To: All the Other Flowers —– From: The Pansies ———- Subject: What’s Taking Y’all So Long????
Look, guys, y’all need to speed it up a bit. I mean, we’ve been holding down the nursery fort here for months already, and people are starting to talk. There are murmurs and whispering. We can hear it. We can feel the unease and impatience as people bring their station wagons and SUVs and pickup trucks looking for … well, impatiens. Folks are ready to load up and take all y’all home and settle you in to some nice warm dirt, and all they get is us. And we’re good — pansies in February rock, don’t get us wrong — but we’re getting tired already. And old. We really don’t need to be carrying the whole front-yard landscaping thing anymore by ourselves. We had some support a month or so ago, but those showy ol’ tulips have toddled away and those daffy daffodils have ducked out by now, leaving only the irritating iris to help us out — and we all remember what happened the year they thought they were in charge, don’t we? Do we want a repeat of that debacle? No, we do not. So, c’mon, you coleus. Get going, geraniums. Make tracks, marigolds and pick up speed, petunias. It’s time for you young kids to take over. We pansies are ready for our long summer’s nap.
Less than a week ago around here, schools were closed and cars were sliding off roads and we were all hunkered down for about the third or fourth time that ice and snow had come to the South this year. Today, however, when you step outside in the sunshine and the semi-warm breeze, I swear you can hear the flowers growing and the tree branches starting to bud. Or I would hear flowers growing if I actually had planted any in our yard. While Southerners love spring and its reinvigorating warmth and gentle unfurlings of fresh color, the season’s arrival exposes pathetic non-gardeners such as me who can hide their lack of green-thumb talent behind winter’s freezing temperatures. I’m perfectly content to spend January and February and even March curled up on the couch in front of the fireplace and watching basketball on TV. But once March Madness kicks in, the gardening guilt follows close behind: When everybody else is energetically outside, enthusiastically wielding seed packages, trowels and watering cans, it’s difficult to justify lounging around in your jammies. So, while I certainly don’t want anybody to get hurt and everybody is oh-so-tired of snow days and school closings, I wouldn’t mind a little more winter before spring arrives for good. I’m not ready to give up lazy weekend afternoons wrapped up in my cozy blankie and yelling at the TV screen, “What are you talking about? That was NOT a foul! Check your eyes, ref!”
We think we in the 21st century invented green living? Huh. We’ve got nothing on our parents’ generation. My folks, both born in 1934, each grew up with the Depression-era philosophy of “why buy when you can make do?” And they’re still following that directive. My mom saves plastic butter tubs and bread bags for leftovers, my dad turns paper over to print on the other side and they would never think of going out and buying tomato stakes. This is their backyard garden in Tennessee, and you can see that they definitely reuse and recycle — from the rusted metal fence posts to the strips torn from old cotton sheets to the outdoor artwork of flags decorating the iron headboard from a vintage bed. And they water the flourishing tomato and pepper plants with leftover ice. When the ‘maters are ready to eat, my dad probably will put a salt shaker out there for the freshest possible eating. I just hope they share.
When you walk up to my friend Sharon’s house in Madison, Alabama, you can tell a gardener lives there by the gorgeous landscaping and flowers in her front yard. But it’s the backyard that shines. This is a gardening paradise and I could move right in and live there — and Sharon’s an easygoing and generous sort of friend so she probably wouldn’t mind. Much, that is. This is the kind of backyard where details delight everywhere you look. I’m not a gardener so all I know about her plantings are that they’re beautiful. I was more drawn to such treasures as benches tucked away in quiet little corners, paths angling off into green adventure and a chandelier hanging from a tree lighting the table. “We wanted it to be a series of outdoor rooms,” Sharon said, “like an extension of our house.” And the thing is that she and her husband did this all themselves over the past 15 years, working on one project in one spot at a time. The result? A backyard paradise that anybody can duplicate. In face, Sharon’s garden is on the Huntsville (Alabama) Botanical Garden’s Spring Garden Tour, 1-6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, June 5-6. Her goal is to convince folks that you don’t need money and a team of landscapers and gardeners to create something wonderful. I think she’s succeeding. Call 256-830-4447 or visit www.hsvbg.org for details about the garden tour.
I drive by this house in Tuscumbia, Alabama, practically every day — and admire it. The other day Younger Daughter was with me and as we passed it and I said how cute it was, YD said, “Why don’t you get out and take photos of it for your blog?” Since I’m not a fulltime newspaper reporter anymore I’ve sort of hung up my snopping-around hat — not that I did much of it as a full-time journalist — but I figured I could just walk around the house on the sidewalk and snap a few shots. Luckily, I don’t think anybody was home. And I did not go up on the porch, no matter what the neighbors say. I just think it’s an adorable cottage that the folks who live here seem to love, too. Tuscumbia is full of houses like this. Just come on over, park your car and wander around. People probably will invite you in for some tea — and that’s a long tall glass of iced tea in our part of the world, you know.
This is why I love Christmas in Mississippi. Look at this gorgeous old house, with its classically festive holiday decorations of red and green — enlivened by the riot of pansies planted in the front yard. It’s like, “Christmas is here, but spring is coming!” Although I have to say that the past few days here in the South have been sort of wintry — chilly with a chance of freezing. Younger Daughter has been in Maine visiting her uncle and aunt there in the Frozen North, but I believe it’s been only minimally colder here. Then again, what do I know? Anything below 85 degrees is sweater weather to me.