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One Woman's Opinion

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A Walk through the Garden

Mary Wakefield Buxton

by Mary Wakefield Buxton

Urbanna, Va.— About this time of year I walk through the garden and look for signs of spring. Thank goodness for springtime! What would humanity do without annual rejuvenation?

Never have I needed spring as much as now. Let’s hope the earth’s exuberant new bloom will cheer us up. After a winter of discontent . . . abysmal leadership in Washington, the nation’s hopelessly rising debts, the suffering of so many people caught in an unending recession, and the impatience of lingering cold weather . . . bring on springtime!

Ah, but dear readers, no matter what troubles in life may be, we shoulder on, our chins ever up, never losing faith.

The garden appears asleep but on close inspection there is good news. Tiny green shoots promising crocus, daffodils and tulips are already poking up from their mulched beds in the lee of the “Pineapple Palace.” Imagine the coming warmth and sunshine! O, blessed buds and shoots! O, earth’s sweet expression of faith!

Winter seemed colder this year. Yet, the massive banks of red camellia bushes in the backyard were ablaze through January 20, a record for fall blossoms. Then came a vicious week of 20-degree weather. It turned the bright scarlet into dull brown overnight.

But, already new spring flowers have formed on the camellias. Amazing shrubs, their leaves stay green year around, and they bloom twice a year. One can’t beat a camellia for providing a steady splash of color in the garden.

Azaleas are a different story. They are finicky and they die off faster than bubbles in the bathtub. Master Gardener training taught me soil acidity must be meticulously to their liking. But my philosophy in the garden is pure Darwinism—the survival of the fittest. A plant that isn’t determined to grow, flourish and bloom under adversity has no business in my garden.

I see my plants as people. We can’t lie about helplessly dependent and waiting for someone to save us. We have to bloom where we are, no matter what, and no, we can’t wait for the gardener to come with his fertilizer, lime or mulch. We have to bloom, baby bloom, and on our own, even if we have to grow in a bed of weeds. 

One might surmise that roses would never make it in my garden because roses are even more demanding than azaleas. However, the new knockout roses do very well. I have them in front and back yards and they flourish with very little attention. All they need is sunshine.

There’s a few rambling roses on the garage over at the “Sprout Cottage,” but neither is robust. Scraggly is a more fitting word for their usual state. I leave them alone and they continue to exist, determined to hang on with meager attention. I admire determination.

A miniature yellow rose in a pot on the back patio blooms magically every year and all summer long. I never take her (I am sure she is a lady!) in, and each fall as I arrange my potted plants against the lee of the house, I think I’ve surely seen the last of her. She just comes back stronger in the spring. Tough lady. My kind of rose.

I have heard already that beloved spring symphony of flocks of birds landing in nearby trees, which always signals warm weather. The birds darken the sky when they fly in to settle into a stand of trees. Their excited mass chirp is contagious.

Once a flock of ravenous robins descended onto my giant holly tree one March day. In 15 minutes every red berry was gone. How hungry they must have been!

Another sign of spring is the sudden growth of green grass. I call this shade “Easter basket grass green.” I never see a beautiful green yard without feeling a renewed surge of energy. 

The most welcome sight of all is the forsythia against the house with its merry tips of fire, soon followed by Bartlett pear, red bud, cherry, apple and dogwood trees. By then the birds are busy mating and building their nests and heavenly bird songs fill the air. How splendid are nature’s gifts to us!

Lastly are the tiny chartreuse new leaves of deciduous trees. At first they are so tiny the tree appears to be merely a cloud of pale green mist. A few days later the leaves have doubled in size and shout out their new found shapes. “We are leaves, you silly poets out there who gaze at us with such passion and think you see green mist!” a writer might imagine they are saying.

If trees could talk. If leaves could tell us their thoughts. If flowers could sing out the good news. They would all be lilting the very same message—”Here’s to life! Spring is here! Keep the faith!”


posted 03.06.2013

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