This Thing Called Courage

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Signs of Spring Part II


JUST GOT BACK from the hardware store down the street, (or 'down street' as we used to say)Rounds Hardware to be specific. I like going there. It has a great smell, creaky wood floors like old 5 & 10's, the people are friendly, and I'm supporting the local community by shopping there. To be specific, the family who owns it bought the old theatre downtown (which went out of business when Sumner Redstone opened the Redstone Theatre further down the street in the '70's, a modern 'duoplex;' the grand old theatre eventually reopened as as a (gasp!) porn theatre-- right here in Stoneham! That lasted for about three years and apparently contributed greatly to the decline of Stoneham Square.

Anyway, the family who owns Rounds bought the empty theatre some years ago, turned it into a totally rehabbed playhouse, kind of gave it to their son (who was a theatre major in college) and now we have a great theatre in town. Shop at Home Depot and the money goes....wherever. Back to Peoria or something, and the local economy suffers, local stores close, no old theatres get bought and renovated, etc etc.

Okay I'll get off my soapbox now because what I really want to talk about is spring, the increasing warmth of the sun today, the fresh beauty of the day, and seeds. No matter how much we've seen, and how jaded we think we've become-- a beautiful day is always welcome, no? No matter how many beautiful days we have seen before. There's a hopeful thought for ironic and troubled times!

Anyway-- the attached pic shows two 'Heavenly Blue' Morning Glory flowers opening on a late-summer morning in my garden a year or two ago. Next to these are Lantana-- they're a nice combination together and one I didn't plan (but I do now), see, they kind of mushed together as the season progressed. We love when that happens. Morning Glories were the first flowers I ever grew-- and the Muses were kind, as I had no idea what I was doing (I was like 11-ish) and just chucked the seeds on the iron-hard ground at the bottom of our cement-and-brick stairs, in the thoughtful gloom of the shadows of a few listless aborvitae. On the fussy scale, Morning Glories are 'mildly so.' The seed (which is slightly hallucinogenic, by the by-- kids, don't try this at home) is hard as diamonds and it's recommended that one soak them overnight after first nicking the top to encourage them. I do that now, but didn't know to do it that first spring. One also has to provide some kind of support for them to scamper up, as they're vines and like to climb-- didn't do that either. And the ground should be worked before you plant them, broken up and smoothed out and so forth-- didn't do that either. In spite of this-- I've never grown Morning Glories like that since. Or at least it seems that way in the garden of my memory. They scampered up the stairs, climbed onto the railings, escaped the gloom of the bushes, and bloomed their heads off where they really had no right to. As the name implies, they open early in the morning, then close up in the afternoon. They're such happy little campers-- one can almost hear them shouting Hey! Awesome! Another Day! as they unfurl. And you will probably definitely hear that if you munch a few seeds first.

In those days there were only two MG choices-- 'Heavenly Blue' or 'Pearly Gates,' blue and white respectively. Nowadays there are dozens of choices, and some of them are truly magnificent. But I'm still partial to the original blue ones-- blue is the rarest color in the garden and the choicest. (Actually green-flowered plants are the rarest, but there is so much green everywhere else in the garden that this color gets somewhat disqualified-- Bells of Ireland and the aptly-named 'Envy' Zinnia come immediately to mind though, both outstanding plants.)

Anyway this afternoon, the Rounds Hardware had its seed racks all set up and ready to go. Is there a more hopeful publication than a seed catalog? Or a more hopeful sight than a seed rack in a store? While many of us titter at the grandiose, so-high-it's-haute terminology applied to food at certain gay-friendly restaurants ("a medley confit of triple-reduction-sauced medallions of...") the verbiage on the backs of seed packets are equally optimistic and-- well-- flowery. "Explosions of bright mauve flowers, blooming all summer long..." This, alas, may not always turn out to be the case-- and often it isn't the plant's fault. One went away that long weekend, and how was one to know it would be 102 for five days in a row? Or, the dog has decided that just right there is the perfect spot to 'mark' the unknowable edges of his domain; or maybe the jumbo sunflowers you planted beside the plant in question became a little bit TOO jumbo and overwhelmed their neighbors. These things happen-- but enough! Cease and desist! This kind of talk is heresy in March, when one eagerly believes-- just like at the beginning of a romance-- that there will, in fact, be explosions of mauve all summer long-- and then some. Fortune favors the merry, they say, so I highly recommend the purchase of seed packets to one and all, beginning this week. Even if you have no place to plant them, buy them anyway and scatter the packets around the house where you'll be apt to see them unexpectedly-- and then-- Ahhh! Spring's coming! Gardens! Warmth!
I went into Rounds for AA batteries and vacuum cleaner bags-- necessary items but hardly harbingers of spring. We came out with those items, but also 'Picotee Blue' Morning Glory seeds-- one can't plant them until May, and it's no good starting them early, as they hate to be transplanted. But....well, let me quote from the back of the package: "Beautiful, deep violet-blue double flowers trimmed in white, this is truly an exquisite flower, climbing to ten feet and smothering (yes, it says that!) trellises all summer long, and into autumn..."

Who the frig could resist that? While it's true that I might misplace the packet between now and May; or that Fionn might purloin them, squirrelling them away somewhere undiscoverable; or perhaps I'll decide, come planting time, that I want my old fashioned Blue ones after all.

But at this minute-- I can see them, growing up my porch, exploding into bloom-- right where the snow shovel sits now. I will train them to make an arch as one enters the front porch area, and I can just see me walking through this arch, a shower of purple around me-- can't you?

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