As I write this, it’s late winter, mid-March. The garden is half green, half brown. The coneflowers and daylilies are up much sooner than is good. Already I’ve had to cover them from frost three times, and more times seem likely. Even the fern buds are up. Over the past five years, I’ve lived the seasons of the garden and fallen in with its rhythm.
Spring creeps up gently, quietly—a bud here, a green sprout there. The creeping phlox leads the way. Its show begins in February—a few magenta flowers amid spiky green leaves. The blossoms cling together tightly as if still expecting cold. But it doesn’t take long until the sun coaxes them to unclench and accept its gift of rays. Then the phlox explodes, the spikes giving way to bright green foliage and a slowly spreading dome of magenta brilliance. I planted creeping phlox for this very purpose—to act as the town crier for the new season.
Spring moves along blissfully until late May. By that time, buds are on every stem, and all seem to be mingling restlessly together as if preparing for a performance, each checking its costume and going over lines. Then, suddenly around Memorial Day, the show begins! The black and blue salvia, festooned in indigo blossoms, welcomes the standing-room-only audience of bees and hummingbirds—the first of many sold-out performances.
Next, the daylilies saunter onto the stage, dressed in silk and satin, very dignified, to offer an aria. The pincushions, which have been doing warmup shows for months, join in, adding a lavender chorus, filling in the notes and harmonies. Not to be outdone, the tickseed and cannas complete the show—confidently bantering and jesting—bright yellows, oranges, and reds.
The coneflowers, black eye Susans, and garden phlox provide summer’s entertainment. True thespians, with costumes colorful and perfectly fitted, they never forget a line. They are always well received by waves of butterflies, and, unfortunately, aphids.
By September’s end, life is quieter. Many acts have concluded for the season. The birds come for seeds, the green begins to fade, and another wonderful season draws to a close. The reviews are in, and they are ecstatic as always, “Wonderful! Brilliant! Bold and colorful! Another success!!!”
I watch the seasons, move with the rhythm, and await the frost and rain. It’s been a great season and an enjoyable year. Time to say, “Until next year,” shake hands, and clean up the stage. In the off-season, we can look at the photos, the smiles, then give awards— best performance, best costume design, best revival. It’s always a tie in every category, and that’s ok.
There is a rhythm in a garden, a waxing and waning of seasons, from barren to full of life and back, a rhythm that has played for millennia beyond memory. Learning it comes naturally—stand for a little while, and you’ll find yourself swaying with it. And don’t worry, if you lose the timing, the breeze will help out.