It’s sunny. It’s seventy degrees. The birds are pitching woo, and apparently that is all the evidence I need to determine it will never be cold, ever again, and so I have gone to the plant nursery and jammed a bunch of little pots in the back of my car. None of this bucks tradition.
One tradition is, I will buy more flowers than I can plant in a day, or three. I will scatter some of them here and there while I think about where they should go, and change my mind and move the pots around, and finally I’ll get around to planting them except for one. It might say “hardy in zone seven” on the tag but what it needs to be is “hardy left in a black plastic pot in the sun without water for three months,” and odds are it isn’t. Another tradition is: I’ll get everything settled in and then we will get one night close to freezing and they’ll all sulk for a month. Oh, they won’t die. They will just mope around like kids who didn’t ask to be born.
The first thing I do is fill the flower boxes. I used to shake that up but for quite a few years now I’ve put in the exact same plants. Geranium-Lantana-Cuphea-Callibrachoa-Heliotrope. I worry about this. There was this lady on my mail route, Mrs. V., who could politely be described as “rigid.” The first time I met her, I was crisply informed I was late. A few days later I was unacceptably early. Mrs. V. employed a miserable-looking gardener and every year she directed him to plant the flower beds all at once: tulips, to begin with, lined up like soldiers, socially distanced on a grid. Then they got pulled out and tossed so they wouldn’t naturalize. A fresh platoon would be mustered the next year to stand at attention. At a precise moment that was neither late nor early they were pulled out and replaced by a row of obedient salvias and a precise edging of lobelias, just the way Mrs. V. wanted them. The gardener never smiled and the garden itself, although quite well-behaved, looked unhappy too.
So I worry a bit that I have gotten into a routine with my flower boxes, although I would like to point out in my defense that everything but the Cupheas come in lots of colors, and I mix those up a bit. The thing is, it is a grand mixture, they play wonderfully well together, and in a good year, this is a thing of beauty and a joy for the whole block.
Meanwhile a number of things are conducting springtime in their own fashion without my input. For instance, I have grape hyacinths. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. And there is definitely such a thing as too many grape hyacinths. They are a rolling blue tide thundering through the soilscape and lapping up against the walkways and how anything else wheedles its way through the mass of bulbs, NONE of which I planted, I will never know. I begin yarding them out by the bucketloads year after year, starting before they even bloom, and it does not slow them down one bit, because Jesus loaves-and-fishes them till Kingdom Come.
Meanwhile, we enjoy our seventy degrees. A lady crow in the tippy top of the fir is putting out a metronomic bleat every ten seconds from dawn to dark, indicating she wants a treat. I used to find this repetitive but now I am rather charmed by the dedication she applies to thoroughly annoying the neighborhood, and the fine results she obtains. Per tradition, now that I have my prescribed flowers planted, with their tentative, petite rootage, a crow will come down and yank one of them out of the flower box and replace it with a hole.
He is presenting his find to his lady friend, and his lady friend informs him yet again–does he even remember last spring?–that the nest is done and she is not interested in a bouquet, but maybe a snack of some kind, and he drops the limp $4 flower into the yard and plucks out another one, dully thinking “Maybe she doesn’t like pink, let’s try orange,” and his intended reaffirms that actually she would like a delectable larval item or at least something in the arthropod family, thank you very much, bleat bleat bleat. And the courtship goes on apace.
Meanwhile a few weeks of significantly less friendly temperatures ensue, everything botanical pouts except the grape hyacinths, and I examine the empty spots in my flower boxes and go right back to the nursery.
It’s a tradition.