Sweet Are the Uses of Adversity
Gardening is often the avocation of des femmes d'un certain âge. Being precocious, though, I started fiddling with flowers at the age of twelve or so. Our neighbor grew beautiful daylillies while ours were the common garden variety. So for fun (I had a sheltered sense of “fun” at twelve), I would ask permission to take a stamen or three from some of his beauties to cross-pollinate them with our Cinderellas. From seed to flower is at least two years; that’s a longish eternity when you're twelve. Nonetheless, I remembered to check occasionally. There were some interesting results: some of the lillies were prettier than their mommas and some got smacked a bit uglier than seemed fair at the time. Some seeds just never did grow.
Looking back, I can see a pattern. Kind of like raising children. You never know what you’ll get and there’s no way to tell what the vicissitudes of fate and fortune have in store for them. But eventually they all get grown and gone so you go back to raising flowers again, just for someone to boss around.
There are advantages to children: they give you grandchildren and they send you birthday cards and sometimes they call for advice. But raising flowers has some benefits, too. For one thing, you have more control over the process. During the dry spells you can water things, for example. Or maybe just install drought-resistant plants to begin with. You can move things around to suit yourself without having to listen to the flowers complain. Or at least not complain much; some of them refuse to grow or blossom under certain conditions so you can’t just stick them any old where. Zinnias and bergamot will have sun or they will have mold and mildew and not much in the way of flowers. On the other hand, in this climate it doesn’t seem to matter where you put rudbeckia, it just blooms.
Some of them are sooo fussy. Take clematis. There’s a large white variety that does quite well on my porch railing. Several feet down from it is a jackmanni. Now the latter is supposed to thrive and grow all over the place. Not this one. It sends out three or four branches, rather skinny and tentative, that curl around several spokes in the railing and looking like they don't want to take up too much room. For a week or so, it blossoms and then it just sits there, vegetating while the white one glories in the warm weather and grows thick and lush. The jackmanni is definitely the sickly sibling. Though clematis don’t like to share their space, I stealthily put a Heavenly Blue morning glory in between the two of them and it’s taking up the slack for the spindly one. That used to be the spot for moonflowers, but they took so long to finally blossom —August, usually — and they’re more voracious than morning glories. But the fragrance is wonderful, even better than mimosas.
The bench is under the mimosa. Next to it is a Red Dragon begonia which I got for Mother’s Day. It’s outgrowing the pot so has to be watered assiduously until I find a bigger pot. If I do. Behind the bench (to the right in the picture) is a Brown turkey fig that was there when the mimosa was quite small. The fig is overpowered by the mimosa, of course, but as a result its fruit is tiny — like large grapes — and very sweet. Fig trees in other parts of the yard produce the usual-sized fruit but aren’t nearly as good…
Sweet are the uses of adversityI never did get the part about toads wearing precious jewels in their heads, but I do love a toad's appetite for bugs. I've put a few toad houses under the hostas and such. I figured they needed housing when I found one huddled under a trowel I'd left by the salvia.
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in the stones, and good in every thing.