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The Second Botanical Event: Grandma’s Tulips

May 22, 2009

Tulip6423 Left: This year's tulip crop.

In my May 4 post I mentioned that there are three botanical events in my year. The second one happened Thursday: Grandma McKenney's tulips bloomed.

I'm not a gardener. I used to be a vegetable gardener, and a rather good one at that (employing companion planting techniques to keep down insects and generate larger healthier produce), but maturing trees (which blocked the sun) and the incident of the Brussel Sprouts plant from the Planet Zoltron, pretty much put me off gardening. That and spending so much time working with the dogs. (I have to be honest, I prefer tracking with a dog to gardening any day—I can stop on the way back at the farmer's market!)

There is one thing I never was, and that's a planter of flowers. I don't much like flowers (which is odd because I spent so many years teaching botanical illustration). I think they are beautiful of course. And I enjoy sketching them, but I don't want to grow them. I think it goes back to having too many things to take care of, too many living things.

But Dick's maternal grandmother was a planter of flowers (she did vegetables too, but her heart wasn't really in that, they were planted simply for use and she was happy to let me take over the vegetable garden and just share in the produce). She lived to be almost 98 and had a couple odd habits (well since I'm not a gardener they seem odd to me). She would plant tulip bulbs everywhere and anywhere. And because she was a bit impatient, and her eyesight wasn't that good, she would also put PLASTIC tulips in the same areas early each spring, so she had tulips before the real tulips arrived. (I have to say that from a distance of about 20 feet they did sort of look like real tulips and presented a festive tableau.)

When we bought the house from her I didn't think much about the tulips. The plastic tulips had been left in the ground and we didn't bother to take them out. I had my wind daisy and my pink flamingo, so what the hell. (We also wanted to add a pterodactl to the front porch roof, ripping up the roof with its claws, but we decided such a display would be an attractive nuisance for the college boys in the neighborhood when they were drunk. Plastic flowers and pink flamingos both fly under their radar.)

The spring after Grandma passed away, however, the plastic tulips, underneath the overgrown raspberry canes, looked sad, bleached, and broken. I removed them. Thinking nostalgic thoughts.

Then something wonderful happened: the real tulips came back. And the cluster of berry canes that have grown over the bed seem to protect them from varmints a.k.a. bunnies.

I don't give these plants any care and yet every year they return, and have for over 17 years. I always thought you had to plant new bulbs. I always thought you had to take great care. Sometimes splashes of color just happen. Sometimes life just finds a way. These flowers are so colorful that I still do a double take every time they catch my eye, especially when they first pop out. I find myself thinking, "How plastic they look." And then I smile and remember Grandma puttering around in the garden, and then going in to reward herself with a beer. She's still in the garden.

Tulip6429
Above: A view looking down on some tulips. Click on the image and view an enlargement.

    • Katy
    • May 22, 2009
    Reply

    Lovely post, Roz!

    I got the Ruskin and Kingman books from the library. I went ahead and ordered the Ruskin book. I love it! I’ve read a good bit of 18th and 19th English literature, so Ruskin’s writing is quite enjoyable to me. The Kingman book is very good too. I really like the interview format.

    • Christina Trevino.
    • May 22, 2009
    Reply

    Hey, Roz, I am like you, no gardening, and the roses come to splash colors in the front of the house every year.
    I love your Grandma’s rewarding herself with a beer. Now, that could push me to try gardening!

    • Ricë
    • May 22, 2009
    Reply

    you made me laugh out loud: “they did sort of look like real tulips and presented a festive tableau”

    hey, if beer’s what it takes to make someone like gardening, works for me. too bad i don’t like either one; maybe if i did, we’d have flowers.

    the tulips are gorgeous–keep ignoring them, as they seem to thrive on that–

    • Nina
    • May 22, 2009
    Reply

    that’s a treasure of a grandma!

    • Roz
    • May 22, 2009
    Reply

    Katy, so glad you’re enjoying those books. I love reading Ruskin aloud! As for the Kingman book, you’re lucky. I actually tried to buy a copy since it had been a while since I’d seen it. All were out of my price range!

    • Roz
    • May 22, 2009
    Reply

    Ricë, Grandma was a pretty determined and “rule” following German and she loved to have a beer, but only when she earned it. I wish I could cultivate that attitude about CHOCOLATE!

    Just wait, the third Botanical Event is about to happen and it is more glorious than TULIPS!

    • Roz
    • May 22, 2009
    Reply

    Nina, I will have to share other Grandma McKenney stories so you can know the complexity of her character. She was a hoot.

  1. This is a great tulips flower i like it so much good you post this. 🙂

    vee

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