It’s February in Maryland and we have had a warm spell lately, which always leads me outside. Whenever possible and weather permits, I take a stroll around the property. I am always fascinated to see what’s growing in the gardens that surround our home. No matter the season, there is always something working in the soil.
When the winter is mild like one we have had this year, the first signs of spring are already erupting from the seemingly lifeless brown soil. Today, I see daffodil, iris, hyacinth and primrose leaves shooting upright and strong as if they don’t know that winter is still here and may cover them with snow or frost.
These sprouts combined with bright sunshine and a flock of Robins in the tree spark a winter daydream of a lush garden to come. Each year at this time, I have visions of a garden full of textures and blooms providing all-year interest with various and numerous plants rising up from the ground in explosive bloom then slowly bowing down to make room for the next row of blooming stars. Like fireworks in the sky each taking their turn to awe and amaze then fading away slowly.
The same way all of our dreams are tempered with reality, the actual garden unfolds much differently than I imagine. Like the passion of any new idea, the garden starts out strong and full of potential. Each sprout seems to be a spark of hope. A promise of a plant that you hope will be all that the plant tag had boasted. You hope that it will be the foretold height, width and covered in profuse blooms for the whole season, not just a week or two.
At the end of the season, plants will reflect the life they have experienced, just as we do. They will begin young and strong. They will have their own moment where they reach their full potential. They will be loved and nurtured through long and short-term challenges brought on by wind, rain, drought, heat, disease and pests. In the end the promising spring shoot will eventually turn into a plant that has gone through seasons of hope, promise, beauty, stress and decline. Showing signs of its struggle with tattered leaves, bowing seed heads and wilting limbs. It slowly declines and finally ends its life cycle by returning to the earth. Resting it its source where it is fortified and renewed. Ready for a rebirth when conditions are right and it is time to live again.
Although I go through this cycle of wishes versus reality year after year, you can still find me sitting in the windowsill with grand visions of the summer garden I wish it to be. I will check on my little shoots daily, coach them along and celebrating every stage of growth. In the end, they will surprise me with the reality of their own story and that is what inspires me.