When it comes to plants, I’ve always had a black thumb. My efforts to make poinsettias last from Thanksgiving to Christmas have always ended in failure. I inherited my mother-in-law’s jade plant and managed to kill that too. When we lived in Tucson, with a yard that was mostly rock and dirt initially, I spied an iron iris—an iris sculpture really and truly made of iron—and bought that on the mistaken assumption that I wouldn’t be able to kill that. But guess what? The paint wore off and what was left was a very rusty and decrepit looking iris that eventually got hauled back home to Seattle.
Ten years or so ago for Mother’s Day, my husband, Bill and my son, Tom, took the iron iris in hand. They coated it with Rust-Oleum and then put on layers of blue, yellow, white, and green paint that made it look like a real iris again. It went into our as yet unremodeled yard, sitting against one panel of the pool room/garage, stuck in among all the yucca. By the way, whoever thought of surrounding a swimming pool with a border of yucca didn’t understand yucca! Talk about taking a bite out of your bikini!
Alan Burke came through and transformed our yucca/astro-turf/leaky fishpond back yard into a living, green paradise. When the yucca left the pool yard, so did the iris. It ended up down in the far corner of the yard on the far side of the now non-leaky fishponds where it was recently joined by a quirky, butterfly shaped bench. When the leaves are green, the iris is almost completely invisible, but when winter comes, it’s a bright splash of color. If you study the accompanying photo closely, you may be able to glimpse the iris hiding in among the leaves.
Before Mother’s Day each year, my daughter usually goes to a local supermarket’s nursery on Fuchsia Saturday and brings me two baskets. Being a non-plant person, I used to hang them in full sunlight where they almost immediately shriveled and died. Now there are two Japanese maples where there used to be YUCCA! I’ve learned that by hanging the fuchsia baskets in the dappled shade of those, the fuchsia do far better.
Last year’s basket of magenta and purple fuchsias were especially beautiful, and they lasted far into October. When it came time to do the fall cleanup, the gardener cut them back to the main stem and left them hanging there. So did I. Then winter came—winter for sure last year. It snowed. It froze. This spring when it was time to start walking laps around the pool, I went over to the baskets, intent on taking them down and tossing them. But then I noticed a tiny green circle right around the base of the stem. So I let them be and started watering them again, telling my daughter no fuchsias this year for Mother’s Day. Last year’s batch seems to be returning for round two.
Summer came late and briefly to Seattle this year, and the fuchsia pots have had to come back from way behind goal. Rather than being a fully loaded basket of greenery, only a few scrawny branches finally leafed out. But the resulting flowers are beautiful. Maybe it’s because the entire blooming effort of the plants are focused on those few flowers.
I think there’s a lesson here, and it’s not just survival of the fittest. It also has a lot to do with making the best of what you have no matter how humble your beginnings, no matter how much of a struggle to survive. Go ahead and brighten the corner where you are, and smile like crazy while you’re doing it.
And this winter? Maybe I’ll put my carry-over fuchsia pots in the garage and see if they’ll carry over into year three.