Nine years ago, it was snowing outside. Today, it is 80 degrees F.
Nine years ago, I held the soft, tender form of my youngest for the first time. Today, clad in a Life is Good t-shirt, blue jeans and navy blue Converse, she’s following me through yet another garden nursery trying not to roll her eyes. She drifts away, looking for a playground amidst the trays and flats of spring flowers.
I’m lost in a Viola reverie when she taps me on the shoulder and says “Can I have this plant?”
Her slightly grubby hands are clasped around a rust-colored, plastic container. Silvery blue foliage peeks out from the top. A Dusty Miller. I’m not surprised at her choice.
She is always drawn to silver, drought resistant plants like Lamb’s Ears or Artemisia. Most of the time that’s great. Noble even, but not now.
Inside, I shudder. Something about this plant gives me the creeps; perhaps, because it always looks moldy to me. Before I open my mouth to say so, I catch her expression. I know it well. Her green eyes gaze at the Dusty Miller’s fuzzy, silver leaves with gardener love.
“Of course,” I say, “Where do you want to put it?” I’m thinking in the back of the back 40.
“In the front flowerbed so everyone will know it’s mine.” She skips away, and I hear, “I’ll need three. You should always plant in threes and fives.”
At home, I ask her if she needs help.
Nine years ago, she needed me for everything. Now, not so much.
“No thanks,” she says, as pulls my red-handled trowel out of the garden bucket. She digs three staggered holes in front of the Blue Dune Lyme Grass. My heart swells with pride as she squeezes the nursery containers and one by one rips the bottom roots of the plants. She hums a little tune as she works. She never looks up until the soil is patted around her babies.
“I need water,” she says, looking for the hose. I hand the sprayer to her and dial the nozzle for “Shower.” She waters in her plants and then proceeds to water the others too.
“What do you think?” she asks, tossing the hose onto the grass.
“Great choice,” I say, and I mean it. The (dare I say it?) dusty, silver foliage against the blue grass will look wonderful this summer. By the way, the rebar in the photo is there to protect the new plants from our digging Collie, Mariah.
The three Dusty Millers stand stiff as soldiers at the front of the border. Every time I see them I’ll think about how Bear tucked them into their garden bed as sweetly as a mother tucking in a child.
Maybe I’ve raised one gardener after all. Happy Birthday, Bear.