She walked over to a lovely, graceful bush – it’s arms bowed down with the most amazing little pink hearts; each one cupping a small white tear drop. We both drew our faces down to better see the serendipitous beauty born for a mere few weeks in April. My aunt placed a marker down in the earth at the base.
“Bleeding Heart,” she rattled off the name as though it were a second cousin twice removed. I had never seen or heard of anything so unusual. “Come back in the fall and we can dig a clump out for you.”
That must have been nearly ten years ago. My Bleeding Heart is now big enough to split and share with another. My aunt has since passed, but the beauty she shared with me - both in knowing the secrets of the garden and so willingly giving them - will be with me forever.
The act of growing, nurturing and then sharing the bounty, whether it be a little vase of cut flowers, a banner zucchini harvest, or a favorite perennial that’s tripled in size, is truly the gift of gardening.
And, oh what joy, to receive that treat!
It is not the same as getting a trinket from a store or even a plant from the nursery; no, indeed, it is getting a piece of that person and of history, a piece of the earth and of time, not to mention the talent and luck that beget life from the earth.
Gifts from the garden are a treasure multiplied every time they’re given away. (And in that way they are more like “love” than like the treasures of this world.)
I believe that’s why you won’t find any “scrooges” within the gardening community. Very often someone probably got them started with a little slip of a plant; an iris tuber, a hosta divided, a few stalks from a cone flower. It meant something, not just because of what is was, but because of where it came from. There’s just something so satisfying as walking by a peony and knowing that it came from my grandmother’s garden. There’s no telling where she got it. Back then you didn’t stroll into Lowe’s (with your $5 coffee au lait in hand) and see rows and rows of greenhouse-grown container plants.
You depended on someone to give you a start. You looked to your neighbor for help and you shared when you had plenty. You built community.
And I stilll find that happening in the garden world today. Local garden clubs are filled with folks who want to share what they know, thin out their beds and help a new gardener along. Or maybe you will get lucky and get a neighbor with a green- thumb, like I did.
There is no more set formula of how to start gardening, just as there is no set formula of how to love. It takes patience and commitment. It takes not giving up when the first, second, third attempts don’t produce as you had hoped. It is giving of yourself and your treasure – and watching the landscape around you bloom – if only for a precious moment.
It is sharing what you love with those you love. Some may find you silly or extravagant, but others will be changed forever. One thing is for sure: love cannot be grasped so much as it grows when it is given away. And this is what the true gardener knows.