Perennials are my favorites. I can't claim to be a master gardener, but I do love to put my hands in the dirt and grow things.
Walking around the yard this spring, I'm pleased with all the color. We're past even the latest daffodils here in PA, but it's Memorial Day now and so the peonies are going great guns, as well as the irises and various other plants whose names my brain has misfiled. Perhaps I have forgotten the names, but I know that they come back reliably this time of year and that they have a delicate fragrance that I enjoy when I'm sitting on the porch.
Many of my plants were gifts but ever so many of the givers are now dead. Each time I gaze at those plants, blooming away with all their might, I think of the nice folks who shared them with me and I am grateful.
Emily was one of the prolific givers. An athletic, charismatic red head, she and her equally good-looking husband Ray had a lovely down-a-country-road property. Over the years, Emily, who undertook nothing she did by halves, had turned their surroundings into a show place, with a stellar Koi pond surrounded by and ornamented with plants. There were the expected cattails and water lilies, but the papyrus she brought home from the nursery was a revelation, as I'd never actually seen a living breathing specimen before.
Over the years all the local wildlife found the pond, from deer to leopard frogs and tree toads. These little guys hatched in the water, then climbed, for the next part of their life cycle, into the nearby trees. They filled spring twilight evenings with their sweet quivering choruses. Herons came too, enraging Emily because they didn't just eat the frogs out of the pond, but her enormous Koi.
We were visiting one night, enjoying their company on the deck--they worked together in their auto dealership and had a big supply of "people are crazy" stories--when suddenly Emily shouted, leapt up and ran, an Amazon screaming curses, towards the pond. It was all explained in a flash, when an enormous blue heron, his long, yellow landing gear still dangling, executed an emergency take-off. I'd never seen one of these big birds so close, and certainly never one with a large, flapping red and white Koi in his narrow beak!
These peonies came from Emily, who told me a long story about her favorite Aunt Pard, whose flower garden and warm presence she remembered with equal pleasure. These were the old-fashioned kind of peony, no ginormous blooms, but, instead, a fragrance you don't often find in modern cultivars. These peonies were not happy in her yard, but, for some inexplicable reason they loved mine. Consequently, over the years, I've split them many times. Now they perform their brief, bright celebration of May in many groupings all over my yard--and they do smell sweet!
Today, enjoying the flowers, I remembered this couple, their out doors parties--blazing fires under 60 foot oaks, and barbecue-potlucks that lasted all night, their hunter's venison feasts and the annual trout opening day Bacchanalia begun before dawn, just behind their house on the rushing, brown Quittaphilia. So many laughter-filled, good-company evenings with them!
Now, astonishingly, these active, vital people are both gone. Like many long-married couples, Ray followed his Em to the grave within 6 months. Although they are no more, I have these lovely peonies to always remind me of them both.