No matter the season, the garden has lessons for me. Just out my north bedroom window is an oakleaf hydrangea. It hasn’t always been in that spot. Like most of the smaller plantings in my backyard, it has been moved as my vision for the cloister has changed and been refined. For a few years it was tucked away in a wet spot–hydrangeas love water (note the hydra- in their name) not standing water, but moisture for sure, back by the air conditioner.
It was doing ok there but not flourishing. Oakleaf hydrangeas are really specimen plants…they are show pieces and, thus, need to be showcased. I had plunked it back in that spot because my focus was on other things. It was languishing, just barely putting out a mis-formed flower head.
As I have matured in my garden desires my mantra for the garden has refined to the point if the plant isn’t happy, isn’t flourishing or is taking too much care, something must be done. Spending my energy wisely makes me a much happier camper. Fewer plants, more focus.
With the last bit of hardscaping in the backyard just completed, I decided that the oak-leaf needed to move to a spot where it would be noticed. Out went the boxwoods–lost because of winter kill–in went the hydrangea. Its fancy leaves would be the star of the show out my window.
It was a misshapen thing, not a beauty in the least. Because it had always tried to stretch towards the filtered sun, it was stunted and scraggily; it needed some support. I was happy to oblige.
Returning from my neatly organized (by height) stock of stakes with just the right one, I pushed it into the ground (mindful of the plant’s roots) and proceeded to tie the plant in a couple of places with my ever ready supply of green florists’ wire. There. All better.
For the rest of the summer and on into the fall the hydrangea settled in nicely. It bloomed right on time! It was happy in its new center-stage spot. Along with the oakleaf-shaped leaves, there were the wonderful full panticles, all lacy and shaped like floppy cones. It was flourishing. I loved looking out the window to enjoy the fruits of my and its labors.
Then, weather arrived. Not winter, just weather. As my grandfather said to me one day long ago as I was bemoaning the miserable late-January weather in Michigan: “Wherever you go, you’ve got weather.” In other words, get over it! I did. I do. I have boots of all sorts, coats for all seasons, hats, caps, scarves, gloves, mittens, umbrellas, too. I am well prepared to weather the weather. And I mostly refuse to be daunted by what’s outside.
But plants haven’t got a choice. They depend upon those of us who adopt them and ask them to adapt to our visions, to provide the proper care. Just as I had propped the oak-leaf hydrangea so that it would grow taller and fuller, just as some wrap their tender plants in burlap cocoons; just as we dig up tender corms to store for winter, we sometimes help/care too much.
The winds howled mightily. Day and night. I’ve been in hurricanes; even stood on my neighbor’s front porch and watched a tornedo rip through the northwest section of the city I lived; and I have been tossed and turned in high waters and blustery cold winds in a small yacht on the Great Lakes. This wind was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. The phrase ‘not fit for man nor beast’ about summed it up. I was so lucky I had no need to leave. Trees were nearly flattened. Sirens blared. Leaves, branches, flotsam all went swirling. Hold on to your hat!
The top of the hydrangea broke right off…right at the spot where I had so carefully tied it. Nearly 1/3 of the plant was broken off, gone. Teathered to a plant stake, the plant was unable to do what it needed to do–bend in the wind. It was fixed in place, stuck.
I look out my window each morning now and look at what I wrought and feel sad.
And then I think about other things that I’ve teathered up. Ideas, relationships, thoughts. What needs to be let go so it can bend when the unexpected winds coming blowing through, I wonder. What binds me? Causes me to be too stiff sometimes? Where am I stuck?
I recall my years of Education For Ministry (EFM), a four-year study of the bible sponsored by our church. Our group laughed heartily as we leaned about and began to recognize our selves in the phrase ‘stiff-necked people’. We sheepishly admitted that not only were others pretty darn ‘stiff-necked’ but we just might be/were also.
Guess it was time for me to re-learn that lesson. Humility is a great teacher. The hydrangea will grow better without my assistance from now on, as I allow it to bend as it will.
May your holidays be full of everything you NEED: love, joy, smiles, laughter all wrapped up with a big dollop of humility…
as always, thank-you for reading!
Be Alert! Be Alive! Be Aglow!