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Friday, December 10, 2010

News from the Garden

My garden is blooming like crazy. It's weird. It's December. In New York City. It's cold out there.

I can understand why the chrysanthemums, and even the marigolds, are still going strong...they are early spring and fall flowers and are used to shorter, cooler days. But I just don't get how it is that my more fragile plants – the roses, violas, dianthus, snapdragons, and even the petunias – are still alive and flourishing.

I have had trouble keeping my petunias alive during a heatwave in July. Each year when I buy my flats of petunias or pansies, or as I deadhead the dianthus and irises, I wonder how I got suckered, once again, into expending my time and energy on such thankless creatures.

They do not fight. They do not last. They are here for a short time, and then they are gone.

Pretty as they are (and I do insist on brightly-hued, flowering plants), they require hours of bending and stooping, sweating, plucking and watering. In short, they need lots of care and attention and they do nothing to repay those who work so hard to bring them to life, feed and nurture them. Even their beauty is just a matter of self-preservation. They need to attract the attention of birds and insects in order to survive and propagate. My enjoyment of their charms is of no importance to them at all.

Still, each year, I eschew my mother's leafy green hostas and Andromeda and rhododendron bushes, which are slow and dim and stingy with their flowers, and choose to plant annuals for their gaudy petals of pink, purple, orange, yellow and red. It that means that I can never be sure if I will see masses of gay, vibrant flowers, or sad, droopy specimens, well, that is the choice I make. I live with it. And keep on weeding and hoping for an abundance of color.

Every year I plant more bulbs in the hope of eventually having a garden of perennial blooming flowers, such as crocus and hyacinth, daffodils and tulips, lilies and roses, peonies and camellias. And as I stoop and dig and sweat and curst, I think it will all be worth it in the end if I never have to plant another annual again. But this year, my little garden has flourished far beyond my expectations. Petunias in December? Who would have thought it? My hearty little annuals seem determined to last.

Maybe my garden will continue to bloom all the way through the New York winter. Then, next spring, I won't have to decide whether to buy impatiens or pansies – my garden will already be full of color and life. Wouldn't that be great? It might, almost, be enough to make me actually enjoy gardening.