were transferred to New York Presbyterian so he could have emergency open heart surgery. When we finally arrived home I wanted to spend as much time possible outside breathing air free from the novel coronavirus. Of course, that meant spending time amongst my plants and garden, but not really having the energy or strength to do much of anything except refresh the news, talk to colleagues and manufacturers about the tunnel of uncertainty we all faced, and hold my son in the shade.
Then, the new Colorblends catalogue arrived.
I ordered bulbs in a frenzy. What could be better than planting bulbs in the fall, with the darkness of winter and more death on the horizon, knowing that come spring, I'd nurtured the ground in some way? Bulbs became my physical manifestation of hope. I planted 350 of them: Queen of Night tulips, Tête-a-tête daffodils, snowdrops, Cheerfulness daffodils, and Winston Churchill daffodils. Despite pesky residual pain from my c-section and deep exhaustion from the physical requirements of growing the baby, spending time with my hands in the dirt was the only time my mind would go quiet and my body would feel at peace. The constant waterfall of questions about the future stopped. I was fully present and engaged with the task at hand.
On November 7th, I decided to spend the hot morning planting the last of my Winston Churchill daffodils rather than watching the news. I was lost in the world of dirt when Brian burst out of the house screaming "he won! AP called it! He won!". We screamed and hugged. There would be a future for my son and the planet. I finished planting my bulbs, and went inside to pop champagne.
Nature finds a way. Democracy finds a way. If we can keep them both.
My bulbs burst from their quiet slumber in late April 2020, after my son turned one. There is nothing more pleasing and hopeful and magical than watching flowers bloom. I didn't kill the bulbs, I didn't kill the garden, and I am now more confident in my abilities to care for the earth I am steward of. I didn't take many photos of the bulbs in all their glory. The deep purply black Queen of Night tulips were spectacular. But it doesn't really bother me. I enjoyed them so much in reality, I don't need a digital reminder. I'm ready to repeat the procedure this autumn, with more combinations and complicated compositions.
For my fellow budding gardeners, a mood board:
2). A supremely useful tool that also looks ferocious.
3). Match the greenery.
4). A pretty apron! Put a snack in one pocket, a knife in the other.
5). Rose parfum.
7). Handy boots.
9). Episode one of The Victorian Kitchen Garden.