Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Uncertainty is the Only Certainty


Not to get all Buddha-like but, as a gardener I am coming to believe that uncertainty is the only certainty there is.  And that is a good thing.

In spite of winter’s refusal to un-pry its cold dead hands from the control switch and allow the seasons to progress, green things are now appearing in Mars’ and my gardens.

Hopefully this second wave of blossoming turns out better than the first.  But this year particularly, you never know.

Mars and I are not big bulb people. The meager plot of daffodils and tulips that we do have – like so many of our plants, a gift from good friends – is located in a spot that that climatically runs about 3 – 4 weeks behind the rest of our property– so, mid-May in a good year.  There are two volunteer crocuses that have popped up around our driveway lamplight for the past few years.  And they did appear again sometime before Easter.  But then they just as quickly vanished.  Hardly what I would call a harbinger of anything.

 I know it is a New England cliché but Forsythia is the perennial spring bellwether on our property.  Count on it!  (Most of the time anyway.) We usually have five bushes (depending upon how badly I prune them the preceding year) – all of which traditionally burgeon at the same time, announcing with a bright yellow shout-out the imminence of the growing season.  This year the buds began to appear right after the crocuses dropped out of sight – and, unfortunately just in time for the early April chill and snow.  After which they now sit quietly in repose, pale yellow fringed in faded brown.

Sadder still was what befell our large-flowered Magnolia tree – the main attraction of our spring landscape.  Normally the last of its breed in our area to flower – and frequently the victim of high winds and heavy rains which shortens its time in the spotlight – this year’s buds were swelling and about ready to burst when the aforementioned winter conditions brought the whole process to a dead halt leaving the swollen sprouts cryogenically frozen in time.  (Our neighbor’s star-magnolia – an earlier bloomer – had its newly-formed fragile white petals flash-frozen by the sticky, white precipitation and transformed into tiny brown autumn leaves.)

 Now, with no more snow in sight and several warm afternoons and cool nights, our perennials are rising from the earth.  We remember most of them from the past years – that kind of being the point of perennials.

But there are always unplanned gifts and rescues that get fit in where they can – such as teasel, agastache and perillae from two years ago – whose locations I do not recall and whose appearance at this stage of growth I do not recognize. All three of these are peripatetic perennials – along with others that we have such as tansy, gooseneck loosetrife, and Chinese lanterns – and therefore are likely to turn up anywhere.  And they may be shape-changers too for all I know.  Whatever they turn out to be, and wherever and whenever they fully appear they will be just the right thing in the right place at the right time. 

And, as always, there will be many weeds that, out of fear that I might be tossing away a “real flower”, I leave in the ground to flourish and, perhaps, even bring to my garden club’s plant sale where it will become the best seller of the year.

 If only the weather was more predictable.  And, like the apples at Stop and Shop, all greenery grew with little white labels and UPC barcodes.  That would eliminate much of the uncertainty of gardening.  But it would also take away an awful lot of the fun too.

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