Sunday, March 13, 2011

Running of the Bulls, Wearing of the Green, Cutting of the Liriope

Frenetic, unpredictable lives need stability and a guarantee that the passage of time offers something more than aging and gray hairs, wrinkles and aching joints. The Easter egg hunt or the Passover seder, the Fourth of July barbeque and Halloween costume parties, Christmas decorating or Hanukkah menorah lighting—precisely because of their commonality and regularity—offer something decidedly uncommon and exceptional.

Rhythm cannot, and should not, be overrated. Indeed, we seek it. We crave it in the midst of uncertainty. But make no mistake: regularity can be boring. It is what we do with rhythmic regularities, how we treat them, that makes the difference between monotonous observance and celebratory occasion.

We might look upon the cycle of nature with indifference, or we might allow ourselves the luxury of seeing the emergence from the cold wet soil of the greenery and buds of the spring bulbs that festoon the otherwise drab landscape, accompanied by herbaceous perennials that vanished late last fall, with wondrous eyes. We might celebrate the blooming of the Pieris (2 weeks earlier than last year, pictured below), and the leafing out of shrubs (Kerria, pictured to the right). We might relish the “chores” of gardening throughout the season—the deadheading and weeding, the pruning and transplanting—as moments outside ourselves.

But gardening, like all life, also contains its barbarous, ruinous rhythms. Each year, coinciding with the wearing of the green, some gardeners need to eliminate the green. Those with Liriope must part ways with their gratitude for “Lilyturf’s” verdant winter display and unceremoniously cut it back to the ground. After exposure to desiccating sun and wind, and entombment in various snowfalls, by February and March its foliage browns and its remaining greenery looks pale.

We can lament this act—and lament we do for the barrenness it temporarily imparts to the transitional garden—but we must too anticipate Liriope’s fecundity in the coming weeks, its projection of artfully rounded tips into the warming air that provide a contrast to the spiky tips of hostas as they emerge from the soil.

Fortunately, there are so many other developments in the garden to distract us.

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