“Why go to the lake to draw water, when you have a well in your house?” Yesterday I read this quote in a book set in Calcutta, but it seemed a truth that translates well to my life in Tidewater, Virginia.
My fridge is stuffed with fresh kale, lettuce, mustard, and collards. There’s a bouquet of scavenged lisianthus on my birthday table. Why go to the market when there’s lettuce growing by the garage and lizzies for the taking at Lisa’s?
Of course, I was a bit taken aback to find my husband was clearly thinking along the same lines this weekend. A cheery card saying “Happy Birthday!” greeted me from the lisianthus blossoms I myself had gathered from Lisa’s garden just before they were to be plowed under.
(Why spend money ordering from the florist when your loved one can go cut and arrange them in her favorite vase for herself!) But forty-four years of marriage is worth something. To his credit, he knows me well enough to understand that, really, no purchased bouquet could have pleased me as much as those lizzies in purple, pink, cream, and white.
Flowers that just grow there and offer themselves to you are our favorite kind. A volunteer impatiens tells another story of intrigue.
Years ago, I used to go out on Memorial Day and buy several flats of brick-red impatiens and plant them in a profusion of red and green at the front entrance to our home. They complemented the barn-red trim and looked stunning against the gray stones of the house.
Then came the deer invasion.
Overnight, every red blossom was chomped to the ground, as if the flower bed was a huge platter of strawberry shortcake.
The solution was simple and inexpensive. No more buying flats of impatiens. A more modest visual statement and a more ecologically beneficial approach was a replacement bed of whatever wild flowers we had growing elsewhere in the yard. The deer hardly gave a second glance to the coneflowers, money plants, Queen Anne’s lace, columbine, and violets that were happy to grow there. I missed the blaze of red, but I was glad not to have to drag the hose out to revive drooping impatiens on hot afternoons.
Then last week when we returned home to take stock of treasures in our fall garden, a flash of red surprised us. In among the stalks of spent coneflowers was a throwback impatiens with a few red blossoms. It was beautiful! A tiny seed from years past, choosing its moment to grow!
I carefully dug it up and put it in a pot. Now my mission is to keep it in a sunny window all winter like my mother was so good at doing. I just won’t think about the deer, as I nourish and protect the vibrant little plant.
The best water comes from your own well. The best flowers are the ones that volunteer to grow for you!
By Susan Yoder Ackerman