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Nothing but flowersPosted 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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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.