April 2, 2009

Fool for Flowers

I am a fool for flowers. I come by this by natural means. My mother came from a family of florists. My father came from a family that farmed. I tell myself that my garden is "an investment" - after all, I am a painter and can use flowers in my paintings. But in fact digging in the dirt and hauling away debris is respite from my work.
Readers may find it odd that teaching and creating art can even be described as work. Indeed, these are the pursuits of leisure in many respects. But to produce income, these pursuits involve a considerable amount of record keeping, advance planning, advertising, product testing, meetings, and producing a product whether one is in the mood or not. Work, in short.
I have had a considerable amount of work in the form of small teaching contracts and have spent a large quantity of time organizing schedules while looking for even more contracts. It is difficult to say "no" to even the smallest of jobs when the Great Recession looms ominously.
When prioritizing becomes paralyzing and work overwhelms I take respite in the beauty of the irises that grow in my garden. The one pictured at left I captured just before the heavy rainfall pommeled it into oblivion. It is unfortunately the only one of its kind among my many irises. It arrived as a free bonus iris when I ordered a group of blues - which incidentally have not blossomed yet. Perhaps they won’t. A recurrent theme of my garden is the survival of the free and those plants that cost next to nothing. While an expensive ginger lily never so much as broke the surface of the ground, a strange violet flower that looked like a miniature hollyhock flourished. I had pulled the latter out of a crack in the sidewalk in Charleston I dearly wanted large black elephant ears plants. The one I purchased from the now defunct Cross Seed company faltered after one season and never returned. Meanwhile a pot of expired Asiatic lilies that I purchased for forty cents from the local BiLo proliferated into over a hundred sturdy plants. Ah! I thought, this soil is for Asiatic lilies. My husband concurred and purchased a few somewhat exotic specimens. They performed with not much enthusiasm, didn’t blossom, then expired. But another one that I found growing gratuitously between two rocks did just fine, producing enormous yellow blossoms. The blueberries bushes that I purchased died in short order. The peach tree that grew from a pit in the compost pile has taken their place.
Could it be that those things that have survived harsh treatment are innately hardier than the pampered rich? No, this is not social commentary. It simply seems to be the law of the jungle in a small garden plot. Lately I’ve been clearing out a new garden area. In the slow process of building a wall, repairing concrete, and removing debris my imagination runs towards what remarkable botanical specimen will grace this area. An herb garden? A Chinese medicinal herb garden? A pomegranate tree? A persimmon tree? Or perhaps a rescued pot of what not from the side of the road.

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