At Random: Easter means spring gardens have begun

With the arrival of Easter last weekend, spring gardening season officially arrived at our house.

Every Easter, after breakfasting on boiled eggs and bits of chocolate, going to church to sing the old hymns of renewal and resurrection, then having lunch and seconds and rounds of coffee, we usually turn the table conversation to talk of plants. The garden chat is part of a weekend devoted largely to thoughts of growing things.

Last Saturday, in the midst of cooking and cleaning and gathering groceries for the holiday, I took my wife to the local nursery to buy our first stock of the year. I went along only as her man Friday, hauling a small red wagon behind her as she browsed the bedding plants like a hummingbird in search of nectar. Although her movements might have looked random to other customers, I knew that my wife had already landed on a theme: She wanted to build a butterfly garden near the foot of our front porch. Into the cart went gaura and milkweed, two butterfly favorites.

We also took home a bale of pine straw to mulch the new plants against the hot, dry days that are sure to come as spring deepens into summer. I usually line the car with newspaper before hauling home nursery supplies, feathering the floor as if housebreaking a puppy, but all of this automotive hygiene is pretty much for nothing. I’ll still find stray pine needles or grains of soil many weeks from now, perhaps while fetching a tire iron from the hatchback, and this tiny sediment will pleasantly remind me of gardens once planted, flowers still reaching toward the full arc of their possibility.

Possibility is what this time of year is all about. The weather is warming, but not painfully so, and it’s still easy to see the promise of the yard without fretting too much about its demands.

I know, for example, that the new butterfly garden will be harder to dig than we once thought, with big clots of clay waiting to gum up our spades as we excavate a place for the plants to take root. Weeds not yet visible will thread themselves through the pine straw with the evil ingenuity of a serpent invading paradise. On some dull August afternoon of the future, we’ll glance at the garden and quietly wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into.

But the future has a way of taking care of itself, and so, on Easter, we didn’t worry about the hundred garden problems that tend to sprout between April and autumn. Instead, I sipped coffee by the kitchen window and gazed at the nursery stock still in its plastic pots and cardboard trays, each plant as happily self-contained as the village in a snow globe.

There will soon come a day when we’ll carefully slide the plants from their pots, as if tenderly slipping a foot from a loafer, tuck them into the ground and blanket them with straw, then retreat to the porch to wait, for a day or a week or a month, for the first butterfly to arrive. In a season of hope, we feel brave enough to expect miracles large and small.

Danny Heitman can be reached at dheitman@theadvocate.com.