I planted hostas last spring. They were, according to the little plastic-coasted stakes in the pots, well-suited to the shaded spot right outside the back door at Sandhill. I planted four, realized that I had greatly underestimated the number needed and planted eight more. They were green, so very green, and about half of them were a variety that had a thin yellow trim along the leaves.
To have been planted by someone who really doesn’t know a lot about gardening, the hostas did pretty well. Toward the end of the summer, though, a couple browned-up and died. Just died. I was disappointed. I’d been prepared by Martha Stewart, who turned the lowly hosta into the rock star of yard plantings, to expect hardiness. I’d convinced myself that out of the reach of the scorching sun and with water dripping off the roof directly onto their heads after every rain shower, the hostas would survive.
It was difficult not to see it as some kind of sign.
The year turned and as spring made her leisurely way back to south Georgia, I became acutely aware of how ugly was the empty bed where the hostas had lived. I started wondering if maybe I should just load up on some pea gravel and spread it out like one big hosta headstone.
And, then, a couple of Sunday afternoons ago, home from a weekend trip out of town and headed outside to refill the hummingbird feeders, something caught my eye. Something green. And pointy. Looking closer I could tell it was one of my heretofore-assumed-dead hostas pushing up through the dirt. Glory be!
I looked closer. There was another one. And another one. Six in all! I sat down on the edge of the carport and cried. It was a week after Easter, but I was witness to a resurrection! By the next morning, a total of 10 plants had, in varying heights, stood up from their slumber, stretched their arms and yawned into the sunlight.
Enthusiasm seized me. I rushed to town to buy four more to fill in the gaps in the bed. It was beautiful. I counted them twice like a child with her Easter eggs.
The next morning I hurried out the door, briefcase and pocketbook and gym bag dangling in a tangle from my arms, and, once again, something caught my eye. This time, though, it wasn’t a hosta in broad-leafed glory, but a hosta in gnawed-off ruin. I couldn’t be sure which of my neighbors had made a salad bar of my perennials, but thought it might be the armadillos who had already, in the side yard, produced more holes than the sales staff at Claire’s.
Upon consultation with Daddy, however, it appeared that the uninvited dinner guests were more likely to be rabbits than armadillos. After discussion with my friend, David, who, for reasons that cannot be explained, knows about such things, I found myself on Sunday afternoon sprinkling cayenne and black peppers over the flat green leaves, preparatorily dampened so that the spices might stick.
It was hard to tell the next morning whether the garnish had deterred any munching. What was easier to tell, though, was the fact that the first-chewed plants were already reemerging. Once again the rolled up leaves were thrusting themselves into the open air. Once again they were reminding me that apparent death is often just that — apparent, not actual. They had survived the natural cycle of the seasons and now they were surviving predation.
People are a lot like plants. Some are annuals — showy and fragrant, but needy. They throw themselves profligately into the landscape and, with the fading of their season, gently die. And some are perennials — unobtrusive and subtle and sturdy. They soften the edges and thrive in the shade and, with the fading of their season, they die back, but they don’t die.
Annuals. Perennials. Neither a garden nor a life is complete without both.