Floral Fantasies

ESSAY

March 19, 1995|By Holly Selby

All winter long my garden blooms profusely. Clematis winds its way over the wrought-iron banister, its huge, purple velvet blossoms drooping gracefully toward the steps. So many tulips -- the pink-and-white peppermint kind -- are in flower that when the wind blows, they bend and shiver and seem to race across the yard. The royal blues of the salvia are set off nicely by the pink foxgloves. And the reds and whites of my common impatiens grow petal to petal with rainbow amaryllis.

Flowers I've never had much luck with in the summer months pTC grow like crazy when it's cold.

Unfortunately, however, it's all in my mind. I really don't have a wondrous winter garden. But that's OK with me.

Each year, when the chill winds blow and the days are gray, I take refuge in a world where the soft colors of spring and brilliant hues of summer never fade and blow away. The only snowballs here are not the icy, melting kind.

Life seems much simpler when viewed from a patch of flowers, so why not imagine perfect posies and magnificent mums?

Things make more sense to me in a garden. Promises are never broken, but the surprises keep coming.

And there's a rhythm: I dig small holes and fill them with seeds and flowers grow.

Sure, it's not all easy. First there's the tedious part, the digging and weeding. But then there's the fun of choosing what you want to plant and where you'll plant it. Perhaps the pink-purple bee balm would look lovely next to the salmon-pink geraniums?

Perhaps not.

No matter what, each and every spring, when I really do plant a garden, I enjoy the wonder of watching small green things come to life. The long, hot days of summer arrive with an explosion of vivid color; then fall comes, with burnished hues -- and a feeling of completion.

Somehow time seems to slow in a garden: There are no pressing deadlines, no projects one must complete.

No one ever talks back here -- not the rabbits, not the birds, not even the cats. Most of the time, the only pests I see are slugs.

And the flowers are forever forgiving -- if you don't plant them this year, there's always next.

During the warm, sunny months I stay outdoors, savoring each minute. I harvest my memories of flowers, storing them up like a squirrel with nuts; something to get me through the winter.

So when the cold season comes, my garden is not hard to cultivate.

I sow it with images from catalogs and books. Who could resist? Page after page of vivid blossoms, mine for the imagining: "A color bonanza!" says the caption under a picture of spiky red, purple, white and gold flowers. "Spectacular dwarfs!" says the description of tiny flowers called tiger babies.

And under a large orange blossom, the catalog says: "Think of it as the original Tiger Lily on steroids!"

I planted a dozen of those in my mind.

But when I'm in a romantic mood, I plant softer, friendlier flowers like pink and white baby's breath and lavender. Not willy-nilly, of course. I have rules: Delphinium Galahads in bold white must be close to the pale pink Guineveres. Pussy willows and dogwoods are discreetly separated.

On other days, though, I don't know what gets into me. I stick the creamy Sir Winston Churchill lilies right next to the Ezra Pound peonies. I blast the baby's breath out of the yard with black dragon and trumpet lilies. I scatter handfuls of fiery red Lucifer flowers right in the middle of the white angel blossoms.

Why not? If I don't like it, I will change it.

And by the time the grayer, colder season gets tired of itself and seems ready to wind down, I, too, am ready. I'm ready to go out and plant some of my thoughts.

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