"I think it's a weed."
"I think so too," I agreed, scowling as I stared up at the near 6 foot tall stalks growing in my new-to-me garden. "I'll never be able to get those out of here without leaving a big hole."
"I'll remove them," Marcos assured me, "but first I want to see what happens when they bloom." There were multiple buds at the top of the stalks, ready to burst. Sure enough, the next day the scarlet blossoms had emerged to be admired. I sent a picture to Marcos, who did a google search for the name of the plant. "They're called hollyhocks," he later informed me.
"And it's a weed?"
"No. People buy them and grow them. Those other stalks over there," he said, pointing to another bunch of five stalks at the south end of the yard, "those might even bloom in a different color. They come in lots of colors." A week later I was still surprised by the large pink blossoms presented by the hollyhocks.
We've been in our new house for two months now, and surprises in the garden await us at every turn. It's a veritable paradise in continuous bloom. The snapdragons, a favorite of mine, have withered away in the dry Bakersfield warmth of April, with a promise to return again when the weather is more favorable. In their place some of the more drought-resistant, heat tolerant shrubs and plants have begun to flower. Tufts of lavender grow fuller and more purple every day. The three bougainvillea climb their trellises, their pink petals reaching for the sun, falling and carpeting the ground to make way for fresh new petals. A cluster of fortnight lilies have made their appearance. There are more varieties than I can identify, with new ones cropping up with routine. Though our grass has struggled with the local watering restrictions, the flowering plants have remained resilient.
With the blooms have come the humbingbirds and the bees, peppering the space around the plants. Hummingbirds hover in the air, saturated by the possibilities. Honeybees and bumblebees dance among the blossoms. I was recently stung for the first time in my life, and Marcos was stung the very same day, leading us both to worry about Eden. We'll have to instruct her soon that though the garden is beautiful and appealing and even tempting, it presents a certain danger when we're not careful, a lesson I suppose that will require a lifetime of reminders.
Longing for a touch of the yellow house, I bought a couple of irises. The irises, which first bloomed for me in my third spring at the yellow house, came to symbolize for me a sense of surprise and newness as I found my post-baby loss, post-divorce self. Their bold purple evoked a hope in me that had been smothered to but an ember among the ashes of the life I've left behind.
My thumbs are anything but green and I don't find much promise in the new irises. The irises in the yellow house would have bloomed by this point. . . Except that they haven't. When I make my weekday drive by the yellow house as I take Eden to daycare, I stretch my neck for signs of the irises, but even their proud stalks appear wilted this spring. Perhaps they've left with me.
Maybe my new irises will bloom, and maybe they won't. I hold out a tentative hope, but have learned that they do best when I just stand back and let them grow as they will. With or without the irises, all around me a lush Eden grows, bright and fresh and continuously changing, seeking a delicate balance of love and support without overbearing. The garden is a gift I hadn't anticipated and I'm sometimes overwhelmed by the responsibility. I know that maintaining its beauty will require a series of trial and error, learning when to plant an a perennial and when to give up on an annual and where the sun hits and when and constant lessons in how to keep the bursts of color reappearing year after year.
Trial and error don't seem like the best ways to manage the care of the gifts that I've been charged with, but they are the tools that I have. While I don't like to be unsure, and I don't like to lack a book to consult for a guaranteed answer, I know that I love the hope that bursts from the promise of the flower's bud. I love every stage of growing, from the first appearance of the tender green sprout to the stretching of the stalk to the forming of the bud to the unveiling of the petals. Even with its dangers and uncertainty I'm enjoying every day of my Eden with a heart that sprung anew from the iris.