Manly and I have never been big on giving each other roses. If you were to drop in at our house on any given day, you would likely see astramaris or clearance-priced grocery store lilies in vases around the house. For our wedding, we picked out freesia and colored calla lilies as the basis for my bouquet and the men’s boutonnieres. At this time of year, right when the spring flowers are starting to show up, one or the other of us will bring home a bouquet of tulips. Pink and yellow symbols of love over the years.
We have planted tulips in the beds here at the house, but we’ve never had success in getting them to really take off and spread. They’re interspersed with crocuses and daffodils and hyacinths and usually bloom right at Easter when the days are getting warmer and we start getting more hours of sunshine. The azaleas bloom around that time too, mounds of pink and peach blossoms around the front and sides of the porch. There is a carpet of periwinkles across the shaded section of the yard studded with petite purple blossoms signalling the return of the sun.
As summer begins, the gardenia explodes into fragrant blooms and the day lilies show their orange and yellow faces. I can smell the gardenias as soon as I open the car door and their perfume follows me into the house, wisps of scent lingering through the entrance hall. I replant the hanging baskets on the porch, either hardy ferns that will weather the heat of summer or bright red begonias that puff up and out, filling the space between the basket and the roof with long-lived color. We used to have rose bushes, huge climbing blossoms that trailed down spiky stems before the summer heat dried them out, but Japanese beetles and powdery mildew overwhelmed my ability to keep them alive.
As the spring flowers die off, the vegetable garden starts to bring forth the first fruits of summer – a few strawberries to start, then tomatoes and cucumbers following. By August, as long as the heat doesn’t get too high and the ground doesn’t get too dry, the trickle of vegetables has become a deluge. Our windowsills and kitchen counters and vegetable drawers are filled with cherry tomatoes, romas, heirloom cherokee purples and atkinsons in various stages of ripeness. Red and green jalapenos, cayennes, banana peppers, and bell peppers thrive in our soil, weighing down the branches til they touch the red clay underneath. We plant okra and it stretches up to the blue sky, furry pods attracting ants with their sweetness. Cucumbers run the fence rather than being trained to a trellis, fat cylinders twisting under the pressure of other plants and their own vines. We try summer squash and zucchini every year and get a few gold and green treasures, but the bugs love the spreading leaves as much as we love the vegetables and they hollow out the stems. The herbs are rank with flavored oils in the leaves, waiting to be picked and dried and used all winter long – basil, rosemary, parsley, and dill. We fight off birds and squirrels and bunnies and greedy Labradors who snatch sweet bits off of the plants when no one is around.
This year I want to add to our normal planting schedule, and we’re going to try turnips, acorn squash, butternut squash, pumpkins, carrots, beans, sage and lemon balm and oregano and lavender. Fall produce to ease the transition into winter and back into having to pay for tasteless greenhouse veg from the grocery store. I have a packet of unknown wildflower seeds to attract butterflies from the botanical garden that will get spread across pots on the back porch and hopefully we’ll get them to sprout and see what they actually look like.
After the garden stops producing, we let it go to seed as the oak leaves drop their leaves and acorns for the squirrels. The hickory nut tree behind the fence provides fat black husks with tiny nuts insides We buy mums at Halloween to decorate the porch, and Christmas brings an evergreen wreath made from tree trimmings to the front door. There is a lone holly bush left from the last owner that give red berries for decorations, but all the other bushes have gone brown and bare. Winter brings an end to the seasonal beauty of the plantings and everything goes dormant until spring brings the bulbs back to life.