It occurred to me that plants’ species vary as much as character types do. The last downpour was almost a week ago, and one of my most drought-resistant species is echinacea, hardy and beautiful to boot. A comely survivor. Let’s call her Melania. She first showed up literally on our doorstep (wedged between a stone step and a flagstone) a decade ago. Not where I would have wished, but still…I welcomed her and have cosseted her ever since. Every autumn I harvest her seedheads, scarify them, sow them where I, the gardener, would like them to grow, and then I hold my breath. In ten years, I have succeeded four lousy times, and every one of her kids has chosen an inauspicious spot (the driveway, in front of a yet another doorway, under a bush). I’m starting to think Melania may not be a team player. We all know the type.
At the other end of the garden showgirl spectrum are the day lilies. Like echinacea, they are almost impossible to kill, a quality about which gardeners have complicated feelings. Sturdy and cheerful and generally named Bob, day lilies are cooperative to a fault, unless you want them out from underfoot. They don’t settle for simple survival, but thrive wherever you put them. I love these irrepressible entrepreneuers.
Then there are the tough little chickweeds, the Jareds you all remember from recess, and the sensitive “perennials” like Tifanny, the deciduous azalea, forever stressed - too hot or too cold, too dry or too wet, too sunny or too shady, the classmate whom you inevitably got partnered with for labs. I was not heartbroken when Tifanny finally exited this earthly garden. And don’t get me started on crab grass; it’s low and sneaky, like A.K.A., that guy who hangs around the mall.
As in any neighbourhood, however, good guys make up the majority. There are Jon’s rhododendrons, who remind me of high school seniors uniformed in jeans, teeshirts, ball caps, and silly nicknames, who suddenly and briefly sport sartorial dazzle in June; they work hard even in winter but know how to cut loose when the time is right. Hydrangeas are less hardy. They have a tendency to droop when they want attention, as many of us do, but will spring right back, given half a chance; they marry young, and produce dozens of kids. Grass and clover, BFFs, are the steady reliables coming to work every day. Many a Fred, never a Frederick. If the factory closes for a few weeks due to lack of rain, they simply hibernate until the situation improves. I like to think they are watching the Jays. And even if they make a huge mess once in a while, magnolias (all of whom are girls) can be forgiven anything because when they're good, they are very very good.
When we first moved in, the garden was a crowd scene full of strangers; it turns out that most of them make great friends!