iris bloom.jpg

We leave in two days. Aside from the packing, which is sure to be its usual unmitigated disaster, the iris are my primary concern. They are about to bloom and I’m afraid we’ll be gone for the mini rainbow I hope will follow. I love iris – they are my favorite flower – and getting them to bloom at all has been a long, long road, so I’m not thrilled about being away when it finally happens.

We had bearded iris in the front garden when I was growing up. They held on for a month and required only minor maintenance which left me with the mistaken impression that profusion was easily achievable. I am not a completely incompetent gardener, but I have been singularly unsuccessful in getting anything to bloom, which is a key point in bothering with flowering plants in the first place.

I started several years ago with pansies, which, being low to the ground, I assumed would be an easy place to start. This is the equivalent of saying that you would like to learn how to take care of a person and starting with a baby without ever having been pregnant, read a manual or discussed it with your mother or a doctor. Needless to say, the pansies foundered and died under a plague of low-lying insects. I moved up the chain to azaleas, another favorite. Every year, I bought plant after plant and every year they looked up at me greenly with nary a bloom. Most of them then died, probably because I neglected them subconsciously after their failure to be pretty. God help my children, if I ever have them. They had better all be gorgeous overachievers.

Now that I think about it, I ought to stop working out the kinks on plants I like. It is so much more depressing to kill a plant you like. Much better to start with a plant you would not be sorry to see perish. Like, say, a cactus. Which unfortunately never die, no matter how much you neglect them. Same for those ugly succulents. Too bad and so much for that theory.

Perhaps this is a truth of nature, that we are destined to love the blooms which require the most particular attention and defy consistent expectation. This would explain why most of the men I crushed after in college liked mean, fickle, annoying girls who were deeply concerned with their hair and denied their suitors even the most basic peace of mind. Le Petit Prince had a manipulative flower like that. Like orchids, they appeal only to a particular type of person (myself not among them), require constant attention, a controlled climate and are not adaptable to anything. The owner must build his life around them. This is too picky for me, as I have plans of my own. Care must not require a lifestyle adjustment. I must be able to come to an understanding with my plant that is not entirely an accommodation of either of us.

So I’ve kept trying with the azaleas and iris. I have corrected my habits of neglect which were based on a faulty theory that I could forego regular minor care in favor of irregular bursts of excessive affection and overindulgence in water and fertilizers. I have read a few web sites on plant care and the sheet of instructions that came with the iris. I have calmed down and mastered the basic art of horticultural patience. Tend them and wait. There’s no point in questioning your acquisition: if you want the flowers, you give the plant what it needs and see what happens. You can’t hang on forever but, for these flowers, a year or two is not too much to ask. Or so I understand.

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Categories: News, Nuisance, Miscellany


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