Tra-la, it’s May…

Have you been enjoying the daffodils and tulips? Aren’t the flowering trees magnificent? Can you smell those lilacs? As they sang in the grand musical, Camelot, “Tra-la, it’s May, the lusty month of May.” Finally.

As far as I’m concerned happiness comes in May. My grandson Malcolm’s May birthday is the very best day of the entire spring, but for the rest of this luscious season – and it’s my absolute favorite – I’ll take my time in the garden. Weeds and all.

I seem to be able to forgive the weeds because along with them emerge the lime-colored spears of hosta, the arching fronds of daylilies, the baby bells of the lilies of the valley. As each familiar plant pokes up its tiny, recognizable body parts, I wander the garden checking which of my little friends survived the winter. This year there seem to be fewer that made it, but then again some of us old gardeners barely made it through that most challenging season.

This old gardener had a recent rude awakening. It happened in Pittsburgh during my most recent follow-up visit with Dr. Zorub, the neurosurgeon who fixed my lower back this winter. Winding down the appointment after the examining my back and giving his advice, he asked, “So, any questions?” I had a lot but I sensed he probably only had time for one or two.

“Gardening,” I said.

“Forget it,” was his response.

WHAT? Oh no. He can’t mean this. I’ve spent eight years building this garden my spring and summer joy he can’t be serious.

“Wait, uh . . . are you saying NO gardening?!?!? Oh, Doc, that’s not possible.” And this was to be in addition to my already limited abilities? Yoiks.

For the past eleven years I haven’t been able to kneel not since my knee replacements. And that was a very difficult realization for both a gardener and an Episcopalian. So all the hours I’ve spent in this eight-year-old garden have consisted completely of bending over to do everything sometimes even climbing up the shovel to return to an upright position

“You gardeners are all alike,” he said. “Remember no bending over.” Holy hyacinths.

But I had done some homework. I’d found this little four-wheeled garden scooter with a tractor seat that faces to the side. The seat is adjustable up and down and one can scoot along, left or right, and reach forward, but without much bending. It’s only going to involve some longer handled garden tools. I explained it to him.

“Well, if you can promise not to overdo, that might work. But you MUST be careful.”

Gotcha, Doc. He had just hit my GO button. Go directly to spring, the nurseries, and yes, the garden.

I just finished my physical therapy last Friday and I’m continuing it at home. I’m aware now that this year, the size of my geraniums is going to depend on the strength of my back and that’s reason enough to stick with the kicks and lifts and tucks and pushes. The strengthening has definitely helped and I find that I can walk in the greenhouse aisles for longer and with less pain each trip I take.

Ah, the greenhouses! This is my season of exploration. Just as hunters and fishermen are always seeking new woods and streams, I love the thrill of the chase . . . a new nursery or greenhouse with a new plant or, be still my heart, a new and different color of an old favorite. It’s the only form of shopping I really enjoy, a combination of revisiting the comfortable tried and true, along with the excitement of the new and wonderful. I’m easily lured in by the floral and fresh aroma and always dazzled by the colors. Greenhouses for me are like a visit to a museum or a fancy mall for someone else. I smile a lot during May.

I’m finding that my annual expeditions are ever-expanding. I buy my usual bedding plants and some replacement perennials locally, but I find my angel wing begonias in Olean, my black-eyed Susan vine in Silver Creek and a special mandevilla in Angola. I’ve discovered a few small favorites in Eden, NY, one in Waterford and a big must-see east of Erie. The trick is scheduling these trips between work hours and the actual planting. This season’s late cold and monsoons haven’t helped much when planning my annual pilgrimages, but we intrepid thrill seekers push on.

By the time you’re reading this, some of the begonias should be planted but I am looking for a little help with the cultivating this weekend. And I just might get it. That other wonderment of May, my Malcolm, is coming to spend his sixth birthday with us. And Malcolm, eager, adventurous boy that he is, will probably be interested in helping in Gogo’s garden.

Don’t get me wrong I’m thrilled that his mother is flying in with him as well as excited that his uncle will also be visiting from New York City. But to have my little guy come here for his birthday, be planting new discoveries of delight in my beloved garden AND have an extended holiday weekend to enjoy it all? Can heaven be far behind?

If there is a season in heaven, I’m betting that it is perennially May. Tra-la.