Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring & St. Patrick's Day & Oxalis

Despite ferocious allergies that grow more vindictive each year, I always look forward to spring. Not only do we all look forward to MAMG Spring Fling (which starts Friday by the way - on the first day of spring!), but we also celebrate St. Patrick's Day – the day most people wear green regardless of their nationality. Most impressive, though, is the way the warmer sun and the rain coax to life such a depth and breadth of greens.

This year marked the end of the annual enforced St. Patrick's Day family dinner.  I will miss only one thing about it:  every year the table centerpiece was a loose runner of small, plump, green oxalis regnellii. Everyone could take one home at the end of the night. 

I can’t name just one favorite thing about these little plants. I love the way they stretch tall and strong toward the sun each day. When thirsty, they droop, but after a refreshing drink, they stand tall again, like new. I love that the corm is so forgiving, making it an easy plant to maintain.  

When I tried to plant some around my apartment a few years back, I spread them lovingly in what I thought would be a perfect place – a north-facing wall with dappled sunlight, underneath and around an azalea bush. Unfortunately that put them in the middle of the local kitty superhighway from my back patio to everywhere else. When I went to water them a week later, I found only a graveyard of scattered corm corpses. (see diagram below)

This was before my Extension Master Gardener days, but I've always been that person who’s still nursing the poor abandoned poinsettias rescued from office garbage cans. I scooped up as many corms as I could find, replanted them, and took them to the office, hopeful for a comeback.

Now that I think about it, maybe I’m attached to these little guys because they exhibit traits I admire; they represent a way I’d like to be.

They reach toward the light, stretching with what I imagine is an unbridled, single-minded enthusiasm. Every now and then they take so much joy from the wash of light and warmth that they burst into a silent, happy plant song of a blossom. I could certainly benefit by adopting their determination to seek and follow the light.

If left unattended for too long, they let me know very directly, with drooping stems and leaves folding in on themselves, what they need.  In other words, they ask, in their way, for help. As gardeners we know that humans must live in reciprocity with plants to maintain maximum health for both. Just like we help plants grow, they in turn enrich our environment, aesthetically as well as physically. In the same symbiotic way, we humans also need each other – a kind word here, a generous gesture there, a random smile, maybe even a gift of oxalis to someone for no reason at all.

The resilience of the Oxalis inspires me. The next time I’m uprooted or tossed around by life, I want to know I can draw on a store of inner energy to start over and try again. Regardless of where we may draw it, I think we can agree that we want that energy to surge through us, rejuvenating and enriching us. I don’t want to dwell on the many times I've been uprooted.  I want to be always stretching up into the light.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Happy Spring!  See you at Spring Fling!

Laurie Henderson, TMG '12

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