Rewind Two Months:
March 21st – The official first day of spring. Few things excite a gardener more. For this Colorado gardener, it is about eight weeks before the last frost. I can’t do much right now, though my hands are itching to get in there to clear debris, amend the soil, plant some seeds, and get on with all the gardening tasks that are begging to be completed.
Viola tricolors are springing up. What’s that I see? One has actually bloomed! Daylilies are sending up their first sets of leaves. Too soon! Too soon, I cry! You will only get frost bite when our next storm rolls through, which, coincidentally, is in a few days.
A week goes by. I can plant out the peas now along with the leafy vegetables and carrots. They don’t mind a bit of frost. Everywhere I turn there is magic unfolding. Tulips are sending up their leaves, as are the flax and forsythia. The viola odorata is sending out a few teasing blooms, there are more blooms on the viola tricolor plants, mystery seedlings are starting to pop up, and the aspen is in bloom.
Another week or two goes by, and it is time. I head to the basement, where it is nice and cool, and retrieve my seed storage bin. I gather up my baggie of harvested Flanders Poppy seeds and packets of the same from Botanical Interests. All in all I have thousands and thousands of seeds. It is time. It is so much fun sowing poppy seeds. I pour some into my hand and just throw them up in the air and watch as they land. It snowed again so the little black dots look like sprinkled pepper. I just stare at them, envisioning their descent into the rich earth below as the snow melts. That happens quicker than I anticipate and now the waiting begins.
It is not until mid-April that I see the sprouts of my seedlings. There are those I spread out all throughout the garden, but I also see volunteers coming up on their own in various odd locations, including the little lawn I have left. I let them all grow. The growing is slow and steady, and as each day passes I imagine the treasures that lie ahead—gorgeous red blooms.
Now, today, the foliage is growing at a pace and new life abounds. Hollyhock leaves, more violas, spring bulbs, though fading, still offering blooms, perennials sending up their new growth, trees transforming from bare branches to carpets of green shading the garden below.
Heirloom irises, the Priscilla Hollyhock, viola odorata dug up for me by a friend in Tombstone, vinca dug up for me by another friend and, of course, the Flanders Poppy. With each flower that blooms and with every plant that blesses my garden with its presence, there is a story. There is no story that is more remarkable, no feeling of sentimentality more evocative, than that of the Flanders Poppy. In nature, there are constant reminders of the good in the world, beauty in the world, and love in the world. Amid so much death and destruction, there always seems to be some sort of reminder that good does exist. That to me is miraculous in and of itself.
I have been writing Memorial Day articles for the better part of eight years now, and each year I attempt to convey how important it is to have a sense of sentimentality in the garden. What you sow in the garden is a representation of you, the individual, and it is beautiful. Sometimes when the world seems to be devoid of the beauty a garden can provide, nature has a way of providing it for us. That is what happened in the Flanders area during World War II. Have a look at this photo from Wikimedia Commons of ‘No Man’s Land’. Telling, isn’t it?
Now look at how nature responded:
(This image is from the Canadian Encyclopedia and was taken by Joseph Moore)
I cannot come up with the words to express how this makes me feel. Historically, the red poppy has emerged where there have been great battles and that further adds to my perplexity. I would like to think there is a force out there, reminding us of the good in the world, and if we were to focus on that good, perhaps we could do away with the bad. Perhaps.
Once again, my friends, as you enjoy your day off (should you be lucky enough to have today off), I hope you are enjoying your garden and all the many blessings it has bestowed upon you. Perhaps you too have some hollyhocks emerging, a vintage iris that has been passed down for generations, a plant that belonged to a dear friend, or perhaps you too are growing the incredible Flanders Poppy. If you are, please go outside and have a look at it. It may not be in bloom yet. If you live in warmer parts of the world, perhaps it is. Either way, have a look at it and remember. Remember why we have this day and remember those that perished in a war fighting for a better tomorrow for all humanity.