Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Part 1

Six years ago, when we bought our house and did a renovation, there was very little left at the end for landscaping. We had budgeted for some "hardscaping" - a stone wall along the driveway, a smallish bluestone patio in the back, and a very small bluestone landing by the side door. Plantings were minimal, mostly because of cost, but also because I wasn't sure what I wanted.

I knew what I didn't want, though, and that was color. I consistently tore pictures from magazines (this was pre-Pinterest) of all-white and green gardens, and I thought they were beautiful. I'm not a big color person to begin with, so this was easy.

Part 2

Very slowly, over time, I began to add to the garden. They key to Part 2 was my good friend and neighbor who also is a professional gardener. We'd wander through nurseries and sometimes bring home a hosta, a boxwood, or some Solomon's Seal. She'd often stop by with a shovel and a bucketful of something she'd divided from her own garden or a client's, always white. "These will sulk for a while," she'd say, "but just wait."

Part 3

My mother's house was about to go on the market. I thought about how my children always asked if they could pick a Lamb's Ear from her front bed, I think mostly because they liked the name. I thought of her rose bush by the front door. I thought of her garden out back that had become overgrown but once had thrived, and which my mother had loved.

So we put on our boots and went back to see what was there. And what was there were peonies. Peonies that were not in bloom. I tried hard to remember what color they were but couldn't. I also couldn't leave them behind. So we dug them up and brought them home.

Part 4

For a while after the peonies were planted, nothing happened. Nothing happened for long enough that I began to think they hadn't survived the trip from one garden to the other. But then, this spring, buds began to appear on one of the plants, and one day those buds exploded into bloom.

A few days earlier, I had been talking to my 11-year-old about a big decision he had to make. I had asked him to try to explain to me what he was feeling, and he said, "I don't have the words."

That's how I felt when the peonies opened. They made me both happy and sad, but mostly happy. I took a picture with my phone and emailed it to my sister. She made me promise that if we ever move, we'll take the peonies with us, again.

One last thing: My all-white garden now is splashed with a deep, hot pink. That was the color I couldn't remember. Of course.

The peonies cut from my garden.


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