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May’s flowers

May 10, 2007

The day begins with walking through wet grass
In a slow progress, to visit the whole garden,
And all is undecided as I pass,
For here I must be thief and also warden:
What must I leave? What can I bear to plunder?
What fragile freshness, what amazing throat
Has opened in the night, what single wonder
That will be sounded like a single note,
When these light wandering thoughts deploy
Before the grave deeds of decisive joy?
“A Flower-Arranging Summer,” May Sarton

I always hesitate to cut flowers in my garden, but I am always glad when I do. No matter how much time I spend outside, it seems I am indoors longer, so flowers on the kitchen counter are there to please my eye for far more time than they would have done outdoors.

Or perhaps, as the single live representative of nature in the house, the flowers seem larger, more important, more intense in every detail next to dishes rather than trees.

My Proustian madeleines are apple blossoms with their petals white-blushing-to-pink and their delicate sweet scent. Gnarled old apple trees, left uncut on an untended lot in the middle of the suburb, bent close to my bedroom window in my childhood house. We rarely opened windows in that house because of my brother’s allergies, but on fine spring days after the long Michigan winters, my mother would open my bedroom windows to let in the fresh air, and I would stand on my bed and peer out at the apple trees.

The previous owners of my current house were wise gardeners, siting the most fragrant plants closest to the windows. Lilacs bloom outside my kitchen window; honeysuckle vines engulf the deck outside my bedroom door. And in the small space between the house and garage blooms a delicate ornamental crabapple buzzing loudly with fuzzy bumblebees, with my head stuck right among them. I inhale the precious scent and remember all that is fresh and young and innocent and simply happy.

I did cut daffodils this year, not because of their abundance but because of their scarcity. Oddly, many of mine did not come up or bloomed poorly. At their height, a late storm bent their heads to the ground. Rather than see the flowers sprawl, I cut them short and brought them indoors for small vases next to my sink, sewing machine, and bed (three of the four places I spend most of my time — the laundry area seems too sterile for flowers).

When I am able to be outdoors, I work in the garden. Weeding in spring is always amazing. There are so many weeds, so healthy and big, bigger every minute. It is an odd joy to pull them, to feel their vigor, yet to have no guilt in ending their lives. (Well, not really ending them, for they always re-sprout.) Weeding in spring is indeed a “grave deed of decisive joy.”

“Transplant dominoes” is my favorite gardening activity. This garden needs daisies. So I dig out a few clumps of daylilies to make room, then march across the yard to the daisies and shovel up good clumps of them. Back to the daylily holes I go, and pat the daisies in. Now, where to put the daylilies? A march round the yard is in order; there is a good place. But that place currently holds another plant, which has to move out. I must tramp a path as convoluted as the kids in “Family Circus,” trailing their dotted lines behind them as they traverse their yard.

Here are some hostas that I took from the side of the driveway: the Deer Buffet, for the antlered rats munch nearly every plant there to the ground. They please me nestled against the rock. Theirs was an unusual case: I did not need to move any plants out to fit them in, and I didn’t put anything in the holes they left along the drive. The deer have food enough.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 11, 2007 8:23 am

    This is a wonderful post. I enjoyed taking a walk through your garden with you. I, too, have fond memories of fragrant plants from my childhood. Maybe someday I’ll have a yard to fill with plants. 🙂

  2. May 12, 2007 9:10 pm

    This makes me think of Alice Walker’s poem about things of value more than gold. You are very rich indeed.

  3. May 12, 2007 9:24 pm

    I agree. Gardens are marvelous things — and on a practical level, it is amazing how many precious plants are free from even more precious friends.

  4. May 14, 2007 10:35 pm

    Thanks for the tour. Your garden sounds (and looks) lovely. I hope it brings you lots of pleasure.

  5. April 8, 2008 4:32 pm

    I loved the pictures you shared with us. They make me feel hopeful. Spring and flowers always make me feel so.

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