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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017

Nothing but flowers

Posted Friday, July 9, 2010, at 1:20 PM

I like flowers. I also like children, but I do not chop their heads and keep them in bowls of water around the house. - George Bernard Shaw

In the two weeks before my grade-school graduation, the 18 girls in my class were very concerned about when the peonies would bloom. Those girls who had them in their gardens at home reported daily on their condition, amid speculation that they would be too early -- or worse, too late.

Why all the fuss about flowers?

Because, by tradition, peonies were an important part of the graduation ceremony. Each girl would be carrying one perfect bloom during the march into the chapel. A different flower just wouldn't do.

The nine boys in our small class, who had no floral responsibilities during the ceremony (nor any others, except to be on their best behavior), were very cavalier about the peonies, of course. Boys of that age are rarely concerned about anything outside the realm of sports or, frankly, girls.

I am happy to report that Mother Nature, being a creature of habit, produced the peonies neither too early nor too late, but right on time, and another year of the tradition was fulfilled. We girls were delighted; the boys were unimpressed.

Peonies have remained my favorite flower ever since.

But until I moved to Marshall, I had no peonies to call my own. As a condo dweller for almost 25 years, I had to satisfy my craving for their beautiful color and lush blooms by other means and on a very small scale. So naturally I was thrilled to discover peonies in the garden of the house we purchased here.

And every year, I look forward to their all-too-short display in mid- to late May. They never disappoint me. As cut flowers, they look as spectacular in a rusty tin can as they do in a cut-glass vase. Even when they begin to fade, they're beautiful.

I love them as much as I ever did and miss them when they're gone.

And I used to think that once they faded away in early June, there isn't much else to take their place, but I was wrong about that.

When the peonies are gone, I have a deep purple clematis, now its fourth year, climbing the trellis at the front of the house and a lovely white and pink one, which I earlier thought was a weed, covering a tuteur in the backyard.

As the clematis fades, the bright yellow faces of the coreopsis and the pink and purple spires of veronica in the front yard begin to pop up.

On the east side of the house, three white hydrangeas, my next-to-favorite flower, begin producing their heavy white mopheads not long after. Flanked by red huechera, the vigorous white blooms stand out against their light green leaves.

And just when I think it doesn't get any better, the dozen or so red, yellow and orange daylilies at the back fence come into bloom, lasting most of July. And in the front yard, five very large daisies start their blooming season, too.

Now that the daisies are peaking, the crape myrtles around the mailbox are just beginning to show their dark pink ruffles, flanked by a show of later-blooming red daylilies.

Next to make their appearance will be the hosta blooms along the back wall of the house. It's a spectacular show because the hosta bed I inherited from the previous owner is 22 feet long. These very large-leaved plants shoot up dozens and dozens of three-foot spikes of fragrant white flowers that will stick around until the middle of August.

By the time everything begins to wind down for the year, we're not far from autumn with its brilliant reds and yellows and oranges, and then it will be winter before we know it. The season will start again in the spring with the redbud and pear trees in the backyard and then my peonies will come back again.

Of course I'll miss my flowers, but I treat them the same way I treat my grandchildren. I take pictures of all of them at every opportunity, and pull the photos out frequently for another look when I missing them the most.

It's not quite the same as being there, but it reminds me of how lucky I am to have lived long enough to have grandchildren and flowers.

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A garden puts everything into perspective. Within it is a circle of life, youthful sprouts, and adolescent & young adulthood blooms of passion, followed by the maturing of your seeds and then finally a rest over the cold months of winter. But that is not all we have the weeds in life invading our perfectly planned garden arrangements. The weeds constantly try to choke out the very life of our tender young flower and produce. This also goes on while rain falls softly??? More like a young child trying to help by pouring an entire bucket of water on newly planted seeds expecting flowers to pop up like a cartoon. Sometimes the rain is too shy to fall out of the sky and then we gardeners must haul around a hollow rubber "snake" and have it to water our flowers and produce. We gardeners must wait patiently while the flowers get ready to come forth and the vegetables grow larger with their yummy goodness hidden within their various shapes. Then while we wait??? Heck sneaking up on us at every opportunity are those dang weeds, insects and plant diseases with their ongoing assault on all our hard work.

Just about the time the first fruits and flowers of our labors come forth we have SUMMER HEAT. That oppressive sweat lodge of a time when we want to come out to the garden to work but it is too hot. (I don't understand people who want to beat a drum and sweat in a dark smelling place for money!) Heck let us Midwest gardeners give them a hoe, a straw hat and let them hoe the beans, corn and squash. A real Native American experience all for free. All the while nature's minuscule insects playfully wing their way around our heads (more like some dive bombing pilot!). Yes the joys of gardening in the Midwest.

But the flowers and produce will finally come through that heat and bring their yummy goodness and beauty forth for us to enjoy. And Kathy just before we shake our fists and curse God for the oppressive heat he brings a brief cold front and we get some rain but more importantly he reminds us that a stroll through the garden when it is pleasant is both an enjoyable experience as well as a spiritual one.

Yes, a garden is great experience for all the ups and downs it brings to gardeners. We would not give up because we know the promises of spring as well as the chilling frosts of winter are all part of that circle of life.

-- Posted by movaldude on Sat, Jul 10, 2010, at 1:32 PM

I was going to comment, but movaldude - you've said it all! Great column (and great comment!)

-- Posted by koeller77 on Mon, Jul 12, 2010, at 8:43 AM

Kathy- That was a very sweet read. I could picture each one of the flowers as you were describing it. A very peaceful scene.

-- Posted by luvthoseowls on Mon, Jul 12, 2010, at 4:51 PM


Gardeners have long enjoyed Passalong Plants. My 91 year old neighbor took great pleasure and pride in his peonies passed along to him some 50 years ago by his aunt who lived in SC. He and his wife applied the wood ashes from their fireplace each year.

It sounds as if you are enjoying a whole garden of passalong plants. I hope the former owners or their children know how much you cherish what you have inherited. Thanks for sharing the seasonal joys of summer.

-- Posted by upsedaisy on Mon, Jul 19, 2010, at 9:33 PM

Passalong plants are wonderful! I can point to quite a few that didn't come with the house, but were offered by others, including the realtor who helped us buy the house, my daughter and my in-laws.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Tue, Jul 20, 2010, at 4:55 AM

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Kathy Fairchild received a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration in 1986 from Marycrest College, Davenport, Iowa. She is also a 2003 graduate of the paralegal program at New York University. She moved to Marshall in 2006, following a career of more than 30 years with the world's largest farm equipment manufacturer. She is an Air Force brat and grandmother of four.
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