The butterfly argyranthemum and me
By Janice Lindsay
I accepted the gift with both delight and trepidation. Delight because its perky yellow daisy-like flowers splashed sunshine into a pile-up of gray days. Trepidation because, if precedent held, that sweet burst of flora would be dead within hours.
As much as I love flowers, I’ve never been a gardener. Green things tend to wither and die from being in my vicinity. Once, my mother brought me a pot of parsley. I opined that perhaps, for the plant’s own good, she should consider taking it back. She pooh-poohed. “Anybody can grow parsley.” By the time she left, it had lapsed into an irreversible coma.
Another time, in a flurry of hopefulness, I planted Shasta daisy seeds I had received at the bank for free. The only sprout that appeared and thrived was a tomato plant. It had taken root from a seed in a tomato crushed by my husband, the family’s fruit-and-vegetable gardener, when he had removed old plants the autumn before.
(On the bright side: I’m handy to have around at weed-killing time.)
So I handled my sweet butterfly argyranthemum as little as possible, and with extreme care.
For a couple of days, I kept it in the house so that I could enjoy its loveliness while it faded quietly away.
But it didn’t fade away!
Then I decided that, as long as it wasn’t dead, I’d put it outside because that’s where it was intended to go. I sat it near the house, where it could get used to being outside, but be a bit protected from the rainy weather, and from me.
And once again, it didn’t fade away!
Next step was to transplant it from the pot to the soil. I located the sunniest spot I could find in our woodsy garden space (Tag: “6 to 8 hours of sun a day.”). I had watched my husband transplant raspberry bushes from pots, so I knew how it was done. He gave me some fertilizer and told me how to use it. I did my best, careful to take as little time as possible in contact with the roots and greenery. Then I waited.
And still my friend argyranthemum didn’t fade away!
For six weeks now, it has blossomed as if it’s having the most fun any plant ever had — not just a blossom or two at a time, but always eight or ten. It shows no sign that it’s even getting tired. The tag says I should “remove the old blooms to encourage more fresh, vibrant color.” But I’m scared to interfere, it’s doing so well on its own. Perhaps it has taken my measure and realizes it does not want my attention.
But that little plant has emboldened me to believe, “Maybe I can actually do this gardening thing.”
Being a book person, I asked my friend who co-manages a secondhand bookshop if she had any books for gardeners who are really, truly beginners. At the time, she didn’t. But then, “Gardening for Dummies” appeared! Perhaps I’m on my way!
We have a shrub garden in front of our house, planted by previous owners, whose ill-chosen bushes have the potential to overgrow the house and threaten to do so. We can no longer beat them back.
Let’s pull those giants out. Start over. Plant dwarf shrubs instead. And flowers. And flowering shrubs.
But hire a professional.
One living argyranthemum does not make a gardener.
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