Sunday, July 21, 2013


 I am increasingly convinced that a majority of the successes of gardening owe not to design and careful planning and planting, but to the happy accident we call serendipity.

Two years ago, I was a beneficiary (one of thousands) of the Delaware Center for Horticulture's tree planting program. Six of us on the block received Syringa reticulata (Japanese Tree Lilac), a small to medium sized tree, perfect for urban living, upright and compact, distinguished by its mass plumes of showy white flowers in late spring (no picture available).

I asked the DCH team to plant my new Tree Lilac not on the mass of my front sun garden, but slightly on my side of this neighborhood's ubiquitous waste-land: that sliver parcel of property that marks the division between all of the semi-detached homes with which no one quite knows what to do.

The tree was situated just in front of the bed of pale yellow bearded irises. In previous years, the mass of irises bloomed in unison, though the few pale lavender irises which somehow became mixed up in the yellow bunch bloom slightly earlier. This year, however, the irises bloomed as a successive wave: those that get full sun bloomed first, followed by the irises that were only partly shaded by the tree lilac, which were succeeded by those that received sun starting in the very late morning. The results were spectacular, and my blooms lasted for several weeks!

I am sure more seasoned gardeners know this design trick, but for me it was accidental discovery at its finest.

Yesterday, I was reminded of the joys of serendipity--one of those nearly inappreciable moments of time that usually get lost in the shuffle of doing but, when noticed, strike one as a sublime manifestation of Being.

After the nursery folks helped me carefully load a 6 foot Paniculata Tree Hydrangea into my MINI (yes, you read that correctly!), I turned on the ignition, completely shocked that the tree fit, and feeling rather smug.

My smugness quickly turned to ethereal awe and a bizarre sense of humility when Handel's triumphal Music for the Royal Fireworks played on the Symphony channel of Sirius Radio.

Neither could the moment have been more perfect, nor could I have planned it. Serendipity.

On the drive home, during which nary a leaf was lost, I felt that which the audience in London's Green Park must have felt back in 1749 when the music was first performed: relief that the War of the Austrian Succession was over, and joy in the certitude of life.

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