It kills me to see them die.
If you read my blog, you know that my whole family loves our garden. We have lots and lots of flowers that were planted by the previous owner, also a garden lover. So we have bells of Ireland, poppies, bachelor's buttons, bleeding hearts, roses, moss roses, violets, lilies of the valley and lilacs. They bloom every year.
We add our own flowers, herbs and vegetables each year. We plant in mid Spring and at first, the garden is so pristine, so sweet. The flowers are like babies, all innocent and fragile, trying hard to stick those necks up to the sun, drinking in that rain.
Summer is riotous. The babies have grown up into teenagers and they keep the joint jumpin'. They are gangly and loud, full of sudden bursts of laughter and just plain bad behavior. They party hearty while we sleep, drinking too much sprinkler water and when the morning comes, their petals are wet with dew, heads hanging a bit. But, like the teenagers that they are, they are good to go by noon. Ready for another hot day. Showing off their bikini colors, flirting with bees. Driving them mad with their honey pots. The vegetables and herbs are a more sedate lot, but they are wild in their own way, pushing and shoving each other trying to outdo.
Yes, my tomatoes are round and red and full, everyone. Nope. I was just born that way. No Miracle Gro for me. I'm just naturally bodacious.
The rosemary runs riot over the sage and lemon verbena, has to be cut back, pulled in like a girl who parties too much. The chives are dominant. They spill their scent everywhere, like boys overflowing with testosterone. If they could, they would toss a basketball back and forth. Nervous, edgy with the desire to move, to grow, to leave their family.
The summer seems never ending. The good times roll. I go to the garden and the flowers bend to me under my gentle touch. I stroke the rose petals, intoxicated by their scent. I tenderly prune, cut them just so. They enjoy my pruning like I am a really good hairdresser. I walk through the lilacs and lilies and bend to put my nose in their scent, they preen for me, basking in my adoration.
I love my garden in summer. Love the bounty the vegetables bring, they are the givers of the yard, the ones who shine with their generosity. The flowers? Well, they are like southern girls in yellow, red, and pink sundresses. Their cheeks are flushed, they have a heady laugh, their hair spills over their shoulders in careless disarray. The roses are more sedate, fragile, but demanding. Rich girls who couldn't fry a chicken up if their lives depended on it. But, they know their worth. Know the power of their silkiness. But, then...yes...they do have thorns. They aren't helpless, mind you. Just...quietly beautiful. And probably out of your league, so leave them be to their beauty. Use them for a wedding, not a dining room table. They deserve it and they know this.
The herbs are givers too, but in smaller capacity. They spice things up. Add a gingery scent to the air. They don't mind being pinched, tasted.
And then Autumn comes. The air gets chilly. Then cold.
The perennials go first. They know that they need to rest up for next year. Their goodbyes are quick and without emotion. The annuals let go more slowly. They panic when it grows cool, drink as much water as they can hold, hold on to life for every second that they can and then, at last, let go.
The roses wish that they could just disappear. Their beauty fades into brownish tinge and it embarrasses them. They beg for a shot of Miracle Gro, the botox of the garden, but since we don't use chemicals, I must deny them. They leave resentfully, giving me baleful looks.
The vegetables are like sturdy farm women. They know when their time had past. They give their last bounty and then bow to the garden shovels that turn them over into the ground. They die fulfilled, knowing that their lives were well spent.
The herbs urge me to hurry, to pick their leaves quickly. They have a strong afterlife, a heaven. They know that they will be chopped and put into stews, soups, over chicken breasts in a hot steamy oven on a cold January night. They will continue on, just in a new way.
Some flowers are just plain hardy. The first snow doesn't faze them. They stand quietly with a dusting of snow on them. Their leaves barely bow. These are the ones that break my heart. My marigolds, my gerber daisies.
They smile as I tend them in late October, they drink less, like little old ladies who are just happy to have me caress their heads one more time. I tenderly stroke them with my finger, so gently.
"Just let go, it will be okay," I tell them sweetly. I smile with great tenderness and they smile back, tremulously but bravely.
I look outside when the temperature dips to 30 then 25. They stand shivering in the cold. Strong to the last.
I can't stand it. I go out and kiss their petals, telling them that I love them. Thanking them for making my life so happy all summer. Tell them that just seeing them every day this summer was a perfect blessing. They pat my hand in their own way.
I tell them that I hate leaving them but I must go. The neighbors already think I am a little eccentric, now that I am out kissing my daisies, well...that must just close the deal.
They laugh softly and wave goodbye as I go with heavy feet to the back door.
They will be gone by morning. A hard freeze is coming tonight.
The next day, they are finally dead. Their heads bowed, succumbed to the clean sharp knife of coldness.
I sigh. Put my coat on. Tell Liv not to forget her lunch. Time for school.