Friday, February 17, 2017

Early cheer in the garden...and amid my clutter



I'm writing this three days after I had intended to.  It was Valentine's Day evening, and I looked with dismay at my desk - disorganization, chaos, half-worked crossword puzzles, metal filing rack stuffed with papers.  I hadn't a clue what they (the papers) were all about - they had been there for months.

But, as I was feeling a twinge of sadness - for Valentine Days long past, the exchange of presents (my late husband usually gave me something, however small, made of sterling silver, and I would give him something to do with fishing); yellow roses from a boyfriend who wrote a funny message on the card; my daddy handing me a heart-shaped box of candy wrapped in red cellophane.  You can see I was in pitiable, nostalgic mood.

It only took studying the bouquet of daffodils I had picked that afternoon to break the melancholy.  What was I thinking?  Here were the cheerful faces that poets had written about for centuries, that school children had presented to their teachers over the years, with the syrupy liquid seeping through the wax paper around the green stems held in their hands.  How lucky was I that all I had to do was walk around the yard and gather some instant happiness.

The daffodils (of the genus narcissus; when I was young, we called them jonquils, regardless of the size or what division they were) in my bouquet were mixed, a few having been here long before I came on the property.  But, most were ones I've added through the years.  Curiously,  the early "jonquils" and many of the later, larger ones all bloomed at once this year.  This weather has been crazy, with warm spells in January and February more typical of May.

In my thrown-together bouquet are some 'Ice Follies.'  These are from ones I forced one year, then threw the bulbs on the ground afterwards, with all intentions of planting them.  They ended up planting themselves and have spread to make a pretty large clump.  Their large faces start off with creamy petals and a pale yellow cup.  Then, everything fades to white.  My daffodil guru, Berma Abercrombie, who was a founder of the Georgia Daffodil Society, always recommended 'Ice Follies' as a very showy flower for a mass planting.

I took her at her word and ordered 50 bulbs to start off with.  For some strange reason, I decided to plant them on a bank in the woods way behind the house where no one but the deer and squirrels can see them.  They did not take off and spread like the ones I had thrown so insouciantly by the back door.  In fact, their numbers have dwindled.  I wasn't thinking right; the 'Ice Follies' I planted so far away should be on the hill across the driveway where I could see them from the window by my desk.  As it is, I have to trudge past the brush pile and down a steep hill to pick them.  Another of the labor-intensive garden mistakes I have made.

Now, as to the rest of my desk.  I had two of those tall mint julep-type vases.  I took some camellias to my mother in the nursing home once, and apparently someone liked the container as much as I did.  But this is one of my favorite vases for many flowers.  The next occupants will be the dark purple hyacinths that come up every year near said brush pile.  These are more bulbs I had forced, then tossed into the ground without much thought.

There are pictures of three of my Valentines on the desk.  One, you can't see for the glare - that's my husband Chip Tate talking to the novelist Andrew Lytle (in the white shirt).  Another is the real Mr. Darcy - Colin Firth.  He's in a dark leather frame that I thought suited him nicely.  The picture was a gift from my friend Helen Fraser, who always zeroes in on what you would love to have.  I can't tell you how many times I have watched the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice.  Last week there was an article in The New York Times showing what a real aristocrat of the era would have looked like.  Not for me.  Colin Firth, you will forever be Mr. Darcy.

My other Valentine is represented here by the mirror.  You can see the frame - it is distressed black with gold leaf.  It belonged to my friend Benjie Jones, whom I lost last June 16th.  The mirror, which is huge, has made this room a much better place to be.

With the sweet-scented flowers and memories of Valentine's Days past, I soon bounced back and let the daffodils direct my mood.  Flowers always help, and these were just the right ones to make my evening, not one of sadness at not having a Valentine at present, but one filled with cheerful remembrances of people I was lucky to have in my life.


Below:  A neighbor down the street has masses of 'Ice Follies' planted on a hill next to her house.  I wasn't able to capture the whole area because the leaves on several beech trees blocked the view.  I need a stronger lens on my camera, but I was able to zero in one of the patches that passersby (and deer and squirrels) can see from the street.