The Burpee’s seed catalog is the epitome of beauty, grace and proportion. Its pages display the Platonic ideal of which my garden is a poor reflection. Leafing through the catalog I have been beguiled by images of perfect tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and melons. There are flowering fruit trees, grapevines and flowers.
I remember my first encounter, my first brush with the excitement and danger of theBurpee’s catalog, a phone and a credit card. It was the page with the fields of lavender — undulating fields under a blue Mediterranean sky. I could turn our Columbus, Ohio, house into Provence!
But the fact that our lot was small enough to mow the lawn with a weed whacker brought me back from the abyss. I decided to order tulip bulbs instead.
Tulip bulbs must be planted in the fall. (They must also be planted right side up I discovered, but that is another story.) We all know how fall is in the parish: Rally Day, the start-up of Sunday school, catechism and choir rehearsals. I didn’t plant in September or October.
Finally, toward the end of November, I took my tulip bulbs, bone meal and trowel and set out to transform the backyard. Soil in central Ohio is often clay. It was cold. It was raining. It was muddy. My husband would look out of the back window and shake his head. After a while even the dog left me. By the time I had finished it was dark and the backyard was a soupy, lumpy, clay-ey mess. But all I could see were rows of brilliant red tulips warmed in the spring sun.
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