All My Flora


I was all excited to develop two new gardens this spring. I forgot what happens after you plant. Congratulations, you have just adopted thirty infant children.

Human infants are famously helpless. So are saplings and bushes and flowers. A few days ago it was raw and wet and cold. Suddenly it’s nearly ninety and they are all crying and wailing in the dirt. Pay attention to me! Water me! Rub my leaves a little to see how I am feeling!

So I stand with a hose in my hand, soaking the river birch and the Gold Thread cypress and boxwood at her feet. I hear them sighing like milk-drunk infants. The Kousa dogwood needs me next, and after her I soothe the blue spruce and the spirea, the redbud and the weeping beech. Meanwhile I have older children I thought were fine, only to realize they aren’t happy. After three years, a row of my astilbe is browning out. I’ve tried everything. Failure to thrive. We don’t like it here! Too dry! they hoarse whisper to me in the heat of the day. Too much sun! Okay, I say, Okay, maybe I’ll move you nearer that ash tree.

There are oak leaf hollies on either side of the front steps. The one on the right had to be taken out last year when the deck was sinking and new piers had to be dug. When the workers put her back in her bed, she surprised me and lived. But now she is sick. Leaves yellowing with splotches of brown. The pediatrician tells me it’s an iron deficiency, worries that the drainage has been disturbed for the poor child and gives me a prescription to up the soil acid. Who knows if it will work. You give the kid her medicine and pray. Try to show a little compassion, I say to her brother to the left of the stairs, the one who wasn’t disturbed, who is showing off his fabulous shiny leaves.

How am I going to leave for two weeks vacation this summer? Who will take care of all these kids?

Most of life is being faithful to the people and things you agreed to love, even if, like me, you weren’t exactly aware of what your responsibilities would be. We seize upon the things we love–this woman, this man, this baby girl, this new house. Only later does it dawn on us, how much work it takes to be surrounded by beauty, to live with love. If we knew before our hearts seized upon the object of its desire, what it would demand from us, we would shrink back in fear. Which may be why love is blind. It must be, otherwise how would anything be born. Or adopted.


3 Responses to All My Flora
  1. Priscilla Harrison
    May 4, 2018 | 12:01 am

    Very nice and thought provoking, David.!
    I have in mind the image of you with the hose and a pensive look
    upon your face.
    I hope I can be a responsible “plant parent” myself this year.
    Am in a Denver area now and will return home to weeds and whatever has survived our Maine winter.
    Regards to you both,

  2. Jennifer
    May 4, 2018 | 7:21 am

    Oh I love this. I have been prepping my garden and getting so excited to bring new kids home but Art and I will be in Europe for two weeks in late May so we have to postpone our planting and it is torture to see my empty plots and pots…I am already stressing about what will happen to our little darlings when we leave for a week in July…so wonderful that you captured all of these feelings with words.

  3. Johnna
    May 8, 2018 | 11:18 am

    So true…

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