Have you ever had one of those plants that you’ve seen, then fallen in love with, but when you try to grow it… nothing.
You buy one, take it home and plant it right where you can see it every day, then… nothing.
Sometimes it just sits there and stares at you. Then it mocks you. Sometimes it will live for a long time like that, and other times it puts you out of your misery and just flat dies. Well, I’ve had a few of those, and I’d like to tell you about one of them.
When I was young, I worked in a hospital as a respiratory therapist. Since I was single, sometimes I made extra money by working in small affiliate hospitals when their sole therapist wanted to have a vacation or something. At one of those hospitals, they had a tiny little courtyard with benches and landscaping, the idea being it would be a place for patients or families to escape the hospital atmosphere and relax for a while. Well, in that little courtyard grew a clematis, Nelly Moser. It wasn’t very big, but it had two huge light pink open flowers, with dark pink bars in the center of each petal, and with a yellow center disc and stamens.
I must have walked by that plant a dozen times a day and I had to stop and gawk each time. I was enamored, permanently. At that time, I lived in an apartment with no dirt of any sort. (At least not outside the house!) So, I didn’t do anything about it for many years. Fast forward a few years, and I married and moved to the East Mountain area. I had my own piece of dirt now, and I still had that clematis in my mind. And now I had the chance!
I planted the first one, and waited in anticipation… nothing. Died dead as a hammer in a month or so. Hmmm. Bummer. But I’m not a quitter, so I bought another one, and another one, and another. Nothing.
Fast forward again another 10 or so years after we married, my sweet hubby bought a big, beautiful hoop house. I still remember the excitement and joy I had! Initially, the plan was for me to grow enough stuff in there to eventually pay for it, but life changes and takes sharp curves and I had to stop going to the farmer’s market. I felt I had let Hubby down. He told me not to worry about it, just enjoy it. (I told you he was sweet). I felt free to plant anything I wanted to, even if its only attribute was that it was pretty to look at.
Off I headed to a nursery, and bought yet another Nelly Moser clematis. I planted it in a cozy, sunny corner, with 4 inches of mulch. (“They” say hot head, cool feet when growing them). The first year I planted it, it sat there and looked at me. Over the winter the existing vine looked dead. I kept up hope until spring. YAY!!! It sprouted new leaves and even a new start of vine. Hot Dog! I was in business! I waited. It did nothing. Must be that it was just be settling in. The next spring, same thing, and it was the same thing the following year too.
I figured, well, I had at least kept it alive, and it didn’t look bad in it’s corner. Just no flowers. I’m not exaggerating, it was 8 or 10 years later and viola, I had a flower! It was big and beautiful. Bigger than my hand, vibrant color, not even any bug chews on it! I was so excited I called my best gardening friend and told her about it. Then I almost forced her to come look at it. I was SO proud of it. (Never mind the fact that it had taken 10 years and it probably just flowered to try to reproduce itself before it died!) I took pictures, called my Mom—everything except dance in the street naked. Oh! Was I happy?! I got to thinking about it after I’d calmed down, and as near as I could calculate, it had been about 30 years (!!) since I had first seen that one in the hospital courtyard. And it hasn’t died yet, which I still count as a small victory, and it has flowered another time or two, but never as extravagantly. And those blinkin’ bugs! It does still bring me great joy whenever I look at it, a testament to perseverance and wishful thinking. Happy gardening. : }