Memorials and Flowers

iris and peonyMemorial Day used to mark the start of the gardening season in Ann Arbor, the date after which you could be reasonably certain your new plants would not be killed by frost. Then the garden catalogs began to arrive with new information. This, they said up front, was not a political statement and they did not want to get into any political arguments. It was just their duty, as provider of my seeds and plants, to notify me that my Ann Arbor garden was no longer in Zone 5. It was now Zone 6a. I could start planting on Mother’s Day.

As far as I could tell, this did not initiate any angry letters cancelling orders or detailing conspiracy theories. When your hands are in the dirt things get real: do you want to be the person who shouts the loudest, or do you want to start eating tomatoes and cutting zinnias for bouquets as soon as possible? Expertise may be out of fashion elsewhere, but in the garden it is always in style.

bouquetFlowers carry so many associations. They fill the bride’s hand, grace the table on Mother’s Day, wreathe headstones on Memorial Day, and have done these jobs for a long time. Fossil pollen has been found in burials from thousands of years ago; if we had wedding fossils I’d bet there would be flower remnants there, too. Flowers, fragile and short-lived, do a lot of emotional heavy lifting for us. Speaking for us in difficult situations, they are also traditionally used in apologies and fence-mending, activities that always seem to be in short supply right when we need them most. So, grow some flowers. Give them to someone you’ve had a disagreement with. Start a dialogue.

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