or A Delicate Subject
I hope I don't embarrass anyone today. Some people might consider the topic to be a little outré, a bit "specialized" (hem, hem) in a mildly unsavory way. If we were in an Agatha Christie novel, sitting with the vicar's wife and the flower committee over tea when someone mentioned it, we would raise delicately penciled eyebrows, glance sideways at the person next to us, and try to hide a knowing half-smile by raising a bone china cup to our lips. After an awkward pause, the vicar's wife would tactfully change the subject.
You've probably guessed by now that I'm talking about plants with insignificant blooms. (Blush.) I had no idea that they were so...you know... until I was looking through a book on houseplant care and came across the section on parlor palms. The book recommended trimming off the insignificant blooms—all well and good—but then it added, and I quote, "Unless you're into that kind of thing."
Well. "Unless you're into that kind of thing." What else was needed to give insignificant blooms a seedy, pulp fiction patina, to transform them instantly from hum-drum to "Oh, la la...", to make them seem dangerous, risky, maybe just a little beyond the pale? The life of this houseplant owner suddenly became a lot more racy and adventurous, and I didn't even have to do anything. But then I looked closer at the parlor palm blooms and trimmed them off, because it turns out that I wasn't really into that kind of thing.
All to say, the "Winter Gem" boxwoods are blooming in the narrow side yard by the kitchen door. Now, I love these shrubs—they are such sturdy little growers. They flourish in conditions that are hard even on native plants: full sun all summer, reflected by a south-facing wall; full shade all winter, right where the wind funnels between the casitas; poor soil even by New Mexican standards. The boxwoods thrive so happily while making so few demands; they are "salt of the earth" shrubs if ever I saw them.
But they have (insert portentous music here) insignificant blooms. Right outside the kitchen door, too.
And I'm afraid that I might be into that kind of thing. My camera isn't—the auto-focus rebelled against them, and I must have at least four dozen slightly fuzzy photos (including some of these) of insignificant blooms. But I kind of, well, like them. In such a gentle, subtle way, they look like they've stuck their metaphorical finger in a light socket (not that I'm into that kind of thing!). Mind you, I wouldn't make a special trip to the botanic gardens to see a swath of Winter Gem boxwood in glorious bloom. They're no magnolias, and you can quote me, but they're not actually objectionable. Not really. (Don't raise your delicately penciled eyebrows at me.) And surely the blooms are significant to someone, even if only to other Winter Gem boxwoods.
If there's any one moral I've learned while writing this blog—and I'm not just saying this to appease the vicar's wife—it's that looking closer almost always yields some sort of wonder, some awe at the novelty and intricacy and ingenuity and (dash it all!) the sheer beauty of the natural world; the peculiar, "specialized" ways that individual species have to cope with the concerns of growth and survival shared by all. Significance isn't about scale; it's about accomplishment, about filling your niche. It's also about paying attention.
If you're into that kind of thing...