I was only 31 when my family and I moved into our first home with a garden. We had rented apartments before then, but this was our first single family home. It was only a rental for us, but it was my first experience with real gardening.
The house we rented, my husband, our baby daughter and I, was small and old. But it was kept in perfect shape by our landlord, whose parents had lived there for decades. The back yard of the little Cape held a small lawn and a lovely little shady flower garden, complete with overgrown irises, loads of day lilies, and several clumps of what I later learned were gorgeous purple spiderwort plants. There were two small birch trees and a little winding path through the flower beds.
I was completely enamored of this tiny fairy garden, and spent many hours dividing, pruning and otherwise reclaiming the flowers that grew there.
The front of the little gray house held some treasures, too. A gorgeous and absolutely huge hydrangea grew in one corner. Two beautiful white spirea bushes flanked the front windows.
And in the springtime, all three springs that I spent in that pretty little house, the front garden bed was a mass of little blue flowers. A carpet of gorgeous blue that poked up through the snow to greet the coming warmth.
I had to do quite a bit of research to identify the little blue flowers as “Siberian Squill” or scilla siberica. Each flower grew from a tiny bulb, only the size of a pea. I learned that the scilla bulbs would spread and form a carpet of bright color every early spring. They arrived with the snowdrops and lasted until the tulips bloomed.
I loved them so much! My little girl and I would pick small bunches of them and place them in tiny shot glasses and diminutive bud vases all around our house. They were my favorite harbingers of spring, greeting me before the earliest crocuses and bringing the hope of warmth back to our frosty New England landscape.
When we moved out of that sweet little rental, and into our first ever house, I brought a small handful of those little bulbs with me. I wanted the beauty of that blue carpet outside my door every spring!
But our new house came without a garden, and with four times as much land to fill as the place we had left behind.
In that first spring in our new place, I managed to carefully and slowly craft one flower bed. I added compost, top soil and a rock wall to hold it all in place. I planted a few annuals, and one or two bushes. And I carefully planted the ten bulbs of the scilla siberica, in hopes of seeing that carpet of blue the next spring.
Well, as any gardener will tell you, the best laid plans rarely pan out.
It has been 28 years since I planted those first ten little bulbs. Every spring I have seen one or two plants, separated by feet of icy mud, poking their heads up into the cold spring air. They always come up, but they are so few and far between that any idea of a “carpet” has long since faded away.
Until this week.
Here I am now, 62 years old. I’ve been in this house for almost three decades. I have flower beds all over the yard, and even a little vegetable patch. I grow irises, and day lilies and coreopsis. There are peonies, astilbes, wild roses and clumps of thyme and oregano. I have daffodils, crocuses, tulips and grape hyacinth. We have phlox, both tall and creeping, myrtle and daisies and black-eyed susans.
Our gardens are fully established by now, and the biggest chore is dividing and eliminating the plants that are overgrown.
And for the first time, the very first time in 28 years, I now have a small “carpet” of lovely blue scilla right out in front of my house.
I’m totally delighted to see them there, in a clump that promises to turn into a carpet. But I can’t help wondering, “Where in the world have you all been for 28 years?” Why did they suddenly make an appearance this year?
Well, I have a theory.
You seen, by the time the young mother that I was moved into our little grey Cape house and hesitantly took over the garden, the woman who had planted it all had passed on to her next adventure. But I learned from her son, and from some of her neighbors, that she had been such an avid gardener that she’d planted spring bulbs even when she was in her 70’s and bound to a wheelchair.
I had taken the bulbs from the garden of an old lady who simply loved her flowers. I had planted them in my youth and inexperience, but they had mostly stayed dormant. Dormant until this year, when I find myself realizing that I am now an old lady who simply loves my flowers. While I’m not in a wheelchair, my health is such that I can only garden for a short time each day.
I wonder, as I look at my little patch of bright Siberian blue, I wonder if they were waiting for me to reach just the right stage in my life to fully appreciate them.
I never knew the woman who planted those bulbs in front of her little gray Cape, but I feel very close to her tonight.
Scilla Siberica. You really should get yourself some!