This afternoon, my BGF (Best Gardening Friend) Ruth arrived on my doorstep, bearing plastic clamshell containers of salad. We sat down at my kitchen table, ate the salad, drank some tea, and, together, looked over the pile of seed-and-plant catalogs that I’ve been receiving in the mail. It’s a tradition of ours; every January we get together like this and page through the gorgeous photos of plants and flowers, dreaming that we have unlimited garden budgets and can afford to shell out $42 for a hellebore plant. We ooh and aah over new gaillardias and gazanias. We point out pictures of plants we’ve tried and failed at growing, and laugh at the memories. (WHY do I keep trying to grow anemones? WHY does Ruth go on ordering lupines in an endless circle of futility?)
Our eyes are much bigger than our wallets. We can’t order even a tenth of what we look at and love. But there’s such pleasure in imagining, in dreaming that I even had room to add a lilac somewhere, or that Ruth might finally have the estate required to properly position one of those massive wisteria in the White Flower Farm catalog.
A gardening friend is a treasure. More than one gardening friend (hi, Marcia!) is bliss. Having someone with whom to share the triumphs (and failures) of seeds and corms and bulbs–and the shipping and handling costs!–is one of my greatest pleasures in life. I know there are a ton of people out there–my husband and kids included–who would sooner be boiled in oil than sit at the kitchen table with a pot of tea, looking at pretty pictures, searching to see if a favorite will grow in shade, giggling at the audacity of a plant description like “Requires warm feet, afternoon shade, alkaline soil and an eclipse of the sun every year. Easy to grow!” But nothing makes Ruth and me happier.
Afternoon Tea Party by Mary Cassatt.