Spring around here is almost inexpressibly lovely. In this part of Northern Virginia, little houses like mine have gardens — some fairly elaborate, others exuberantly wild in their neglect, and mine somewhat in-between.
Lately I’ve been kept busy adoring the lilacs. Even more than the tulips and daffodils and crocuses. Maybe. (Well, maybe not. I’m kind of an equal opportunity Garden Mom.)
When my five — yes five — pregnant peony plants pop open I will be in gardener’s ecstasy.
Still, I’m thinking a bit ahead to the summer. Yesterday I bought a tomato plant, marigolds and basil.
Although usually so dependable, my old rosemary and sage plants didn’t make it through our harsh winter, so I bought new ones and have planted them, too.
Long story short, Friday was the grand Purchasing and Planting Ceremony. Which meant that I used a garden hose for the first time all year.
Not bright green but so serenely beautiful
Garden plots surround this house from every side. Here’s a bit of the back yard, for instance. I go there just about every day when the weather is welcoming.
However there is one stretch of green I visit least often. It’s on the shady side of the house, mostly in shadow. And facing the windows of a reliably grumpy neighbor.
This time I walk around to that shady side and hello! A bright green hose, arranged in a wheel on its stand, sings out a big rubbery pop of color. Admittedly that useful hose is all I was looking for as I turned left at the front of the house, passing the busy astilbes and its other full-sun neighbors.
Rounding the corner, I was rushing over toward the hose, when ah!
- Lillies of the valley with their gorgeous fairy bells.
- Fancy floppy varieties of hosta, painting their way among all the other shades of green.
- Some spring-blooming speckled thingies. I had forgotten their very existence, let alone their name. Could it be, ugh! “Toad lillies”?
The special glory of a neglected shade garden
It struck me then, full force. In the midst of that busy afternoon, the glory of it simply walloped me.
Mine is a perennial garden, as low maintenance as could be… and still be a something.
The thing about my perennials is how they keep on keeping on.
So here were mine, the shade garden perennials, quietly singing their hymns. Whether I noticed or not. Whether any of my neighbors noticed or not. You could say that those dependable plants deliver a kind of Divine grace. And you could also say….
Good habits are like that
Aren’t they? Good habits in life are like perennials.
This reminds me of how I used to teach my son, Matt, about ethics. When he was between the ages of three and five, as I remember.
Back in the day, one of our favorite games was “The Ethics Game.” (Yes, a strange child perhaps; definitely suited to his Mom and Dad.)
In The Ethics Game I would pose an ethical predicament, then invite Matt to choose from a few multiple choice answers. Some were funny. Some sleazy or selfish. Always included was The Right Thing to Do.
Invariably Matt chose the correct answer. The kid came into this life with a very high level of moral development.
So our game was a pleasing ritual, not suspenseful. After Matt made his choice I would agree with him and say, “You know, even if nobody else notices, it’s important that you do the right thing. Santa Claus knows. The Tooth Fairy knows. God knows. And you know.”
The habit of doing what we know to be right — this is such a perennial. Even if those habits live as slow growers. Unrecognized. In the shade. Such a quiet beauty is there!
Like my hidden shade garden of perennials. Blooming away quietly, maybe this sort of garden is the greatest beauty.