The Plants Not Taken

Kid in a candy store or bull in a china shop—which metaphor’s the more apt? At various times, either one: visiting a plant nursery can be (and has been) an overbuying trigger of the first order for me. Scents, textures, and colors, the forms of the flowers and the fruits of the vines and the trees—all call to me like kittens and puppies do for others (not that I don’t have tender feelings toward them, too). So it was with more than mild satisfaction that two weeks ago I spent well over an hour at wonderful Rainbow Gardens, outside San Antonio, Texas—and walked out with only two small passionflower vines, totable in a bag which would easily fit under the seat in front of me on the plane back to New York.

Not so many years ago, my visits to Rainbow Gardens yielded far less measured results. Tempted by the vibrancy of the flora that the south Texas climate so fully supports, I’d either come home with all matter of bougainvillea, jacaranda, and hot, dry-loving succulents. These I’d squish into a semi-open carry-on, with stems and leaves spilling out on all sides. By the time the plane touched down, they were already feeling oxygen deprivation and my attempts to resuscitate them were mostly in vain. Those that did manage to limp along ended up succumbing to the first hint of frost or, if I moved them into the house to spend the winter, quickly became either a favorite food for white flies or aphids or a favored host for some fungus or other.

As much as I fantasized that semi tropical plants would flourish in my Zone 6A Northern Garden—a fantasy aided and abetted by the “reality” of global warming (as if, in my lifetime, Zone 6 could likely become Zone 8!)—those plants that flourish in South Texas will never be happy just north of Manhattan. My garden will never wear those particular blossoms, however much I’d like to buy them and put them into my garden closet. There they’d only wither and die, and never see even one wearing of seasonal bloom.

Facing this fact squarely back in San Antonio, I could enjoy these Texas lovelies “on the rack,” so to speak, while they waited to be snapped up by flower lovers who had appropriate occasions and locations to exhibit them and showcase their beauty. And I rested assured that, since I’d been able to winter over three passionflower vines this past year in our garage, I’d likely be able to do it again with the two newbies. What a relief to have added to my garden wardrobe mindfully! And when I came out of the house this morning, one of the two new passionflowers came out and modeled its gorgeous red dress.

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