Today was the first day I worked in the flower garden since last fall.

There was something satisfying about clearing away the last of the dead plants from last fall and making way for the new blooms already peeking through.

As I cleared away the remains of last year’s peony bush I was very happy to see the new red shoots pushing through:

The last bit of the hibiscus stems, which reach 6 feet high or so when in full bloom, look and feel very hard and sturdy. At first one might think one would need a saw to cut them away. Yet I’m able to twist them off with my bare hands.

There’s something symbolic about that, I suppose.

As I worked I thought about how almost every plant and flower in my garden was chosen by someone else.

My husband went through a rose bush phase some years ago and there are several shrub roses in the garden.

I don’t especially care for shrub roses and sometimes I get annoyed at how I’ve now been stuck with their upkeep. They take up a lot of space and their thorns always prick me, even when I wear gloves.

Also, I prefer the look of the old-fashioned tea roses.

Here’s our Elizabeth Taylor tea rose, which belongs to my oldest daughter:

But last December the shrub roses were still in bloom in the flower garden, even long after everything else had died (the Elizabeth Taylor rose only bloomed for a couple of weeks):

So I have a new respect for these shrub roses and will keep them. Anything that retains vivid color in harsh conditions is worth hanging onto.

My father selected and helped plant most of the other plants. He’s not so mobile anymore and can’t help me in the garden like he used to. I wouldn’t ever consider ripping out anything he had planted for me.

Then there are the hostas on the east side of the house, planted ages ago by a previous owner, which require shade and bloom in August.

Seven years ago we chopped down the two trees in the front yard and these hostas have struggled ever since. I tend to forget about them because they aren’t in the front yard with the other flowers.

Constant full sun has been hard on them. Yet somehow they continue to bloom every year. I haven’t managed to find the time to dig them up and plant something different.

Also, I know what it feels like to be in full sun when you are in dire need of shade – there have been areas of my life where I have felt just like that.

So I kind of like these hostas, imperfect as they are.

Working in the garden in early spring like this, before the new plants have grown, reminds me of what Rachel Remen says about spores in Kitchen Table Wisdom:

One of the most dramatic manifestations of the life force is seen in the plant kingdom. When times are harsh and what is needed to bloom cannot be found, certain plants become spores.

These plants dampen down and wall off their life force in order to survive. It is an effective strategy. Spores found in mummies, spores thousands of years old, have unfolded into plants when given the opportunity of nurture….

But a spore is a survival strategy, not a way of life. Spores do not grow. They endure. What you needed to do to survive may be very different from what you need to do to live.

No wonder she likes to compare the practice of medicine to gardening instead of to carpentry. Helping someone to live and thrive is very different from helping someone to merely survive. Gardening is a nice reminder of that.

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Filed under: GardeningKitchen Table Wisdom (the book)

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