By Stephanie Cavanaugh
Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what works, says Stephen Ryan, an Australian gardening expert. The worst that can happen is that a plant dies, which will create something that’s very precious in a garden—an empty space.
YES! I SAID to myself. Every gardening disaster is an opportunity. This is not exactly what he said, but I expect that’s what he meant. Or part of what he meant.
Ryan was speaking to Alexandra of the always-intriguing British gardening site, The Middlesized Garden. I stopped at the quote, blossoming with happiness.
What a way to put a positive spin on dumb mistakes and fine words to kick off the gardening season. I just hope whichever of my experiments goes belly-up this year has the decency to do it before the garden centers are depleted of whatever I might wish to try next.
I realize I almost want things to fail so I can move on to the next. There’s only so much I can cram into my tiny back yard.
Also, I kind of like things that break. My butter dish, for example, is depressing. After shattering so many made of glass and pottery we bought a stainless-steel number that’s kind of industrial chic, like a racy 1920s coupe, with a sleek domed lid. This will not break, I announced, standing in a kitchen-supply shop in Philadelphia after we’d hit the flower show or a funeral, the two reasons we have for visiting the city. And it has not broken. There’s not even a dent. There is no excuse to replace it. I will die with this butter dish. Now that’s depressing.
In more inspiring news . . .
I told you this was going to be a stupendous spring. Yesterday, on the six-block walk between my house and Trader Joe’s, where I’d gone for camembert and bananas, I noticed a rose.
Oh, wow, a rose, I said to myself.
Years ago, our elderly neighbor Bob, a plasterer who worked on various repairs to the Capitol and our bedroom ceiling, said that roses always begin to bloom on Mother’s Day. And year after year they did.
This year, Mother’s Day is May 14th, and the roses are already blooming.
Not only did I see roses, but iris, phlox and cherries, dogwood, redbud, and lilacs. Mmm, lilacs!
It got so I needed to scribble a list of what I was seeing on the back of the Trader Joe’s receipt, adding camelias, tulips, hyacinth, and azaleas. Also: candytuft, honeysuckle, blue bells, tulip magnolias, periwinkle, pansies, and a spectacular Carolina Jasmine climbing a rail. Plus, the dandelions, which many consider weeds. Their fluffy yellow heads make me smile. It was sensory overload, the flower bonanza (I) promised several weeks ago.
Oh, I am so full of myself this morning.
Enjoy it now, right now, this instant. Get thee to the streets. The heat is on so this can’t last. But right now, this instant, spring blooms, early and late, have emerged in a riot of scent and color. Take a good whiff. The mix of scents is exquisite. It’s all blossoming at once. This happens maybe once a decade. A flower show on the street.
I did call it, several weeks ago, and the weather cooperated. Early extended warmth turned to mild chill, snapping the flowering trees and flower beds into stasis, later bloomers joining the earlies and all hanging in. What a delight.
But today the temperature will be prematurely summerish, well into the 80s, and the warmth will continue, they say, and so farewell to the tulips, suddenly gasping, and the cherries that have lingered past their sell-by.
While the last frost date for Washington DC is around about April 21, I’m going to risk moving my tender housebound plants out into the fresh air. The various plants, plucked from the garden, roots intact, that I’ve preserved in vases through the winter are screaming to get started in the garden. I suspect they’ll be fine. I’m on a roll.
Meanwhile, since last week, the Kwanzan cherry in my backyard is now in full bloom. Between it and the never-blooming wisteria (once again living up to its nickname) that lines the garage roof, the houses behind us are nearly completely hidden.
The plants’ purpose is fulfilled.