I’m a fairly new gardener, and until this year I’ve focused primarily on the edibles. If I can slice it, roast it, can it, or cover it with tomato sauce, I’m probably attempting to grow it. I’ve always been slightly put off by the idea of tending to flowers, however.
My husband and I bought our house two years ago with all intentions of beautifying the place. The woman who had lived in it before was elderly, and the landscaping had slumped a bit in the past few years. Luckily, time provided excuses to keep me from making the attempt. The first growing season was past by the time we moved in, and the second growing season our attentions were on a newborn. I barely managed to weed my vegetable garden, let alone think of uttering the word “mulch”. This year, though, I swore I would make in-roads. I’ve been battling the long-time resident weeds and laying down landscaper’s plastic like it was going out of style (which indeed it may be.) I also had the chance to plant my first flowers from seed.
I should note that I was raised by a gardening father, and he tended both vegetables and flowers. The flowers, though, we bought in friendly cubes of dirt. Marigolds, pansies, and snapdragons populated our back yard and the edges of our driveway. He always ripped the sides of the plastic and soaked the flowers in a bucket of water and fertilizer before transplanting. Then, he took the flower in his large palm and squeezed the dirt softly, as if to wake up the roots from a nap.
Even then, I didn’t quite understand why flowers received the same attention from him that the carrots, green beans, tomatoes, and eggplant did. They didn’t really do anything, my young mind reasoned. Or rather, we couldn’t do anything with them. For a child, that is the ultimate affront. Look, but don’t touch. This was the standard rule for all flowers except the snapdragon.
If you’ve never had the pleasure to plant a snapdragon, you’re not missing some astounding aroma or stately appearance. They are simple plants with spindly stems; they smell not unlike the rest of the outdoors in a fresh and grassy kind of way. These flowers, though, open like a dragon’s mouth in a Chinese New Year parade when pressed on the base of their stem. My father used to catch my fingers inside while I giggled riotously.
It was these moments with my father that I remembered while perusing the seed rack at our local hardware store. I knew what full grown flowers looked like. I could purchase those outside, already budding in their safe dirt cubes, but I realized I had never seen any flower from seed to stem to wilt. Growing any plant from a seed still astonishes me, how a tiny cucumber seed expands like kudzu or the bean unfolds from its deep bow. Growing a flower from seed, though, required much more patience. I read the instructions, planted the seeds, and waited.
And waited. And waited. And eventually gave up hope.
Just when hope was entirely lost, up came some sprouts. They leafed out and started to grow taller, and just this week my seed-packet snapdragons finally flowered. The best part so far has been being able to share these snapdragons with my son. He’s at an age where everything has to be touched and handled, and gardens can be wonderful places to explore. It can be hard to balance the mom and the plant-mom parts of me, though, when I see him approach my prized tomato plants. Snapdragons we can enjoy together, and when I hear his squeal of laughter, it makes me glad I was patient.