What is it about perennials that cause gardeners to rhapsodize?
Their benefits are plentiful – they save money, time, and offer interesting texture, color, and shapes in our gardens.
But something deeper takes place when we nestle these living things into the soil – our collective unconscious connects with nature, helping us understand why we were placed on this Earth.
By observing the life cycle of these plants — blooming, thriving, wilting, and ‘dying’, only to be reborn the next year — we’re able to put some order and meaning into our own lives. Planting perennials lets us experience a feeling of optimism and a sense that we believe in the future.
When warmer weather surprises us in February and early March, we witness our spring bulbs and perennials peeking through the earth at least a month earlier than usual. Like an audience at a fashion show, we ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at every new specimen that erupts from the ground. With a combination of pleasure and relief, we welcome back our old friends from what feels like endless months of separation. We’re delighted to see – most of the time- that through the process of self seeding they’ve added some new members to their tribe – as well as having grown themselves.
We have a unique relationship with our perennials. In a very real sense, our lives as gardeners inadvertently become intertwined with them. Most of us will be able to tell you what year and where we purchased a specific one – much like talking about the birth of our children. But some of us take it one step further. We can even tell you precisely what was going on in our lives at the time when we first ‘met’ this little being. Like a doting parent, if you let us, we can ramble on about all of its beauty, growth and ability to triumph in the face of adversity.
Over the years to come, we try to give our little pals a good foundation from which to grow and multiply. We feed and water them, observe their growth with joy, cajole them into blooming, and take care of them when sick or diseased.
And much like a parent, we offer them discipline. When they become unruly, we cut back, divide, and deadhead to maintain their health and vigor – so they can parade their glorious blooms for the longest time possible. Similar to our children, we marvel at them throughout all of their stages of growth. Ultimately, we accept and love them with all of their strengths and weaknesses.
In a world where too little story telling takes place, each of these plants offers a unique story that can be passed on from generation to generation. They may involve friends who have given us cuttings or visits with gardeners in far away places who share a harvest of special seed from their garden that we have so admired.
Although perennials are beautiful jewels, their ultimate power is revealed in how deeply they affect our spirit and actions. They soften our hearts and facilitate us in making generous connections with others. In a world that hungers for optimism, joyfulness, and kindness, these little plants teach us about all of those things and more. They act as a beacon of light – helping us stay grounded and have faith in goodness, beauty, generosity, and the never ending cycle of life.
Because of their presence in our lives, we have the potential to tread on this earth with a bit more grace.