The Red Tulip

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Earlier in the spring a number of tulip plants emerged and I thought about how I had never noticed tulips last year. Over the next several days I watched each and every clump of tulip foliage get munched to the ground by the local deer who frequent our garden at night. Then one day I saw a single tulip bud they had missed. It was sitting quietly right beside the front path near the top of the steps from the street. This tulip was the only one to survive to a bloom this year and it bore the weight of this responsibility with gusto. The red petals would open into a big, bright, dark-centered cup every day and then close up each night. Perhaps I have built this up in my mind but I genuinely feel this tulip has been shining bright from bud to decay for several weeks; longer than any other tulip I've ever known. 

 

I recently went to see a very good friend I used to work in a garden with. She is a kindred soul in many ways and an encyclopedia of fantastic plant knowledge. Fogo, Mackenzie and I went to her beautiful home and I told the story of my lone red tulip. She listened intently and when I was finished, revealed that she too had a single red tulip in her front garden - a place where deer also love to snack. On the way out of this magical visit I noticed her red tulip out of the corner of my eye and smiled. Kindred indeed.

At present the dusty blue stems of woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) dance delicately on the slightest breeze moving through the garden. The red tulip bloomed as some woodland phlox came up and into flower and for a brief moment the view from the car across the garden was a sea of bright blue with a single crimson siren. Then the native columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) sent their tall slender stems up and revealed, just like the phlox, a naturalized pattern resulting from years of seeding around and spreading out, looking now like they had found their way to this garden independently and had effectively colonized this Dogwood understory. As a designer I regularly try to mimic or interpret the patterns of nature but no one does it quite like the Mother Nature herself. 

 

The beautiful balance of naturalized planting is unfortunately juxtaposed by a thugish stand of variegated Soloman's Seal (Polygonatum odoratum) which forms an aggressive block that threatens to encroach on everything around it. Currently under threat of invasion are Hellebores now going to seed, a small clump of Trillium I only recently discovered and some Cyclamen hederifolium.

 

 

Other noteworthy characters this spring include a small group of wood Anemone (Anemone quinqifolia) as well as spring starflower (Ipheion uniflorum) and the small but mighty checkered lily (Fritillaria meleagris). The fritillary has a stunning pattern on its deep purple nodding petals. I am mesmerized by many things in the garden at present, but this Fritillary is a favorite. 

 

There were grape hyacinths which brought the first of the bees for the season. Now the native redbuds (Cercis canadensis) and dogwoods (Cornus florida) are blooming and a breathtaking canopy of pink and white blooms spread over the garden and signal the coming shade. There are tree peonies coming up that I planted from seed two years ago and forgot about.

 

April marches on, temperatures rise and remind me that heavy humid heat is on its way. But for now, the marvels of spring bring life to the landscape and the days are long and full. We make the most of the season, taking cues from our one red tulip.