The Simple Life
by Michele Meier Vosberg
Hope in a Bucket
I planted a bucket full of flower bulbs today. For years I have had spring flower envy. I see the first crocus pop up in someone else’s lawn and I am jealous. I once saw a bed of grape hyacinths on a boulevard in Chicago and I was delirious. I crave flowers in the early spring. I buy mixed bouquets at the grocery store and put the flowers in little colored bottles on my windowsill. I buy garden magazines and look longingly at the photographs of someone’s beautiful garden in Portland or Charleston, somewhere where flowers come earlier than Wisconsin. I want the coffee cup with the flowers for my morning brew and the flowered pillowcases for my bed. I visit greenhouses and soak up the sun and the smells. I am willing to go to great lengths to surround myself with flowers, but never, until today, was I willing to plant the bulbs that would bring me April happiness.
Planting flower bulbs requires a leap of faith. You must be willing to spend your time and money on something that will not bring immediate results. You have to trust that those barren looking brown bulbs are going to turn into something wonderful. It seems illogical that an ugly little bulb, which looks nothing like a flower, can be buried six inches into the ground, in the fall, and then grow in the spring and turn into glorious daffodils and tulips. I am amazed. Why doesn’t the cold of winter kill them off? How do they get light so far underground? Don’t they need light to grow? Why don’t they just rot in the moist soil or become food for rodents and deer? Botanist I am not. I am still not convinced it will really work. But I am motivated by my success earlier this summer splitting a perennial.
I read about it in a magazine. (I think those of us who are bookish get most of our information this way.) You could split a perennial and replant the separate sections. I was doubtful. Maybe it worked for real gardeners, but I am a skeptic when it comes to anything but the most basic petunia planting. Still, I had a lamb’s ear plant that was taking over my patio garden. I was fond of the plant with its fuzzy leaves and stalks of pretty purple flowers but it was getting out of control. Just take a shovel and a garden fork, the magazines said, and dig into the plant and then pull it into sections. Use the fork to break apart the roots. I was aghast, visioning sure death to my lovely lamb’s ear. But something had to be done. I attacked that plant with the shovel, sure that in a week’s time I would have to go to the garden center and buy something new to replace it. I broke the plant into several chunks and replanted each piece in another area of the garden. I didn’t hold out much hope. For several days the transplants looked pathetic. And then, one day when I forgot to look, they grew.
Wonder of wonders, my pretty little lamb’s ear plant was now four little plants, each one seemingly healthier than the next. The original looked better than ever. I was emboldened by this simple success. It was time to prune the roses. I read the books and then I got out my pruning sheers. The roses were done blooming; it was time. I held my breath and started cutting, the spiky vines falling to the ground like dead soldiers. It was not a pretty sight. I put on my heavy garden gloves and carted off the excess. The roses looked okay, if a little barren. Well, all the better to see my garden statuary, I thought.
In a few weeks, the roses bloomed a second time. I was delighted as I cut off the blooms and brought them into the house, filling every vase and bottle with my pink and white splendor. The more I cut them, the more they grew. I bought trellises and tied the new growth to the trellis with bits of string. They flowered again. As I write this, at the very end of September, I have rose buds. Unless there is a killing frost in the next few days, I will have pink roses in October this year. I am not sure that pink roses go with pumpkins, and if I have to chose there is no contest. The roses will be the centerpiece; the pumpkins will be pie.
I guess it just took some garden success to build my confidence in planting spring bulbs. It is good to know that after the short, dark days of winter something beautiful is waiting to happen. It is kind of a metaphor for life; some of the best things are the result of delayed gratification. After all, I was able to work for years on my education, and save for years to buy a house. We wait nine months for children to be born and eighteen years for them to grow to adulthood. All of these things require a leap of faith, and if I can hold out for the long haul in other areas of my life, I figure why not take a little leap with a bunch of flower bulbs.
That’s why, after all these years, today I found myself crawling around on my hands and knees with a shiny new bulb planter. As I filled the holes with a teaspoon of bulb food and a little brown bulb I imagined the flower that is going to be there come spring. For the first time, I really believe it might happen. And I realized that I was planting more than crocuses, and hyacinths and daffodils. I am planting spring, the light and color and flower smells that will come at the end of the cold and snow. It’s more than flowers, I realized as I plopped the earth back in to cover the bulbs, I’m planting a little bit of hope for the future. These are uncertain times, and I’ll take a little hope wherever I can get it. It felt good, and somehow right, to be outside on a wonderful fall day, digging up holes and filling them with a little bit of hope in a bucket.
Michele Meier Vosberg is a teacher, consultant and freelance writer. She’s doing her best live a simple life in a complicated world. When all else fails you can find her in the backyard reading a book.