Written by Jennie
If you had asked me a decade ago what my favorite season was, I would have replied fall/winter (basically indistinguishable in the temperate climate I live in) without hesitation. I like the cooler weather and I love the holidays. Spring was nice because baseball started, but otherwise I could take it or leave it. Summer lost its charm for me when I was out of school and no longer had summer vacations to look forward to.
As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve come to appreciate each season for what it has to offer. Becoming a gardener has made me look at spring with new eyes. The other day, I was driving down a not-particularly-lovely avenue on my way to the freeway. As I drove, I wasn’t noticing the run-down houses or the empty storefronts, though. I was noticing the bursts of color where bougainvillea sprang forth in showy abundance and the cheerful yellow of clusters of daffodils. Everywhere I look, Spring is springing, and it’s beautiful.
Gardening has become something of a spiritual exercise for me. I did not take to it naturally; I’m a city girl, unfond of dirt and afraid of most every bug I might encounter. I’ve had to get over my worm-phobia; now, when I scoop up a big shovelful of earth in preparation for planting something, and see several fat worms wriggling around in the soil, I’m not grossed out but happy because I know the worms are beneficial. I’m still pretty careful not to touch them, but I feel almost protective of the little fellows, making sure I recover any that I’ve disturbed and trying not to mutilate them in the planting process.
What I like about gardening is both the labor and the result – there is something very satisfying about working with the earth, planting a plant and watching it flourish. Even more thrilling to plant seeds or bulbs and watch something entirely new spring to life.
I still feel that I have a lot to learn, and I still kill far more plants than I’d like to. But the successes somehow make up for the failures. I am especially proud of a shrub I bought over a year ago, one that I almost gave up on several times.
It was on the sale table at the garden center at Rite-Aid. It wasn’t particularly prepossessing; a little on the puny side, flowerless and featuring dark green vaguely maple-leaf shaped leaves (exhaustive research indicates that this type of leaf is known as palmate, in case you were wonder). But the price was right, and the information tag indicated that it had the potential to grow big, which is always a plus because I have a large yard and am always looking for larger plants to fill it up.
I took the plant home and planted it right in the front yard, where it promptly died. Or perhaps, more accurately, failed to thrive to a great degree. Maybe it’s my inexperience as a gardener, or perhaps its just one of the idiosyncrasies of gardening, but I sometimes have trouble telling if a plant is dead or merely “resting”, to quote the Monty Python parrot sketch. I was bummed, in any case, but decided to try moving it to a shadier part of the yard before giving up on it entirely. I transplanted it under one of our camellia trees, in an area where I generally don’t plant anything because it gets basically no sun. The dirt was so hard-packed there that I really didn’t dig a deep enough hole, and thus my poor little plant was not only half-dead but sort of sticking out of the ground a bit more than it should have been. I put a bunch of cocoa shell mulch (my favorite because it smells like chocolate!) around the base to try to stabilize it, and more or less ignored the plant for the next eight months.
Now, if it had been anywhere else in the yard, I probably would’ve ripped it out long before. But as I mentioned, I don’t usually plant anything in that area, anyway, so it’s not like shrub was in the way. And besides, while for months on end it did not really get better, nor did it entirely give up the ghost. It just sort of toddled along, semi-desiccated but not really conclusively dead.
Until one day, I noticed a few new leaves on my shrub. Oh happy day! Could it be? Might the little guy be making a comeback? From then on, I watched intently as the shrub leafed out nicely, and then actually began to grow, until it was a big, leafy, healthy-looking shrub, as healthy as any shrub you could hope to find. I could probably attach all sorts of metaphorical significance to the resurrection of my little shrub, but in the end I will just say that it made me very happy to see. This week, its first flower bloomed!
Now, if asked my favorite season, I can’t pick just one. But I know my favorite part of spring (besides baseball!): watching new life flourish where once there was nothing but bare earth. And occasionally managing to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and having a beautiful shrub with pretty purple flowers to show for it.