"My Flower Garden"
copyright 2010 Mitchell James Kaplan
flowers in my garden are finally blooming. I planted them years ago, some
from seed and some from the nursery. I picked exotic flowers. Flowers you don't often see in this climate. Flowers known to be difficult.
year, I made the rounds with my watering can. Every year, I fed them with
Miracle-Gro and dug up the weeds. The blossoms never came. I got plenty of
to understand, I spent my childhood touring the gardens of the world: the
Koraku-en gardens in Okayama, the
Baha'i gardens in Haifa, the
Castello di Villa gardens in Florence.
books about gardening from childhood on and majored in Landscaping at the
Oriental Horticulture Institute. The sight of beautiful flowers, draped over a
wooden fence or peering up from a bed of coffee-black soil, brings tears to
my eyes. The fragrances of jasmine, rose, gardenia, and lavender are, to me,
like an olfactory intimation of something too perfect to be real.
invested in better tools, better fertilizer, better water. As gardening
technology improved, my research kept apace. I aerated the dirt. I put down
runoff sheets. I kept tabs on nitrogen levels and pH.
after year, the blossoms stayed away. I told myself that those who measured a
man by his garden were fools. I tried to hold my own in the company of men
whose gardens were blooming. But I was faking it.
admired the dahlias, hibiscus, and lilies in my neighbor’s yard. When we
happened to cross paths, she smiled and asked about my parents. Both of us
knew she was humoring me.
she invited me into her garden. “I’m going to be quite busy through the
spring and summer seasons,” she told me as we strolled through her heady sprays.
“I was wondering whether you could care for my plants.”
absurd, of course. It was charity. It was an insult. I accepted gratefully.
eyes of the world, I told myself, it made sense. She was a successful
businesswoman, pulled in many directions. I was home, a kind of cripple,
unable to hold a regular job.
garden, I rapidly coaxed gorgeous narcissus flowers,
roses of sharon, even water lilies from their green cradles. "You see," my neighbor told me,
returning from a trip to Taiwan.
"You are a great gardener, after all."
down from my attic-bedroom window, admiring my work just the other side of
the fence. It didn't feel like success. It felt like a Madame Toussaud wax effigy of success. My own garden, after all, remained sterile.
I doubted myself. I reflected upon the sins I had committed, convinced this
was a matter of "flower karma." I told myself that all gardens
are illusory, or that what mattered was the act of gardening itself, not the
had advice. "Gardening isn't your thing," said my
therapist. “Accept your limitations.” The hunchback at the nursery told me, "What
you planted doesn't grow in this soil." My mother insisted I would be
happier in a condo. Then she stopped speaking with me.
failuure grew, so did my obsession. I went to bed thinking of flowers and
awoke earlier than anyone to stroll in my garden, talk to my plants, water
and feed them. Sometimes I sang the Beatles song "I'll Get You" to
my inexistent buds. "It's not like me to pretend, but I'll get you in
the end." Other times, I sat down with my guitar and strummed.
"Will I wait a lonely lifetime? If you want me to, I will." The
neighbors, spying me serenading the bare branches, must have thought I was
thought I would survive this long, let alone that my survival would be
the blossoms burst forth from their sprigs. First came the delicate Spring
Snowflakes, peering up between the blades of my lawn like some kind of
harbinger. I hadn’t even planted them.
blackberry flowers, the butterfly bush, the tulips.
birds have alighted as if to celebrate. Right now, a blue-winged leafbird is whistling
in one of the rhododendron bushes. Sparrows chirp in the trees, and pipits
hop around in the grass. I walk into my garden and their songs surround me in
glorious polyphony, like a choir of angels.
I think it's an illusion, that I'm dreaming. I marvel at the delicacy of
the buds. I know they will fall off shortly. I wonder whether the flowers
will return next year. But I'm trying not to think about that. I'm trying to
enjoy the moment. And I'm planting a few more jonquils and lilacs, just in