Drawn Swords, Blueberry Tart, Xanthippe’s Halo. These are part of the now nonexistent collection for which I still wistfully keep records. It might be the horticultural equivalent of an obituary column, where we mourn the passing of loved ones. I might replace some of them, but for now they are simply fond memories.
Every gardener has her list of failures, and mine gets longer every year. This year it was my seven-foot tall brugmansia that succumbed to a very hard frost. Even in the garage, it was too cold for this favorite to stay alive. One day it was full of blooms, filling the garage with the most wonderful fragrance; the next day the whole tree was brown and limp.
But in the case of one of my most stunning irises, “Drawn Swords,” the demise came slowly. I had purchased this beauty at a local iris farm, but couldn’t decide where in the garden I should put it. It bloomed nicely in its nursery pot for the second year, and then the rhizomes began to get weaker.
You see, irises propagate by branching off the old rhizomes, and when those new branches touch the sides of a planting pot, they stop growing. The older pieces simply get weaker and eventually fade away.
The third year, I gave this iris a garden spot to spread out and thrive. Whether it was too late to revive the struggling roots, or the new site was not sunny enough with the zinnias growing around it, I’ll never know.
The fourth year this horizontal root had shrunk to only a couple of inches, with no branches. The leaf blades were short and weak. I lovingly dug it up and put it into the very best soil I had. As I did so, several of the fans just fell off in my hands. And then……it died.
We must not let this happen to the truly precious things in life. Our lives are like the flower of grass (1 Peter 1:24). It is apparently beyond our capabilities to comprehend how quickly time goes by, and how we really cannot hold on to anything this life has to offer.
Indeed, it was the very act of containing this plant for too long that actually caused its death.
Xanthippe’s Halo, as rare as this iris is, might be found to replace my former plant. But I can never go back and find another Georgeanne, Nancy, Tom or Teresa; as much as I miss them and wish I had taken more time to be with them before they passed on. Some of them passed suddenly like my brugmansia, others faded away after long illnesses.
The same is true about seasons of our lives. We treasure and enjoy our children as they are small. Then we laugh, cry, and maybe even yell with them as they grow into teenagers, and hold fast the good times and memories that we make.
As they spend less and less time at home, the bonds seem to grow weak, just like my iris leaves.
I suppose it appeared strange to take a call right after our Wednesday night Bible class ended, but it was from our daughter who recently moved to a different time zone. As the buzz around me grew louder, I zoned in on the phone call. Important? It was about a recipe. But more importantly, it was about keeping this love alive in spite of the distance.
Because all too soon, we could hear the faint echoes as if it were the voice of an auctioneer — “Going, going, GONE!”