Wednesday, March 30, 2011
or Out of the Spotlight
I have learned a deep respect over the last few years for my Winter Gem boxwood bushes—for any evergreens, really. I planted the Winter Gems right outside the glass kitchen door because I knew I would want something cheerful and green to look at during the winter, and because they were able to take the extreme conditions in that little strip of land. I had always thought of evergreens as the equivalent of background noise in a movie—glasses clinking in a dinner scene, papers rustling in an office—the kinds of things you would miss if they weren't there but don't really pay attention to when they are. Even so, when a handful of bushes grows half a dozen feet from the kitchen table where you sit morning and evening day after day, you do eventually begin to notice them, and once you do, you realize what amazing troupers they are.
In the boxwood bed a sprinkling of ipheion—spring starflowers—that I planted half-heartedly a couple of years ago has begun to take hold. At the time, I didn't know whether they would do well or whether I would even like them. Then the first one bloomed; I loved it so much that ipheion became Microcosm's header. Even though all the froth and exuberance and vividness of spring, the blooming redbuds and tulips and narcissus, are incredibly exciting, I still appreciate the cool quiet of ipheion. It's like a pool in a forest, like mint leaves in ice water, like the evening star in a twilit sky. If I could dive into that blue, that green, I would emerge again refreshed.
Just as the evergreens give their best during the—well, even poetic license won't let me call them the "dark days of winter" here in New Mexico, but I hope you catch my meaning—the ipheion show their best in shade. Somewhere I read a description of their color as skim-milk blue—white washed with a weak tint—and in sunlight and as the flowers age, that's true. In shadow, though, their gentle colors and ever-so-delicate shadings come forward; the petals gleam in twilight.
I'm beginning to re-envision the boxwood bed as the Light in Darkness (even if it's only metaphorical darkness, or possibly just shadow, or at any rate, not direct sun right at this moment) bed, as a home for plants that shine brightest out of the spotlight—or, put another way, that are still willing to shine even once the spotlight fades, that will give of their best without one. Some evening primroses, perhaps, and a soft-textured groundcover; a bowl of water in the shadows. Nothing in it will be a show-stopper.
But even without a spotlight, the show will go on.