Monday, May 14, 2012

`Fair Names My Garden Has'

Mother’s Day morning I spent in the company of arthropods, snails and earthworms. To observe such a holiday, we agreed, it ought to be with living, growing flowers, not the cut variety, so we drove early to the garden center and filled the car with flats and pots. The front yard is semi-wild. Even the strip of lawn at the curb is St. Augustine grass, tough vines of earth-covering green. The four water oaks and the wall of azalea are surrounded by the landscaping we inherited from the previous owner, some twenty species of flowers and shrubs, not one of which I can name. Clover and ferns fill in most of the gaps.

At the garden center we selected celosia, portulaca, four colors of impatiens and my favorite, a compact yellow daisy-like flower without a name which I call amarillo. In all, I planted sixty-four flowers, plus sweet basil in a terra cotta pot. As an afterthought, I picked out a packet of “Blue Flower Mixture Summer Garden,” which carried this promise: “Enough seed to plant about 100 square feet.” I sowed them all in a plot slightly larger than my computer screen. The ingredients list on the back of the packet explained:

“18% Love-in-a-Mist, 14% Chinese Forget-Me-Not, 14% Baby Blue Eyes, 11% Perennial Lupine, 7% Blue Cornflower, 7% Chinese Houses, 7% Blue Flax, 7% California Bluebell, 3% Prairie Aster, 3% Blue Sage, 3% Globe Gilia, 2% Lemon Mint, 2% Alyssum `Royal Carpet,’ 2% Forget-Me-Not, 1% Tussock Bellflower.”

There’s something amusing about quantifying so much botanical poetry. Read out of context, the ingredients suggest an herbal dietary supplement or exotic tea, and the names of the flowers hint at a clandestine love story. Poor Tussock Bellflower, a mere one-eighteenth of Love-in-a-Mist. Our great garden poet, Janet Lewis, would have appreciated the floral allegory. In “Garden Note: Los Altos, November” (The Selected Poems of Janet Lewis, 2000) she writes:

“Fair names my garden has, and fairer fruit;
Persimmon, loquat, and the pomegranate,
Loved presences, fair memories, and fair fame.”

1 comment:

Issekinicho said...

I briefly lived down South and a gardener suggested planting some Day-Blues in a friend's garden. I hadn't heard of them and asked him to describe them. "Dey blue." I'm suddenly wondering, as I never did see them, if he meant something like your blue flower mixture.