Saturday, April 24, 2010

This isn’t a Pretty Picture

I’ve referred to the ravages of the 2009 – 2010 winter several times in this blog, and in particular two exceptional snowfalls that, in slightly less than a span of 4 days left northern Delaware covered in 42 inches of snow. Several chrysanthemums did not survive (of the 6 in the front sun garden, only 3 remain, and of those 3, 1 is much smaller than its showings the previous two years, not to mention the carpet phlox which daily encroaches on its wayward offshoots); the rosemary bush, which measured over a foot in diameter, has been reduced to an eighth of its former glory; and of the 3 ground cover Blue Star Lithodora, only 2 survived, 1 of which has but 4 or 5 diminutive branches. I also noticed we lost several tulips and daffodils in the upper terrace of the front garden. And the Feverfew at some point lost its bulk, and this year sent up but one stem (which I pinched back early this morning to encourage mass).

Yet to my delight the Lithodora managed to produce a few flowers thus far, and I see many buds (mostly on one plant). {Please be advised: The “nice” photos are from 2009.}

Thus, while these pictures are not pretty, they do capture an element of beauty and the vicissitudes of gardening. Destruction is omnipresent, whether in the form of hail or squirrels, ice or Gramsci-cats, drought or humans. We strive to cultivate, we nurture the plant for and towards longevity, we aim to design and plan, but in the end other forces are at play, forces that may in any moment obliterate our care.

And the reverse is true as well. Sedum spectabile “Autumn Joy” (a.k.a. Stonecrop) managed to sow some rather healthy seeds such that the space between the triangular placement of the parents is now populated by a few vibrant offspring; plants we took for dead or near-death, like my Lithodora, stage miraculous recoveries (perhaps the source of day-time soap opera plots).

Thus this spring’s display of the Lithodora gratifies more than usual. I appreciate more the juxtaposition of the pale green of the variegated Siberian iris with the rich evergreen of the Lithodora, and the way the thick ribbons of white are replicated in miniscule ways along the edges of the diminutive flower. A few weeks later, and the juxtaposition will be somewhat reversed: the vibrant blue of the Lithodora becomes the deep Technicolor blue of the iris (the picture is last year’s, as this varietal blooms in late May to early June).

Despite its size—the Lithodora flower is roughly comparable to one’s pinky fingernail—and despite its proximity to the lustrous fuchsia azalea and the carpet of fluorescent phlox, it commands full attention. It is back. It is here. And in its infinitesimal way, it stands as the quintessential embodiment of spring.

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