Gardens have always been important to me. Growing up in England, I was always a stone's throw away from an enchanting, serene green space; tranquility buffering busy urban roads. 2020 would be the year I would revitalize and give due care to my own garden, long-overlooked as a result of cumulative superseding priorities. With the pandemic unforeseeably forcing us to spend more time at home, I decided that a regenerated green space would be essential to counter the stress and uncertainty we faced. It would be a way to divert my attention away from the shock and distress of Covid-related news.
I wasted no time to select plants that would add color, texture and layer to the different areas of the space: Azaleas, dwarf boxwoods, bottlebrush Little John, Foxtail Fern and Daniela Variegated. I aimed for variety and plants that would tolerate Houston's summer heat. A freeze was not even a consideration. My favorite was the bougainvillea, reminiscent of many childhood summers spent in mediterranean climates surrounded by this vibrant vine. As 2020 progressed, so did the bougainvillea, extending its arms east and west, caressing the fence and bathing in the bright Texan sunshine, blossoming with every ray. Just gazing at this plant enlivened my day and grounded me in the beauty that radiates from its roots and soil.
I imagined a lush fuchsia wall bi mid-summer, a backdrop that would add a colorful contrast to the plants beneath it and the sky above. A few weeks ago, I was making plans to mulch and trim the plants, an effort to ensure optimal bloom and growth.
But then news of an imminent polar vortex forced us to change course and to cover and protect rather than shave and trim. Blankets and sheets came out in number, as we tucked our beloved plants good night, offering them love and care which concealed our fear, as we would any child, still unaware of the danger looming ahead.
This white landscape felt surreal in a city that enjoys temperate climate in February and March.
While beautiful to look at and reminiscent of a northeastern urban-scape, we were not prepared and our covers didn't convince us that we would find healthy plants beneath, once removed. For now, I was comforted by the hardiness and resilience of the Bougainvillea. She looked sturdy and unfazed by the changed landscape. Perhaps all would be well after all.
But it would not be so.
When the covers were removed and the severity of the freeze became apparent, we were reminded of the impermanence of life, of our lack of control over nature and of the importance to accept situations for what they are; patience over impulse would dictate next-steps and as synchronicity would have it, this quote showed up in my inbox:
"Patience isn't waiting or being static but moving in harmony with the speed of nature and what life is presenting to you"- Gabrielle Harris
A local yoga studio owner, Carolina Valle, adds:
"The recommendation I keep hearing in regards to our flora is to just let them be. As much as we may want to get in there and prune, fertilize, or replant to make it look beautiful again, we really just need to back off and give them the time and space they need to regain their strength and bloom again when they're ready. Nature cannot be rushed."
Wise advice I thought, yet counterintuitive to how we may feel compelled to intervene: by fixing the outside so that it looks better, and assures us that all is well. Much like we would do in any situation when we are overwhelmed by stress, anxiety and uncertainty: focus on self-care and quick-fixes. But perhaps trusting that an innate life-force, larger than ourselves, will one day bring renewal and growth; That the big Texan sun will infuse our gardens and plants with the nutrients they need to revive and stand tall once more, is fodder to challenge our long-held assumptions and behaviors.
I don't know... but I will practice patience and let nature take its course, giving myself, and my plants, room to move in harmony with what life is presenting to us, in any given moment.
This too shall pass and our gardens will bloom again. The Bougainvillea too.
In fact, I start to see green shoots appear from a knocked-out iris and am reminded that there is hope, even when all looks so bruised and battered.