O my God, You know that as a child, I considered sewing myself a dress of Queen Anne’s lace — so delicate, so royal. I didn’t know the plant also was called “chigger weed.” OMG, thank You I didn’t learn the hard way that creative ideas aren’t necessarily good ideas.
Surely, no one deliberately planted flowers of such pathetic pedigree. These gangly commoners share none of the refinement of day lilies, their aristocratic cousins.
Whoever nurtured mine did not stop with signs. She/he invited them to surround the patio, where an army of orange sentinels stand at attention. Neither horizontal rain, windstorm, nor hail beat them down. Nothing short of a nuclear blast prevents their annual return.
I know this because their anonymous planter also nurtured them around our mailbox — until my husband, replacing it, obliterated the lily bulbs.
Undaunted, the invaders returned, only to be mowed down again and again. And again.
Stubborn? Worse than a gang of telemarketers.
Um … maybe the gardener who introduced the lilies wasn’t so dumb. Perhaps, like me, she/he was desperate. I had nicknamed that flower bed the “Sahara.”
Morning glories, petunias, zinnias, marigolds — none of my usual stalwarts had survived it. Would I have to comb the Internet for Martian cacti?
Instead, I planted lily shoots. Three days later, they had not shriveled.
Gasp! What had I done?
Yet, I could not yank them. I just … kind of forgot to water them.
Finally, the hopeful sprigs disintegrated into yellow July dust. I could forget my embarrassing temporary insanity.
Until the following March. Tiny, green leaves stuck out, na-na-na-boo-boo tongues that grew into spindly plants.
How could I pull them? They have flourished unpampered.
Though I wouldn’t mind if they conquered the crabgrass.
Vases chock full of lilies do brighten my mantels. My dining room table. My piano. …
All right, so my deep, dark secret is out.
I have plebian tastes. I like orange lilies.
These flowers scorn Better Homes and Gardens ratings. They grow in vacant lots, parking lots, behind Big Lots. Their determination to cover their world with beauty knows no limits.
Funny, her people bouquets consist of the unsung, too. She gathers needy children, cherishing beauty bypassed by others. Maybe the wealth of orange lilies edging her fence inspire her days.
As mine should.
Anyone blessed with orange-lilyfied street signs — even a dead-end one — is bound to see her world in a beautiful way.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What “plebian” flowers do you like?
“What’s that smell?” I asked my mother.
“Lilacs.” She took several long, luxurious sniffs, too.
Mom and I disagreed about short skirts, curfews and whether Herman of Herman’s Hermits needed a haircut. Lilacs made us one in heart, spirit and nose.
I didn’t know the Greek mythology behind lilacs — that a beautiful nymph named Syringa (now the botanical name for lilacs) was pursued aggressively by Pan, god of field and forest. Frightened, she hid by turning herself into a lilac bush.
Who was she kidding? No one remains in cognito smelling like that.
Case in point: few spies practice this form of espionage.
Sadly, no lilacs graced my subsequent homes. I indulged in sniffing them at church, where an enormous grove dominated the side yard. Every year when the allergic choir director threatened to dynamite my beloved bushes, I trembled.
Eventually, I married and moved to apartments and houses with no lilacs. Fortunately, many neighbors owned bushes covered with bouquets of blossoms. While walking with my toddlers, I cautioned that we couldn’t pick the lilacs. However, if we were very, very careful, we could borrow the smell. If you had followed us on our regular alley rounds, you would have seen little girls — and their mommy — standing on tiptoe, hands clasped behind backs, sniffing lilacs.
Once, I discovered a new neighbor had axed my favorites. They lay beside the road crushed, like green and purple roadkill.
“You may be chief lilac sniffer, but your name is not on the deed,” Hubby reminded me.
So instead of vandalizing their house, I moved into a home with a big lilac bush. Every spring, I filled my dining room with luscious fragrance.
Supposedly, no one can kill lilacs, yet I did the impossible. Inconsolable, I figured if we could conduct a dozen hamster funerals in the flower bed, we could hold a lilac funeral. But no one agreed.
My husband planted another lilac. But the following year we moved, and I had to say goodbye.
We now live in a house with a rather reserved bush that poises its large lavender parasol of blossoms far above sniff level. Still, it perfumes the garden and even graciously offers a few clusters for my olfactory pleasure.
One sniff on a busy morning makes all the difference in my day. Amazing what a little lilac love can do.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite sniffing flower?
Me? I might wow observers, but for different reasons: my ratty bathrobe and jammies. What else would you expect of a grandma writer juggling Christmas?
What’s that? Your Creator made you to be strictly decorative?
I told my husband a similar story. A little tired of my ratty bathrobe, he didn’t think so.
However, when Dr. Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, met your ancestors in 1828, he brought several home. Before long, your forbearers became wildly popular.
Poinsie, how did you become an important floral symbol of Christmas? Not that the Bethlehem stable was landscaped with holly or mistletoe. Jesus probably didn’t even have a Christmas tree.
Does it make sense, though, that Americans celebrate a winter holiday with a tropical plant that hates the cold more than Midwestern snowbirds? If you had your choice, Poinsie, would you have stayed in Mexico, where you and your kin reach tree size?
I thought so. For a long time, you’ve lived out of your comfort zone. Still, you strut your colorful stuff every Christmas and brighten the holiday for us all.
Until one minute after midnight, December 26, when you wilt a little. A lot, actually.
Admittedly, we all wilt, and wrinkles eventually find us. But after one grand entrance during Christmas, you begin making demands. If I cherish any notion that you will bloom again, the light must be just so. The temperatures must be just so. At night, you like to be moved to a cooler area. I must ensure your beauty sleep in complete darkness from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. from October through December. Even headlights shining through shades can disturb your blooming.
You do remember, don’t you, Poinsie, why I keep pet plants instead of pet animals? Let me remind you: because plants don’t bark or lick. And they’re easier to care for.
I used to coddle fussy poinsettias. I lined windows with scraggly, leaf-shedding plants. I watered and fed. I plucked. I pampered. I encouraged.
But they wilted all the more
Finally, I tossed them all out behind the garage. Every. Single. One.
Now don’t you think you could act a little less fussy?
What do you mean, I could be less demanding, too? I don’t ask for much. Just my favorite snowman coffee mug with my brand of coffee. My solo bathroom. My schedule. My music. My hot-food fetish fulfilled, though I have to re-microwave my plate three times during supper.
Poinsie, you’re saying I should demand less?
Now, you’re just meddling. Flowers should be seen and not heard.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you had a heart-to-heart with a plant lately? Did it mess with your life, too?